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Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Basics of College Scholarships

§ Scholarships – What Is It (Philosophy, Definition, Types). Knowing What Is At Stake.

Exploring financial aid is always part of getting ready for College.Beyond preparing for your entry testing and finding the right school, this is probably one of the most important steps for getting your College Education and your future on track and up to speed. Whether you are the student applying, locally or maybe as an international student, even as a guardian or parent of a prospective College student, there are lots of online and in-print materials available that can be overwhelming in this fact-find and process that you are undertaking.

Going to College is an important, life-altering decision. It will shape and influence you and your future career. The choices you make in the here and now, will help form your tomorrow. They are important and not be overlooked, underestimated, or done in a haphazard fashion. Careful, meticulous planning, not impulsive choice, is highly recommended for every step of the way.

College is about you, your interests, passions, talents, goals and pursuits, dreams AND FUTURE! How are you going to make the most of it?
Beyond getting started, planning for when you will begin your studies, where and for how long, as well, as how you are going to pay for it, is critical for every prospective student. Who will help and support you in this endeavor? Are you paying for College out of your pocket, or is someone else funding it? Do you need to consider applying for or seeking financial aid in order to get your education? Regardless of your background, rationale, means or talents, this how to guide will have step-by-step instructions, tips and considerations to prepare you for and help you through this process of applying for College scholarships.

Have you ever heard of an admissions essay? Paying and planning for College is very important. Do you have any idea how much it costs or how you are going to pay for College? Learn in this guide how affordable college education can be through exploring, applying for and receiving College Scholarships that will make the difference and help you with the financial side of your studies. There are many different scholarships and loans, financial options available for College education. Advice, tips and guidance on what scholarships are, how they work, where to find them, how to apply and stack the odds in your favor, to actually receive a scholarship, will all be covered in this text.

It is our hope that this guide will assist you in making sense of the vast array of information out there, (some even conflicting or very vague, depending on where, when and how you apply). We trust you will find the practical advice, systematic process and information to know what to do next, right here!

When applying for a scholarship you could either be a prospective, continuing or returning student. There are various different packages and scholarship options available depending on which category you fall into. For others, it does not matter in the least. What does matter is that you apply and that you do so in a timely and urgent fashion. This is serious business. The logic here is that there is a limited amount of the ‘pot’ to go around. The longer you wait, the less you can capitalize on the first come, first serve principle. Act now, without delay to avoid disappointment. Get your ‘bid’ in early so to speak.

Here are some fast facts regarding scholarships:

§ Application and paperwork deadlines always come quicker that expected. Avoid the stress and rush by filing early.
§ There is no cost or obligation for or when applying (unless you get expert professional services to assist you with the process of course and NOT counting all the copies, pictures, postage, courier fees etc.!)
§ Even if you think you do not qualify, still apply
§ New college scholarships, awards and grants are created every year.
§ If in the US, always consult the scholarship super-site. Application forms and detailed instructions on filling it out, can be found online. There are also lots of the questions and issues, concerns or pressing topics in the FAQ sections, that are no different from the ones that you currently have. You are not in this process or boat alone!
§ There are also checklists on documentation, as well as the option of filing electronically to save time and money!
§ Avoid being at the end of the line and waiting for you to file your tax return. If could be too late. The sooner you apply, the better you are making your odds. Avoid being last in line.
§ Most states and colleges began allowing submission of financial-aid forms beginning Jan. 1.
§ Those applications received earliest are given first and top priority.
§ Many of the college scholarships and aid awards are quite competitive and you have to make yourself stand out from the thousands of applicants. You would want to leave a lasting impression as well as make a good first impression, be unforgettable and recognizable. Rise above the masses and mediocrity. This should be a priority for you in all your documentation, as well as your process.
§ Do not rush to complete your forms and make unnecessary mistakes that could backfire or have your application rejected or thrown out. Having to make corrections can be costly and put you back at the end of the line.

According to a recent study of college financial-aid administrators, the most common mistakes in completing the FAFSA form are:

§ Leaving a field blank. If the answer to an asset or income question is zero, then put in a "0."
§ Matches. Matching names to Social Security numbers -- especially important if you use different or maiden names.
§ Signatures. Both the parent and student must sign the FAFSA form.
§ If completing the form online and you have received a PIN at before you complete the FAFSA online, then you do not have to worry about the signature requirement since your PIN serves as your electronic signature. See the PIN Web site.
§ Income. Do not use your W-2 to report income. Use the Adjusted Gross Income directly from your Form 1040 income tax return.
§ Taxes paid. Report the actual income taxes paid from your Form 1040 income tax return rather than those shown withheld on your W-2.
§ Definitions. Pay close attention to the definitions of dependents, marital status and age requests.
§ Selection. If using the online version of FAFSA, do not check the "Early Analysis" flag. This will not send a report to any college, but rather is reserved for high-school students who are not yet going to college, but are interested in a free evaluation of their status, in order to better prepare for the real thing -- not a bad idea for those who want to position themselves better for the future.
§ Inclusions. Prepaid tuition plans, pensions and cash-value life insurance policies should not be reported as assets on the FAFSA.
§ Attachments. Do not include anything with the form when you mail it. If you have extenuating circumstances you feel should be considered you should ask for a professional judgment review from the school's financial aid administrator.
§ SAR and EFC are two terms that you will hear in this process. This both results from this abovementioned application formIt refere to a Student Aid Report and Expected Family Contribution. These are both used to determine the eligibility and financial situation of each student. This outcome will determine the amount of aid you will receive. Schools typically look at the cost and duration of your chosen study path, the program you are enrolled in and these eligibility criteria.
§ If you do not qualify for federal aid , state or school aid packages and awards might still be available to you as well. Exploring all your options is a good rule of thumb to have. Regardless of whether you think you qualify or not, you should apply for federal aid. There is nothing to lose here.
§ The system is set up to provide NOT A FREEBIE FOR EVERYONE, it is meant and streamlined to assist those who would not be able otherwise to afford a good education. Understanding the system and how it works, can help you leverage and optimize your changes.

When asked to reflect on why you need a College Scholarship, there will be a variety of answers provided to this question. Here are just some reasons students apply for certain types of scholarships:

§ It provides opportunity.
§ You can get the chance to pursue a great education
§ The duration and length, location and ‘perks’ or the study program (for example some scholarships offer a 4 year leadership program with lots of additional opportunities and exposure to the best the industry and academic world has to offer). It is not always all about the money!
§ But, for when it is, there are lots of funds and large amounts, awards available, depending on what you need. (Some could be as high as an $8,000 total scholarship to be used towards tuition, books, boarding and other related expenses).
§ Some scholarships include numerous opportunities to gain work experience, or interact with corporate and community leaders.
§ They could also include academic credit towards a leadership minor and some service and experiential learning activities.

So, while for some it is really only about the money, for others there might be more at stake and every scholarship that you apply for, of your choosing and preference, will have and be its own reward, beyond the dollar sign!

When the question about why to apply for college scholarships came up recently on an online forum, the top five best responses were listed as:

§ Unable to afford College on your own.
§ Scholarly achievements.
§ Commitment to complete your education.
§ Internship and employment opportunities.
§ Networking opportunities with partner representatives

Besides the point that college scholarships could actually save you money or regardless of our own motivations and aspirations, it is essential that you apply and capitalize on what is available out there for college scholarships. You can play a hands-on role in your own destiny and future, by investing time and effort, attention to detail and energy on the college scholarship application and award process. You will not regret it.

Others apply for money, prestige, just because everyone else is applying, peer pressure, or because their parents are forcing them to. Some simply apply because funds are available, so why not apply, it seems perfectly logical. Others make it a priority to be free of tuition debt upon completion of their studies and get a jumpstart on their career, quality of life and future with a fighting chance and not left having to deal with heavy interests on loans and working to earn a living and pay back study loans. Getting to go to schools of choice and having better opportunities are also good motivators. What are your reasons for applying for college scholarships? Being clear on what you want and why you want it will also assist you in streamlining your application process and documentation, college admission essay, positioning, application portfolio and more.

When it comes to defining what a ‘scholarship’ is, how the concept got started, the philosophy and rationale behind the concept and the different types of scholarships, it helps to put these into clear expression.The better you again understand the concepts and nature of scholarships, the easier it becomes to make sense of how to best apply and optimize your chances of being awarded the scholarship of your choice, beyond your wildest dreams.


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