Paying for College: Scholarships/Grants
By Veronikha Salazar
Education is a great investment. But one of the barriers Hispanic students face nowadays towards getting an education, besides their immigration status, is the cost. They can hardly afford to pay for college. Although, per my own experience, I know there are plenty of opportunities to get free money for college. Free money whether that is through the government or through private funding. It’s FREE! Your job is to do all you can to get it.
The key to get Free Money is time. You need time to search and find those financial aid opportunities i.e. FAFSA, scholarships, loans. You need time to work on those applications, and you need time to send them in. One of the stereotypes we, Hispanics, are well known for is ‘punctuality’ and so many times it’s true. We, as Hispanics, like to wait until the last minute for pretty much everything. We, sometimes, do not know how to manage our time and that can costs us money. So, let’s keep that in mind time when trying to find ways to pay for college. Below, you will find some tips when trying to get free money:
1) Keep in mind that your grades, SAT/ACT scores and your resume can all help you get that money or not. Many times, the higher the grades and/or scores the better!
2) Do NOT wait until your senior year to start looking for scholarships. If you are in 9th, 10th or 11th grade start looking for scholarships now. Most of the scholarships require an essay, what better way to practice than by writing one for a high school essay contest now, right? There are a few of those essay contest that target middle school and high school students. If you are a junior in high school that is (in my own humble opinion) the BEST time to start looking for scholarships. Most of the deadlines will be the fall or spring of your senior year.
3) Start talking to your high school counselor and also talk to the college counselor (the want you want to go to) about scholarships. They are, sometimes, the ones with more information about scholarships for residents of your specific school, county, city and state.
4) Besides all the information you can get from your counselors. Do some research on your own.
5) Start searching for scholarships locally. Find those local organizations (private or not, Hispanic driven/focused or not) and see whether you are eligible to apply for them or not. Think of those organizations you and your family may be affiliated with. And, do not get discouraged by the amount of the scholarships, they may be small amounts. But, though most of the local scholarships may not be ‘big’ ones, it is still free money you can get.
6) Search for Institutional Scholarships. Talk to the admissions and/ or financial aid counselor. Ask if the school where you want to go offer scholarships for students like you. Check their financial aid website (if they have one). See if there are scholarships for specific colleges, departments and majors (like the one you want to choose).
7) Search for State scholarships. Most states have a Department of Education office. Pretty much every state has a Scholarship program for its residents. Georgia has HOPE Scholarship, Arkansas has Academic Challenge Scholarship, Oklahoma has the Academic Scholarship Program and Florida has Bright Future Scholarship, just to name a few states. Do remember that most likely those scholarships will be granted to those students who will be attending a school in that specific state.
8) Search for National scholarships. Those most of these are merit based scholarships, there are quite a few offered to those who need financial assistance. Gates Millennium is one of them.
9) Find out if your parents’ employers offer scholarships for their children. Big companies sometimes do offer that type of help. Ask your parents to visit the company’s human resource office and find out for you.
10) If you (a high school student) is working for a company e.g. food chain, clothing store, food store, etc. Ask your manager about scholarships offered to students like you.
11) A great tool to use while searching for scholarships is FASTWEB, but also GOOGLE. Most of the scholarships I have found have been through Google. You can literally type in any word (try typing brand names of things you eat, wear, buy) next to the word Scholarship and the year we are in (you can also try the month the deadline may be in). You will be amazed the type of scholarships you will find. You can also use Facebook. Just type in Scholarships in the search box. One that I personally manage is www.facebook.com/Scholarships4Students
12) Don’t EVER pay to get information about scholarships. If a website or a person asks you for money to do so, then most likely that’s spam.
13) Remember that each scholarship has its own requirements, instructions to apply and/or criteria of eligibility e.g. GPA score, SAT/ACT score, essays, letters of recommendation, deadlines, majors, renewal and so forth.
14) Pay CLOSE attention and follow those application requirements, instructions and/or criteria.
15) Do NOT ever copy and paste essays. Questions are different and there are many ways to know when you have copied and pasted something. Make every essay for every scholarship UNIQUE! It will be worth the effort.
16) Make copies of everything you will send. If something happens to it, then you can send a copy right away and/or prove to the organization you did submit your application.
17) Do NOT wait until the application deadline to work on the application, finish the application and/or send the application to where it needs to be sent. You may regret it!
18) Give plenty of time to those who may be writing your recommendation letters. Give them a resume so they can add many more things about you to their letter.
19) If you can and it’s not stated in the application (do not call or email inquiries), follow up with the organization and/or school about your scholarship application status.
20) Do NOT wait until tomorrow to start searching for scholarships. Start TODAY. Money is free and all you need to do is FIND IT and GET IT!
If you have any questions or comments, please email me at email@example.com or call me at 912-344-2513. I would love to answer some of your questions!