College can be really expensive. Below are a few obvious (and not so obvious) things you can do to get that free money.
This should be you.
Tip #1: Fill out the FAFSA. Yeah, fill it out even if you don’t think you’ll qualify. The federal government uses the FAFSA to see if you qualify for over $150 Billion in aid. But here’s the thing. Many state governments, private institutions and colleges use it to see if you qualify for state and institutional scholarships too. So do.
RESOURCE #1: Need help figuring out the FAFSA? Check out Edvisors amazing and comprehensive guide to filling out the FAFSA.
Tip #2: Fill out the CSS/Financial Aid Profile. The College Scholarship Service PROFILE is used by over 400 private institutions and colleges, particularly highly-selective schools, to gather additional information about financial aid and scholarship eligibility. Chances are, you're applying to at least one school that requires it, so find out which schools use it.
RESOURCE #2: Get the full list of schools using the CSS Profile in 2017/2018 here. The College Board’s awesome 1-page student guide to filling it out can be found here. Got a question? Call them at (305) 420-3670. (Their customer support is pretty solid.)
Another great read: Four Things Undocumented Students Need to Know About Applying to College
Tip #3: Apply early. Like, right now. Yes, I know. This is the same advice that everyone gives you about everything. But with financial aid, it’s actually really important. Some reasons:
FAFSA now opens October 1st instead of January 1st, allowing you to get your Student Aid Report (SAR) in time for early action or early decision notifications.
While FAFSA money doesn’t “run out” as many people believe, money sometimes does run out for scholarships and colleges that use the FAFSA for granting financial aid packages. The early bird gets the $$$.
The CSS profile is no walk in the park. The questions are much more detailed than the FAFSA and will require wading through W-2s, bank statements, and other tax documentation. But it’s worth it because free money.
RESOURCE # 3: My brother created the ultimate Google Sheets document for tracking all of your scholarship research and applying. Copy it here and get started now!
Tip #4: Apply for institutional scholarships. Many schools automatically consider you for merit and institutional scholarships. But many schools offer scholarships that must be applied for separately and often require earlier application dates, additional essays and separate interviews. Be sure to look for these opportunities by contacting the financial aid offices of schools you're applying to.
RESOURCE #4: Use Google! It’s your greatest resource in the scholarship search. Don’t believe me? Look at the first thing that came up when I googled “Scholarships at UVA”
5. Tip #5: Apply for outside scholarships. I know, it’s obvious. But you’d be surprised how few students actually put in the time and effort to apply for these and how easy it is to actually get them. With smaller scholarships that are less than $2,000, sometimes the quantity that you apply to is more important than quality (or in this case, the size) of the scholarship.
RESOURCE # 5: USA Today explains the 11 best websites for finding outside scholarships here. (I agree with them.)
Ready to get started? There’s billions of dollars in scholarships out there.