The subject of financial aid can be stressful for both students and parents. CAA coaches hear questions from families all the time about scholarships and how to get the most out of the financial aid process. Today, we want to share a few tips to help soothe your financial aid stress.
1. Check Out College Websites – The financial aid web pages of the colleges you are interested in are an important place to begin. There, you’ll find vital information about whether the college gives out merit scholarships and how to attain them. There may be additional applications to fill out or particular deadlines to meet, so it is best to know the process well before you apply. In addition to checking the financial aid page, you might consider contacting the academic department of your major. Sometimes there are scholarships for freshmen pursuing a particular degree.
2. Set Up a Meeting with Your Guidance Counselor – Often, local organizations or groups will contact high schools to let them know about scholarship opportunities they are offering. The point person in those matters is usually someone like your guidance counselor. They may have a good list of local scholarships to help you begin your search. These scholarships are essential to apply to because they are less competitive; fewer people applying means a greater chance to receive that aid. Don’t dismiss a scholarship due to a small award amount. Smaller scholarships can start to stack up! In addition to your guidance counselor, we also encourage you to talk to a local librarian for similar information.
3. Use Online Internet Searches – This makes it easy to search for financial aid based on specific things about you. Many times there are organizations offering scholarships to students of a particular race, gender, faith background, or other factor. There are free scholarship search sites on the web you can use to find opportunities. It is important to review the guidelines for any scholarship before you begin applying.
4. Apply to Colleges Where You Meet Merit-Aid Benchmarks – When looking for a good financial aid package, you should start with the end in mind. What are your SAT/ACT test scores and your GPA? How do they measure up to the colleges to which you are applying? It is best if you have test scores and a GPA that exceed the benchmarks laid out by the college. There may still be time to bring up your GPA or your SAT/ACT scores. Coaches are here to help you figure out how you compare to specific colleges.
Now that you have this information, we hope you will put it to good use. Qualifying for merit aid takes effort. It is not realistic to expect a college to contact you out of the blue and offer you a full ride to their school. Usually, you have to put in the work to get a financial aid package that works for you. Now is the time to start, so do not delay. Contact your CAA coaches for help throughout this process.