Congratulations on completing the FAFSA®! That’s the first, and one of the most important steps to solving the financial aid puzzle. Make sure you receive your Student Aid Report (SAR)—depending on how you submitted your FAFSA, it could three days to three weeks—which is sent to you by the U.S. Department of Education. It’s always important to review your SAR. It will let you know if your application is incomplete in any way, and it will include your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Once the process is finalized, you will still have to wait to see how much financial aid you will receive from your school and state.
So now what? There are plenty of things you can do in the meantime to help make your upcoming year to more affordable. Here are some steps you can take which can help you find additional money for college.
If you’re not already doing this, it’s time to buckle down and start the search. You may hear the terms “Grants” and “Scholarships” used interchangeably. The important thing to note is that both fit into the category of gift aid, which is money that doesn’t need to be paid back. Gift aid can have a huge impact on your out of pocket expenses.
There are thousands of scholarship opportunities out there. If you’re serious about your search for gift aid, set aside some time each night to search and apply for scholarships and grants. There are scholarship matching tools, like Fastweb and our site StudentScholarshipSearch.com, that can help you find the opportunities most relevant to your background, field of study, skill, interest, etc.
Another option, our site, ScholarshipPoints.com, offers you the opportunity to enter into sweepstakes-based scholarships. This is a unique approach that is not merit-based, meaning there is no academic or GPA requirement.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a high school senior or already a college student—you want to keep your grades up! Some scholarships and grants will have academic requirements that students must maintain in order to qualify for and keep their award.
There have been cases where colleges or scholarship sponsors have revoked merit aid awards if a student’s GPA falls below their requirements, and this applies to all students, including incoming freshman.
It never hurts to earn some extra money before and during college. You can use it to help cover living expenses, fees, or, if you currently have unsubsidized student loans, you can use this income to pay off the accruing interest.
Don’t overlook creative ways to earn money. Think of ways you can monetize a talent or skill. Are you a photographer? Find ways to sell your work. Can you make delicious homemade pickles like one of our essay-based scholarship winner, Grace Gardner?
College can be expensive. Earning income before and during college can have a noticeable impact on how much you may need to borrow.
Make sure you start to build your relationship with your financial aid advisor. Even if you are still deciding on a school, set up some time to go over your financial aid and opportunities for institutional grants or other scholarships at each prospective school.
Be ready to ask your advisor which financial aid forms you need to complete and the school’s deadline. Once you know how to contact the financial aid office, it’ll be easier to navigate the financial aid process during college.
You will refile the FAFSA each year while in school. Apply these tips each year, and good luck!
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