Getting enough financial aid to make attending college a real possibility requires effort. If you’re asking for thousands of dollars in free gifts or low-interest loans, one of the ways to determine that you deserve it is indicated by your willingness to buckle down and get serious.
It would be nice if the process of applying for financial aid was streamlined to the point where you could fill out a single application and automatically apply for every possible unclaimed educational dollar floating around. Sadly, that is impossible.
Bear in mind that the free money-grants and scholarships-is generally offered by governmental bodies, businesses, foundations or philanthropic individuals with very specific ideas of who their applicants are. Some of these funds require completing complex applications, supplying a lengthy essay that targets a specific topic, submitting numerous letters of recommendation, and all kinds of financial documents. Others are entirely based upon just an essay, financial need, or other criteria.
Because you’ll no doubt apply to a number of funding sources, make your efforts do double-duty. Completing a single scholarship application can take two full days. With that kind of time investment, you need to squeeze out as much value as possible.
Before getting started, get organized! Make separate lists of the types of aid you are requesting. Create a chart with the scholarships, loans, and other financial aid across the top and information such as amounts, required grades, length of time the monies cover, and other important details along the side to help you keep things straight.
Assemble folders with multiple copies of high school transcripts (and college, if applicable), federal tax forms, and resumes. The people you ask for letters of recommendation may need to craft the same information in different ways depending upon application requirements. If you’re clever about it, you may be able to re-work some of the material in one financial aid application to fulfill the needs of another.
Once you’ve gathered the materials that all of your various funding sources are likely to ask for, you’re halfway done. Keep your eyes on the prize; the effort you make will directly translate into the aid you receive.