5 Resources and Tips for Getting Scholarships and Financial Aid for College

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College can be really expensive.  Below are a few obvious (and not so obvious) things you can do to get that free money.  

Free money for college

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.)

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.)

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Four Things Undocumented Students Need to Know About Applying to College

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Four important questions answered and oodles of resources to help undocumented students prepare and apply for college.

1. Can I still still go to college if I am undocumented?

Yes. There is no federal policy restricting undocumented students from being accepted at a university.

2. Am I eligible for financial aid?

It depends on what state you live in. Undocumented students are ineligible for federal aid, but many schools offer in-state tuition and state and university scholarships to undocumented students. You can find a map of these states here, or on this page.

3. Will applying to colleges give the federal government information that will get me deported?

No. Schools administration do not legally have to give information to the federal government about its students under FERPA (see "Laws and Regulations" below for more information). And any information given to these schools cannot be held against you in court. When it comes to applying for scholarships, the policies different from source to source, so make sure to read their agreements carefully.

4. Should I give up hope on going to college?

No way! You are not alone in this journey. There are many people in your community who are in your same position or are devoting their time and energy to making sure you get to college. Now is the best possible time to apply. 

Here are tons of resources for helping you get there:

Applying to College

How to Get Your Testing, Application Fees, and Basically Everything Else for Free
The title says it all. This is the best and more practical place to start.

How DACA Students Can Apply to College
11 tips for Dreamers.

The CollegeBoard’s Repository of Resources for Undocumented Students
A list of organizations and resources for how to get support through applying and attending college.

Free Access to College Essay Guy’s How to Write the Personal Statement
Just write us an email at telling us that you are interested in a pay-what-you-can option and you can get free access.

Matchlighters Scholarship
Free college admissions help: four hours of one-on-one essay feedback and two hours of college-list development

Paying for College: Scholarships and In-State Tuition

A List of Schools’ Financial Aid Policies toward Undocumented Students
Each school has their own policies. While your options may be more limited, there are many schools out there that strongly support you in your journey.

A List of Private Scholarships for California Universities

How to Cut Down the Costs of Attending College

MALDEF’s Scholarship Resource Guide for high school, college, and graduate students

4-Year Colleges & Universities Admissions Policies, Financial Aid, and Scholarships
Admission policies, financial aid, and scholarship opportunities at colleges and universities throughout the nation and abroad.

How Undocumented Immigrants Might Qualify for College Financial Aid in N.J.
The New Jersey legislature is writing a bill that will allow undocumented students who graduated from a New Jersey high school to receive state financial aid.

Student Loans for Immigrants: Here are some tips for applying for loans as an immigrant.

Laws and Regulations

Free or Reduced-Price Legal Help
When in doubt, ask a professional.

The Nuts and Bolts for Getting Ready for College
See section 1 here for a brief introduction to the important policies related to eligibility for applying to college.

DREAM Act - Five Facts You Need to Know About the DREAM Act
Policies differ by state so you’ll have to do your research.

DACA - The pros and cons of applying for DACA
DACA is a temporary option to defer deportation: “If you are considering applying for DACA but haven't yet done so, take the time to first consider your own personal, immigration, and criminal history and the risks of providing these details to the U.S. government.”

FERPA - The US Department of Education
You have a right to privacy regarding your educational information.

HB60 - Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights
An Illinois act that allows in-state tuition for undocumented students.

HB540 - Resources for Undocumented Students (AB 540)
A California act that allows in-state tuition for undocumented students

Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) - American Immigration Council
A number given to people without social security numbers so that they can still pay taxes, gaining tax credits, getting a driver’s license, and other things.

Resources for educators

Post-Election: What Educators Can Do to Support Undocumented Students
Everything you need to know about how you can support undocumented students.