With December now in swing, you are probably knee deep in finals, holiday shopping, and festivities. We don’t want to kill your peppermint mocha buzz, or take your focus off important and more immediate finals deadlines, but we do want to put on your radar what is just ahead so you don’t miss your chance to earn scholarship money for the upcoming semesters! After all, winter break is the opportune time to prepare for scholarships- yippee!! Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t given a single thought to your scholarship search, but do start your hustle NOW! During the next three months, you should enter into your scholarship search and application process with full intensity. A good majority of the scholarships available have February or March deadlines, so you still have some fantastic opportunities.
How to Search for a Scholarship- for Free
Whether you are creating a free scholarship search account (i.e. scholarshipmonkey.com, fastweb.com, petersons.com), searching through google, or checking out your school career center, keep working on finding scholarships. Don’t be afraid to apply to scholarships in various amounts, remember that a $200 scholarship will chip away at that college tuition. Also, look for types of scholarships you may uniquely qualify for, such as a scholarship for being tall or left handed (yes, they do exist).
Merit and Need Based Scholarships
A scholarship can fall into two different categories: merit or need-based. Merit based scholarships are earned on the basis performance in things like athletics, academics, or even meeting a community service quota.
A need-based scholarship is a little different. Students do not receive this type of aid because of performance alone, yet this does not mean the requirements are not competitive, there is simply an additional factor considered- the financial need of the family or individual. If the applicant is still claimed as a “dependent” on the taxes of a parent(s) or guardian(s), their income will be assessed to determine whether the student has a need for financial assistance. If the student claims their own taxes, and is not listed as a dependent on anyone else’s taxes, their own financial situation will be considered. You may be qualified for both needs-based and merit based scholarship- apply for both if so!
For more tips on applying for scholarships, and how to minimize your school debt, visit our previous blog here.
FAFSA- Say That 3 Times Fast!
The FAFSA is a tool used to determine a family or individual’s financial needs. In addition to digging for scholarships, this month you will also want to start preparing your FAFSA, which is required for most scholarships anyways. FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid that provides grants, loans and work study funds for college for qualifying students.The FAFSA website has an abundance of information from helping you understand the FAFSA, about filing for FAFSA, and even estimating your aid. The information you can find on this website will be extremely valuable to helping you understand your loans and/or grants. A loan you must pay back. A grant you do not. If you are more of a visual person, check out this picture to help you understand the process better.
Be sure to visit www.fafsa.gov and not fafsa.com. The .com website requires you to submit a form with a $20 payment. This is not legit- the real FAFSA is free. You do not need to pay in order to complete it.
Do not save your FAFSA as a last step. The FAFSA becomes available starting January 1st and will be accepted until June 30, 2016 for this term, but the deadline for your state, school, and scholarships may be earlier. For example, there are some need-based scholarships that are first come, first serve. An estimate of most state deadlines can also be found here. But remember, just because a deadline might be in April or May, you really want to complete the FAFSA as soon as you possibly can.
What You Will Need to Prepare Your FAFSA
The application is not a quick process, and can be very time consuming if you don’t have all your ducks in a row, so do not procrastinate (social security number, completed tax forms, cash and account balances, investment info). With FAFSA offering more than $150 billion every year to help students pay for education, it is definitely worth taking the time to complete the paperwork. A detailed breakdown of what you need for your FAFSA and what each portion of the FAFSA means can be seen here.
For your convenience, here is most of the information you will need to complete your FAFSA:
- Get a FSA ID
- This is your user name and password combination for you to login to see your documents. This only takes about two minutes to create. Make sure you write this down a few places. You will need it in order to update and access your information.
- Personal Documentation
- Social Security Number (if you do not have one, enter 000-00-0000)
- Driver’s License Number (if you have one)
- Alien Registration number (if you are not a U.S. Citizen)
- Federal Tax Information (Unless you make over $10,000 per year, you probably don’t have this information, and that is okay.)
- Records of Untaxed Income (i.e. child support, interest income. It is okay if you don’t have any of these things. Just enter $0.)
- Financial Information (i.e. savings and checking balances, investments. If you do not have any, that is okay.)
- Documentation from Parent(s)/ Guardian(s) if you are classified as dependent
- Social Security Number
- Federal Tax Information (for both parents if they are married. If not, use the information of the parent who claims you on their tax return.)
- Records of Untaxed Income
- Financial Information
- List of College(s) You Want Your FAFSA Sent to
- You must list one, but you can list up to 10 schools when you file online or four schools if you file on paper. It does not cost anything to send your information to multiple schools.
Everyone here at Outliers Publishing wishes you great success in your educational endeavors, and we hope you go out and chase your passion! Always stay incurably curious and never lose your love of learning. Remember that yes, there is a great amount of pressure and stress that comes with financing your education, but the fruits of your efforts will be felt for years to come. Best of luck, scholars.
The future belongs to the learners – not the knowers. In times of massive change, it’s the learner who will inherit the earth, while the learned stay elegantly tied to a world which no longer exists. ~ Eric Hoffer