You may have thought you were done with writing essays and sending applications, but not quite yet. Now is the time to look for scholarships. And don’t get discouraged. In this case, one more essay or scholarship application could mean a big pay-off for you. A few more hours of your time could turn into hundreds or even thousands of dollars!
College scholarships typically come from three sources:
- The colleges to which you have been accepted.
- Local community organizations
- National or larger regional organizations
At your college
Most scholarships come from the schools that have admitted you. See the scholarship tab in GuidedPath for your schools. It lists academic scholarships offered to 8 or more students.
Local organizations are the hidden gems of scholarship money. Although the awards are typically smaller in dollar amount, you also don’t have as much competition. Many local scholarships are actually looking for applicants! Churches, service organizations (like the VFW, or the Junior League), local charitable funds, even your parent’s employer may have scholarship opportunities. The key is finding the information – who, what, when, where, why and how to apply!
- Your high school counseling office
- Parent organizations (PTA, Booster clubs, etc.)
- Your local library
Use your residence as a means to get more money for college. Many states offer scholarships to top students. Check to see what is offered through your state. Check deadlines for any state scholarships you qualify for.
There are dozens of national scholarship search engines available. Many are nothing more than a way to market credit cards or other products to you. These are our recommended scholarship search engines.
Add your college scholarship deadlines to your application plan.
Review the scholarship tab for all colleges on your list and determine your eligibility for specific awards. Add milestones or notes for the scholarships you are planning to apply for.
Worried about your upcoming finals or AP tests? Reduce stress and ace your tests by using these study tips from a graduate student.
- Find a study space that suits you.
For students who need a bit of chaos while they work, coffee houses usually have the perfect amount of chatter and noise while also having private study nooks. For students who want freedom from distraction, a room with the door closed and a white noise playing (like simplynoise.com) is ideal. Study rooms in your school or public library also make great quiet spaces. Be sure your surroundings are comfortable to you before settling in for studying.
- Enjoy your favorite snacks or drinks while you study.
Cheese and crackers, granola bars, vegetables with dip, or peanut M&M’s are a great treat to keep you awake and focused through long study sessions. Coffee, tea, or soda may sound like a good idea but too much caffeine can impact sleep or make you dehydrated so don’t overdo it.
- Never study where you sleep.
Sitting upright in a chair will keep you in study mode much longer than lounging on pillows in your bed. Being in your bedroom may be fine, but save your bed for sleeping.
- Don’t try to learn anything new the night before.
Especially if you are part of a study group or study with friends, don’t force yourself to learn their approach right before the test. If one of your peers use a different method to get their answers and it helps you – good. However, you’re not confident with a new approach too close to test day you could ruin your chances. Stick to what you know.
- Don’t put all of your time into one area.
It’s tempting to spend 3 hours on science and 1 hour on everything else if you feel science needs your attention most, but this is a gamble. You risk not preparing well enough for an entire cluster of subjects because you were in a panic over one. Attack the chapters and the problems where you struggle most so that you use your time well. Spending some extra time here or there is not an issue but give every subject the attention it is due.
- Avoid thinking “I should have” and “I would have.”
It is useless to breakdown about how you should have asked that question or met with that study group. Your notes and the knowledge will have to do, and if you study well, they’ll be enough.
- Beware the allure of “study buddies.”
Friends can help when you are feeling stuck but committing to a study partner is not always best. Everyone studies differently. Your friend may enjoy going over Brown v. the Board of Education with his Pandora station all the way up and a case of sugar-free Red Bull. But if you’re the type of student who needs calm and quiet, you will be completely lost. Be certain that your study mate works the same way you do before agreeing to share your focus time.
- Take breaks while you study to stay sharp.
Study in blocks of 60 minutes with 10-minute breaks in between. If 60 min feels like a challenge, start with study blocks of 30 minutes with 5-minute breaks. Set alarms on your phone to let you know when to start and stop and stick to them. During the study block you should only be studying – don’t pet the dog, don’t check your email, don’t text, just hit the books. Find apps to help you stay focused and on task.
- Do something fun before you go to sleep.
Don’t study up until you go to sleep, it can make sleep a challenge. You may lie there questioning whether or not you will remember things tomorrow, or if you learned everything correctly. Instead, give yourself at least 30 minutes before bed to do something completely unrelated, fun, and relaxing. Snapchat, TV, a video game – whatever helps your brain decompress.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep.
This tip will give you a serious advantage. The student next to you may have studied their notes 6 times over, but with only 2 hours of sleep they aren’t likely to remember as much. Get some real sleep and your nerves will thank you.
Use assignments and appointments in GuidedPath to help you with pacing as you prepare for finals. Set appointments for study groups. Use assignments to record project or class deadlines and pace your studying of subjects.
By now you’ve received financial aid awards from the schools that have offered you admission. But interpreting those awards might seem a bit like reading a foreign language. Here are six common terms that you will see on a financial aid award.
- Cost of Attendance – The Cost of Attendance is more than just tuition, it is an estimate of the total expense for one year of attendance. It should include – 1) Tuition & Fees; 2) Room & Board; 3) Books & Supplies; 4) Personal Expenses, 5) Transportation (getting to and from the campus). If the financial aid award does not include these items, search the website for the information or call the college.
- Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – The amount your family is expected to pay toward college (your EFC) is calculated by the FAFSA (Free Application for Student Aid). You can find your EFC on the confirmation page you received when you submitted your FAFSA form. This number should be listed on all your awards. If it’s not there, ask the college why.
Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Need
- Student Financial Need – Use the financial aid equation above to determine your “financial need” for each school. Then check the college’s award letter. If the school’s total financial aid award is less than your financial need, you have a “financial aid gap.” You must pay this gap (in addition to paying your EFC amount) with other sources of funding not provided by the school. Scholarships from community groups or other sources, personal savings, or private loans are examples of how students pay their EFC plus any financial gap.
- Grants and Scholarships – Grants and scholarships are awards that do not need to be repaid. Are these grants or scholarships renewable (will you received them for just freshman year or every year)? What are the eligibility requirements that you must meet to receive the scholarship for additional years (a minimum GPA, a certain number of course credits, etc.)?
- Loans – Has the college included student or parent loans in your award? This money must be repaid by you or your parents. An offer of $20,000 parent loan alone is not a good offer.
- Work-study – A work-study award is potential income that you may earn by working part-time in a work-study position. Most work-study jobs are on-campus which can make them convenient, but a work-study award does not guarantee you a work-study job. You must apply for work-study positions like any other part-time job. And just like other part-time jobs, you will receive a paycheck for your work-study earnings. It is not automatically applied toward your cost of attendance. Contact the university financial aid office to learn about the availability and application process for work-study positions.
Are you being offered a mix of grants, scholarships, loans and work-study? The more money you don’t have to pay back, or earn by working, (ideally – more scholarships and grants, less loans and work-study) the better.
Enter all your admission decisions and financial aid awards into GuidedPath. This gives you a list of all the awards colleges are offering you.
To enter college awards:
- Log into your GuidedPath account.
- From your dashboard, click on the blue Decisions box.
- Click on each college Decision Details.
- Click on Responses: Admitted? Waitlisted? Not Admitted?
- Click on Awards. Add each award from your award letters in this section.
Enter Award type | Name of the award | Annual Amount | Total Amount (4 year amount) | Additional Information (if any)
Repeat this process for EVERY college. Get all your numbers entered to prepare for the next step: Comparing Financial Aid Awards
Next week: How to determine the best financial aid award.
By now, application decisions should be rolling in to your inbox/mailbox. If you haven’t already heard back from all your schools, the wait is almost over. Most colleges aim to have final decisions to everyone who applied before April 1. But what if your “final” decision isn’t so final?… What does it mean to be on the waitlist?
Why do colleges have waitlists? Can’t they just say yes or no?
With students applying to more and more schools, it’s become more difficult for colleges to predict how many of their admitted students will actually enroll. Students are being accepted to many colleges – but you can only enroll at one. That means many students who have been admitted to the college are not going to attend.
Enrollment targets are a serious issue for colleges – too many students result in overcrowded dorms and classroom, but not enough can mean funding shortages. If a college realizes they may fall short of their enrollment target, they can accept students from their waitlist to fill the gap.
So – I’m on the waitlist. What should I do?
Essentially, you can reply to the waitlist offer one of two ways:
- “No, thanks!” Although the college offered you a spot on their waitlist, you are not obligated to accept that offer. Maybe the school that waitlisted you is not your first choice – if so, no big deal. You can let the college know that you do not plan to remain on their waitlist.
- “Yes, I’m willing to wait.” If you think this school might really be the one, let them know that you are interested in waiting. Follow the reply directions in your decision to confirm you intend to remain on the waitlist. It’s also a great idea to follow up with a personal email to tell the school – if they accept you from the waitlist you intend to enroll (only do this if it’s true). You can also reiterate why you think this college is such a good fit and ask if any additional information like new SAT/ACT scores, senior year final grades, etc. could help to improve your chances of admission from the waitlist.
You should seriously consider all of the admission offers you receive. Schedule visits, compare financial aid packages, talk with your parents and your counselor, make a pro/con list, etc. You have to confirm your enrollment with a college by May 1 (that’s the National Candidates Reply Date). Most schools won’t make decisions about their waitlist until after May 1.
In addition, there are typically only a small number of students admitted from the waitlist (sometimes not any). You should confirm your enrollment with one of the colleges that has admitted you (even if you stay on the waitlist at another college). It’s hard to hear that you are on the waitlist (especially if it was your first choice), but maybe it’s an opportunity to get excited about a school that really wants you (and hopefully they offered you great financial aid to prove it). Many colleges can be a good fit if you have the right mindset.
Record your decisions and financial aid awards in GuidedPath so that you can make comparison before deciding where to enroll.
You got into the top schools on your list. Each has sent you a financial aid award. One offer looks better than the other two, but is it really? It’s important to compare apples to apples when looking at financial aid offers. Here are 6 questions to ask:
- What is the Student Budget? Does the college list all the costs for going to college: 1) Tuition & Fees; 2) Room & Board; 3) Books & Supplies; 4) Personal Expenses, 5) Transportation (getting to and from the campus). If the award does not include these items, search the website for the information or call the college.
- What is your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) on your Student Aid Report? The amount your family is expected to pay toward college is on the student aid report generated when you filed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This number is needed for comparing financial aid awards. If your family contribution is close to or more than the student budget, then your awards from the college are going to be based on merit, and not on the financial need you have.
- Is there a gap? You should know your EFC from filing your FAFSA. To calculate how much financial aid you should be receiving, subtract your expected family contribution from the total student budget (all five items from question 1). The remainder is your estimated financial need at the college. Is the college meeting your full need, or only a portion of it?
Total Cost of Attendance – Expected Family Contribution = Need
- How much of your award is grants or scholarships? Grants and scholarships are money that you will not have to repay later. You want to maximize the amount of grants and scholarships you receive and minimize the amount of loan money you must take out. Are the grants or scholarships renewable for four years? What conditions exist for the renewable awards (a minimum GPA, number of credits completed, etc.)?
- How much is in student or parent loans? How much of the offer is parent loan? A financial aid award of a $20,000 parent loan – but no grants or scholarships – is not a good offer. The parent loans (when necessary) should ideally be used to help pay for the expected family contribution not meet your financial need.
- Is there a good mix? Is there something missing? Are you being offered grants, scholarships, loans and work? Look for a good mix. If you are not offered “work study” ask about it. It is especially helpful for you to have a campus job to earn your personal expenses while in college.
Use the EFC Calculator GuidedPath to determine your Expected Family Contribution. Add in all financial aid awards into Decisions in GuidedPath. Use the Cost Comparisons Tool to view and compare all your financial aid awards.
So Many Questions…
Have you signed up to take the SAT yet? Or maybe you’ve already taken the PSAT? Did you notice that there are a lot of questions about your grades, your interests, your intended college major, etc. in the registration? What’s up with all those questions?
The CollegeBoard Student Search Service
Those questions are part of the SAT Questionnaire. There’s also a box to opt-in to the College Board Student Search Service. By completing those questions and checking the box, you are giving permission for the CollegeBoard to provide your contact information to colleges and scholarship programs.
Why do colleges and scholarship programs want my information?
You are searching for colleges that are a good fit. Colleges and scholarship programs are doing the same thing – searching for applicants that are a good fit. One of the ways they find applicants and promote their programs is by sourcing student information from the CollegeBoard. Through the Student Search Service, colleges and programs can access your contact information and send you promotional materials by mail or email.
Should I opt-in?
That’s entirely up to you! There are advantages to allowing colleges and scholarship programs to access your information – you may find out about a school or a program that is a great fit for you that you didn’t already know about. However, it also means an influx of mail and email. You can always filter this college email into a specific folder to keep it from cluttering your inbox. You can also decide to stop participating at any time and contact CollegeBoard to opt-out.
What about the ACT?
ACT has the same kind of service for their test – it’s called the Educational Opportunity Service (EOS). Just like with the SAT, colleges and scholarship programs are using the ACT to access to your contact information. Opting-in to the EOS is completely optional and you must check the box on the ACT registration form to allow colleges to access your information.
If you are a junior, it may be time for you to take the SAT or the ACT. Spring test dates are:
If you are a sophomore, your school may be administering the PSAT or the PreACT. Check with your school counselor to find out the test date.
Enter your test dates into GuidedPath so that you will receive registration deadline and test date email reminders.