Figuring out a way to finance a college education is a daunting task. Parents are often fearful of the rising costs in education and are continuously searching for ways to help their child attend the school of their choice. The following overview will discuss both Financial Aid and Scholarships, with a helpful step-by-step process to help you navigate your journey. Please visit often as we will continue to update and inform you of current scholarships available and Financial Aid workshops and deadlines.
Financial Aid Information
Step 1: Talk to your parents about your plans for education after high school. Be open with them about your wishes and listen to their opinions and feelings. Discuss the financial implications of your plans and be clear about your family’s financial situation. Be clear about what you are truly willing to contribute.
Step 2: As you apply for colleges or trade schools, always indicate that you are interested in financial aid or scholarships. If there is no place to indicate this on the application, inquire about aid and scholarships at the school’s Office of Financial Aid. If you are considering an athletic scholarship, your coach should make contact with the coaches or athletic directors of the schools to which you are applying. Athletic scholarships are very limited. However, there are non-monetary benefits that are available: easier admission, preferential housing or registration, etc. If you are applying to private or out-of-state colleges, find out if they need the "CSS Profile" (found on collegeboard.com) and if so, when is the deadline for its submission.
Step 3: Be sure your parents attend to the information night on the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)" that will be held in the district in January. This information evening will assist you in completion of the form that is the basis for many federal and state grants as well as many college financial aid programs. Many schools and programs use the information from this form even for non-need based scholarships. Some private and out-of-state colleges require the "CSS Profile" mentioned in step 2. We strongly encourage all students to fill out the FAFSA application regardless of income. In addition, much can change between the time a FAFSA is submitted and the time your child actually attends college. An unexpected turn in your family's financial situation can help you if you have filled out this form. You can also be eligible for lower rate student loans by filling out the FAFSA.
Step 4: Begin filling out the FAFSA on October 1st. Much of the financial information required will be dependent on the previous year's income. Completing your taxes sooner rather than later will make this process easier when filling out the application. The deadline for the FAFSA in California is March 2nd in order to be considered for aid during the following school year. The deadline for out of state colleges are different so check the college's website.
Step 1: Scholarships come in varied forms. The college that the student will be attending sponsors some of these scholarships. Some are sponsored by private organizations or local or school organizations. The requirements for scholarships will vary. A common misconception is that scholarships are based on need, which is not the case. Some focus on ethnicity, sports, leadership, community service, or special interest. The Cal High counseling office will put any scholarship that comes through their office on Family Connection. As you begin your search, beware of any scholarship search engines that ask for money as many of these sites may not be legitimate.
Step 2: Many scholarships require letters of recommendation. You should develop a resumè that you can give the person you are asking to write a letter for you. This should include a description of your academic program, a listing of awards and honors, a detailed listing of activities at school and in the community, including any leadership positions, and a summary of work experience. You may set this up either chronologically (i.e. year in school) or by categories (i.e. awards and honors, community activities, etc.). This is the time to "brag" so be all-inclusive. Review the resume with your family and friends to be sure that you included everything. Make copies of this resume and (if done) a copy of your personal essay to give to teachers or others who may need to write a letter of recommendation for you. Also make copies of your transcript to give to those individuals. Always give people advance notice (at least two weeks) when you ask them to write you a letter. Make sure you give them a stamped addressed envelope to send the recommendation in. Be sure to thank them after they write the letter.
Step 3: Some scholarships will want to know more about you and ask you to write an essay about yourself or a particular topic. Start to draft a personal essay about yourself. This is going to be the most difficult part of the application process so you should start formulating ideas now. You do not need to actually write out an essay until you have the exact instructions, but thinking about it and putting down ideas can save you time later. Some of the essays used for the UC and/or your private school applications can be used here. However, make sure that essay actually answers the question or adapt it so that it does. Readers will recognize a quick cut and paste essay.
There are generally three types of personal essays that are asked for in scholarship applications:
(i) The future goals statement: What is required here is a thoughtful projection into the future. They are not only asking what your goals are, but why you have decided upon those goals. Did an experience or person inspire you? Have you considered your personal abilities and interests in making this decision? Are you aware of what your goals entail as far as training/education? It is not expected here that you know exactly what you will be doing in five or ten years, but that you have given some serious thought to determining the type of career and related education that you desire.
(ii) The description of accomplishments statement: This is the most common and the most difficult type of essay. What these types of essays are looking for is your depth of involvement, commitment and motivation. What is notwanted is simply a listing of all your achievements or awards (those are usually on another part of the application). It is not necessary that you present a multitude of activities here. You should discuss those things that you have done that are especially meaningful to you and tell why they have meaning for you. You should use examples of activities that show your commitment, ability, leadership qualities, or special talents. You should note any situations that show how you met and overcame adversity, hardships or handicaps. If there are events or persons in your life that have profoundly influenced you or shaped your character, you should mention those.
(iii) The revealing question: Some scholarships will ask you to answer a question that is designed to reveal something about you indirectly. Such questions as "describe a person who greatly influenced you" or "if you were the President of the United States, what would be your major goal?" are really asking about you. They are getting at your values, your ability to express yourself, and your logical thought processes. You cannot really prepare for such questions, since they vary so greatly. However, if you have given some thought to the first two types of questions, you have a base on which to draw.
Step 4: Ask your parents to explore the possibility of scholarships being available from their employer, union, church or clubs. Search the Internet for possible scholarships. A good source is www.fastweb.com.
Be sure to check the deadline date set by the college for receipt of the "Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)" and the "CSS Profile."
If in doubt, ask! Don’t miss deadlines. Don’t get discouraged by rejection. Be optimistic but realistic. Pursue your dreams but have an affordable backup. Apply for all scholarships for which you are qualified. You can’t get what you don’t go after.