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Scholarship Tips

By Chip Parker and Donna Smith

Advice from Chip Parker, director of admission and Donna Smith, financial aid advisor, Drury University

You’ve narrowed your college choices down to a handful of schools; now you have to figure out which one you’ll attend and how to pay for it. First, don’t panic. You’re not the first person who’s had to figure out how to pay for college, and you won’t be the last. You’ll find the money if you ask lots of questions and start early. Here are some tips and tricks you can use to help fund your college experience.

FAFSA - Free Application for Federal Student Aid

This is the student aid form that most colleges and universities use to determine a student’s need-based aid, which can take the form of grants or loans. It takes about 30 minutes to fill this out on-line.

Scholarship Sites

These are free scholarship search sites where a student can find financial aid opportunities. There are scholarship search services that do the work for you, but you have to pay for those. Check out the free sites like www.freescholarship.com and www.fastweb.com.

University Scholarships

Contact the universities you want to attend because each school will have unique scholarship opportunities, deadlines and applications. There are many opportunities, but the cliché holds true -- the early bird gets the worm. These scholarships aren’t strictly based on academics. Some are for students who exhibit leadership or involvement in the community or other high school activities.

Specialty Scholarships

Many big box retailers like Wal-Mart and Lowe’s offer undergraduate scholarships, and your parent’s employer may offer scholarship money to employee’s children.

And there are scholarships based on race, gender, academic interest and even geographic location, so there may be a scholarship that fits your special circumstances. Millions of dollars go unclaimed because students do not realize they are uniquely eligible for certain scholarships.

Athletics and Activities Grants

Are you a gifted hockey player or trumpet player? While you may not earn the coveted full-ride to a Division I school, there may be money at your chosen school that fits your given talent: athletics, music, art or theatre.

Religious Scholarships

Many colleges and universities are affiliated with different churches. Check your church and your prospective colleges for opportunities for faith-based aid.

A Final Word

Start early. It’s not uncommon to start planning for financial aid in your junior year of high school. Don’t be intimidated or scared-off by a private school -- with need and merit based aid you can actually pay less for a private school than a public one. Do not be afraid to ask questions of your parents, teachers, counselors, or principals. You can also call the college you want to attend. The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.
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