By: Ken Austin
If you are getting ready to attend college I'm sure you are wondering how on earth you are going to pay for it. Even graduating high school students are more and more often finding that they need to contribute in some manner to their college educations.
Whether you will be taking out student loans, applying for scholarships or grants, or praying for some sort of work study program to come along there are a few things you need to know about financial aid at the college level.
First of all, financial aid can be a tricky beast. For this reason it is best to apply early and keep records of everything you send to the financial aid office. The information age has made things easier on one level and yet has eliminated the personal factor on other levels.
However, if you own a personal computer you will find that Internet is an excellent source for financial aid and scholarship information. While the government offers a wide array of financial aid resources, there are many opportunities for you to get an education that do not revolve around government funding. You simply need to spend the time finding them.
Your local community is an excellent resource and a good place to start when it comes to financial opportunities for those preparing to attend college. Civic organizations and local businesses like to give out scholarships to promising students. Many of these have very specific requirements and you should pay close attention that you meet the qualifications before applying.
There is no sense in wasting your time and that of the scholarship committee by applying for scholarships for which you do not qualify. Scholarships are preferable to student loans, as they do not need to be repaid. This is one of the most important things you need to understand when seeking financial aid for college. Loans are killers to your income for the first several years after graduation. The fewer loans you can manage to take out for your education the better. They are however there for those who couldn't possibly afford an education without them.
If you don't find the scholarships you are hoping to at the local level, you should check with the county in which you live, your state, and the school you plan to attend. There are excellent resources for each of these when it comes to financial aid. Within the college you will be attending you should consult your department head (for your chosen major) in order to see if there are any scholarships available.
You will be surprised at the number of scholarships for which you may qualify. Apply for all that you meet the requirements in order to apply. Competition for these scholarships is often fierce but you never know when your letter of application might spark the interest of one of the panel members or you simply might be the most impressive candidate.
When applying for scholarships remember to read all the instructions carefully, make sure you have all the necessary documentation, and that you have checked and rechecked everything for accuracy and clarity. It takes time to make corrections and they can often be the difference in your being awarded a scholarship and the honor going to another student.
Scholarships are by far the best route to go when it comes to applying for financial aid but you should be careful that you aren't placing all your eggs in one basket. Try for multiple scholarships, work-study programs, grants, and if necessary loans in order to achieve your educational goals.