1. Calculate What You Need
Estimating the amount of money you need can lead to more deliberate decisions when applying for aid or filling out scholarship applications. A simple way to calculate what you will need is to subtract your expected family contribution from the cost of attendance. The difference is the amount you will need in financial aid.
2. Fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid)
The FAFSA is the only way to be eligible for federal financial aid, and it is available January 1 of your senior year of high school. If you haven’t filed this year’s taxes, you can estimate based on last year’s tax information and any differences in income from the past year. Depending on when you submit the FAFSA, you’ll generally receive your financial aid award letters from colleges indicating how much aid you will receive by March or April.
3. Find Free Information on Scholarships
You will undoubtedly come across many opportunities to pay for information about scholarships. Whether the offer comes from a college admissions consultant or an online ad, there is absolutely no need to pay for scholarship information that is already free and readily available. Some suggested online scholarship sites that are free and easy to navigate are Cappex.com, MeritAid.com and Fastweb.com.
4. Look Beyond Dollar Amounts
While skimming over hundreds of scholarships, be mindful not to disregard scholarships that look small in dollar amount but are actually renewable. Certain scholarships can be renewed each college year, often depending on maintaining a minimum GPA or studying within a certain major. So while a $2,500 scholarship may seem miniscule, it could potentially be $10,000 of your total tuition.
5. Pursue Merit Scholarships from Colleges
Many colleges offer merit aid scholarships that can put higher-priced schools within your reach. Often, merit aid scholarships can be renewed, reducing your overall college cost by 50 percent or more. Interested now? These scholarships are easy to find using websites like MeritAid.com or Cappex.com which will allow you to search through thousands of merit aid scholarships offered by colleges.
“There are many great, free websites to find this scholarship information. Many sites, such as Cappex.com, offer cost comparison worksheets, scholarship matching tools, and easy navigation through thousands of scholarships — all completely free to students,” said Chris Long, president of Cappex.com. “These five simple tips can put you on the fast track to paying for school.”