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Scholarship tips

Ultimate Guide to the FAFSA

Any college student will tell you that applying for the FAFSA can be a major headache. With so much info, how can applicants be sure they are filling it out correctly? The University of Arizona has created what they call Your Ultimate Guide to the FAFSA which provides a number of useful steps to a successful loan application. The information has been streamlined to create a user-friendly guide that allows readers to apply to the FAFSA with confidence.

Ultimate Guide to FAFSA

OnlineColleges and Scholarships

Many public and private not-for-profit colleges and universities in Kansas are incorporating online degree programs into their curriculum. Knowing that students and families are faced with trying to figure out the best educational route to take, OnlineColleges.net provides an investigative review of the online education landscape, and critically evaluate the best program available, from quality to affordability. Most importantly, they have provided scholarship information that students can leverage to help finance their education.

You can see the entire guide along with some of its features here:

Onlinecolleges.net        Kansas scholarships        Union College

Because of their non-biased approach and focusing only on not-for-profit public and private higher education institutions, you may find them a valuable resource in searching for options in college education.

College Scholarships

Seniors, it is never too soon to start applying for scholarships. The more you apply for, the better your chances of getting more money towards college! Here are a few good sites to sign up on and start applying. You can also check the rest of our scholarship tips below for more information on good scholarship practices.

You might as well apply, it's free money!

  • Zinch.com
  • CollegeWeekLive.com
  • Cappex.com
  • CaptainU.com
  • Studentaid.ed.gov
  • CollegeScholarships.org
  • GoodCall.com

Always check with the admissions counselor at the school(s) you are interested in…they will have good advice and maybe more scholarships. Your teachers at Midland may have scholarship information for you as well.

They Loved Your G.P.A. Then They Saw Your Tweets

As certain high school seniors work meticulously this month to finish their early applications to colleges, some may not realize that comments they casually make online could negatively affect their prospects. In fact, new research from Kaplan Test Prep, the service owned by the Washington Post Company, suggests that online scrutiny of college hopefuls is growing.

Of 381 college admissions officers who answered a Kaplan telephone questionnaire this year, 31 percent said they had visited an applicant’s Facebook or other personal social media page to learn more about them — a five-percentage-point increase from last year. More crucially for those trying to get into college, 30 percent of the admissions officers said they had discovered information online that had negatively affected an applicant’s prospects. 

The $141,000 Mistake

by Steve Sterling

High school seniors thinking about skipping the early action application deadlines (October 15 – December 15) and waiting to apply to college using regular application deadlines (January 1 – February 15), should reconsider their decision. Applying early action will not only increase their chance for gaining admission to their college of choice, but can dramatically increase their potential for receiving scholarships, too. Here’s a real-life story that clearly demonstrates why it is important to apply early...

A few years ago, two valedictorians from the same high school applied to a top regional university in the San Francisco Bay area. Both students had perfect grade point averages, outstanding SAT test scores and great extracurricular activities. Both were eagerly accepted to this university, but with DRAMATICALLY DIFFERENT SCHOLARSHIP AWARDS. One received $145,000 for four years, the other received $4,000. Virtually identical students in every way except one.

Why then the huge disparity in scholarship awards? The answer is timing: The student who received $145,000 applied EARLY (November 1) for both admission and financial aid using the early action process, the other applied using the regular admission process (application deadline January 7).

When the regular admission student received her financial aid award letter that showed only $4,000 in scholarship awards, she called the Office of Financial Aid to appeal her financial aid award. When she spoke with the university’s financial aid administrator, she cited the other student's huge award and her identical student qualifications. The regular admission student told me the financial aid administrator said, “The largest scholarships are awarded to early applicants because they show us they really want to attend our school (by applying early)."

While this is an extreme example of why students should apply early, it is nonetheless a true story. For students seeking scholarships and grants (free money that does not have to be repaid), I cannot overemphasize the importance of applying early.

Moral of the story: The early bird catches the financial aid worm. 

Why Do You Want to Come to Our College?

by Steve Sterling

A majority of colleges and universities require writing a short essay that answers the question, “Why do you want to come to this college?” or “What interests you about our college?” or a similar type of question. Your answer should include specific information about the college to show your genuine interest in attending that school.

To give the best possible answer, student applicants should:

  • Research the college’s website and write about special programs or opportunities unique to that college. This may include a professor whose class or research project is of great interest to you, particular on-campus student clubs and activities, college radio stations, the college newspaper, unusual intramural sports, study abroad options, internships, etc.).
  • Explain why the college is a good fit for you, such as the college has the small class sizes you’re looking for, has on-campus student organizations you want to join, leadership opportunities, etc.
  • Get personal and describe your academic interests and how they can be met at that college. If you have selected a college major, mention how the college offers the major you want to study and the classes offered in that major are of great interest to you (give an example of a class you look forward to taking when you enroll).
  • If you have selected a major, go to the webpage for the department of your major and research professors who teach classes of interest to you. You can see the interests and research projects of each professor by reviewing their biography posted on the Department’s webpages. In your answer, you should say something like, “In addition, I would like to study under Dr. John Smith who teaches Environmental Science 301, and whose research focuses on stream pollution. I would like to assist Dr. Smith and conduct original research, if possible.”
  • Share how you feel you are going to make a contribution to the college campus. How will you enrich the college community? For example, mention how you plan to write for the campus newspaper (give the specific name of the student newspaper), or join student government, plan to participate in intramural sports, etc.
  • Explain the activities and interests from high school you intend to pursue in college. For example, discuss your involvement in community volunteer programs during high school and how you want to get involved with volunteering during college.

Including as much of this information as possible in your short-answer essay will greater enhance the quality of your answer and will impress college admission officers. 

The Student Resume – Why It’s Important To Have One

Rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors should be involved in activities this summer and next academic year with the intent to build their student resume for college admission. The competition for college admission can be incredibly tough and college-bound students should seize every possible opportunity to put themselves ahead of other student applicants. One way to get noticed by college admission officers and to take the lead for available admission slots is to create a professional student resume.

Students who create a resume show they are willing to go beyond the required application materials to demonstrate the initiative that college admission officers like to see. Resumes allow students to present themselves in the best possible manner; they can emphasize their strengths, highlight accomplishments, and present information in the order that best shows their college potential and overall personality. On college applications, students are forced to complete information as it is displayed on the application form, while resumes give the freedom to present accomplishments as best suits the student and to better shine in the eyes of college admission officers.

Sent in Your FAFSA Yet?

Seniors, the FAFSA is your first and most important step to getting the money you need to help you pay for college. This program is the application for U.S. government financial aid for college, including need-based Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), National SMART Grants, TEACH Grants and more.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Education provides over $100 billion in new education grants and student loans, but a survey done by the National Postsecondary Student Aid revealed that almost half the students who are eligible for federal student aid do not even apply. There are many reasons for this, but the bottom line is: that’s a lot of money left on the table.

So file your FAFSA as early as possible! Some federal financial aid is allotted on a first come, first served basis. File your FAFSA as soon after January 1 of each year as possible to ensure you are awarded the maximum amount of financial aid you are eligible for. 


Senior Grades Are Important!

by Susie Watts

May 1st is the universal date set for college applicants to commit to the school they plan to attend in the fall. Some high school seniors believe that once they have been accepted to a college and sent in their deposit, they can relax and not worry about their grades any more. They begin to daydream in their classes and spend more time texting their friends than they do listening to their teachers. This is known as senioritis. Senioritis can have some serious consequences and leave students without any college plans. Or some schools might decrease their financial aid awards or put students on academic probation their first semester of college.

Most colleges request both first and second semester grades. They also expect students to take all of the courses they have listed on their college applications and to not skip classes or miss tests. While the college admissions process is almost over for high school seniors, colleges can still rescind an acceptance. Colleges are sending a message that they have no problem turning down an applicant in the summer who has slacked off his second semester. They always have a wait list with students who have worked hard until graduation. It is obvious that students need to continue studying and not allow senioritis to get in the way!

Juniors - Summer Activities 

by Steve Sterling

Juniors, summer activities are important for your college career. These activities should build student résumés and help make next fall’s college and scholarship applications look outstanding.

These activities should reflect meaningful and continued involvement in the things you are passionate about (and ideally have been involved with during your freshman, sophomore and junior years). Don’t choose activities based on what you think colleges and universities are looking for on an application; colleges and universities don’t care what you are involved in as long as you demonstrate long-term commitment and passion for the activities you do. Whatever activities you choose to do this summer, do them well to show your interest and dedication.

Summer activities should not only allow you to continue pursuing your favorite activities, but should also provide opportunities to move into higher levels of responsibility and leadership. For example, if you previously have been a volunteer with a community organization (such as the local Boys & Girls Club), don’t just volunteer this summer, become a leader or take charge of a new project. Colleges like to see increased student responsibility, leadership, personal growth and commitment.

If you are considering a summer job or internship that involves your intended college major, research opportunities early and share your interest with potential employers as soon as possible. The closer time gets to summer, the more likely the preferred jobs and internships will be taken by other students!

Good places to start researching and asking about opportunities are with your high school counselor, local business owners, and local service clubs. Ask around and be creative. For example:

  • if you’re interested in biology or pre-medicine, are there internships or volunteer opportunities at your local hospital?
  • if you’re interested in journalism, English or creative writing, is there a local newspaper or city publication that could use help?
  • are engineering, mathematics, or computer science of interest to you? Then try to find a business or organization where you can enter data into spreadsheets or databases and help organize their computer files.

College admission officers like to see students work activities that involve real thinking; try to develop your skills and interests.

Apply for Local Scholarships First

by Steve Sterling

The national scholarships that can be found using internet search engines are extremely difficult to win. You may think you are submitting winning applications and essays, but the competition for national scholarships is EXTREME and so-called “winning” applications rarely do. Some national scholarships receive more than 100,000 applications making them nearly impossible to win.

In contrast, there are true advantages to applying for local scholarships. Why? Because when you apply, you’ll be one of the few students that do. By this time of year, most high school seniors are completely burned out from submitting application after application for college admission and financial aid; they have no interest in filling out yet another application or writing another essay. But, my advice for seniors is to persevere and apply for all scholarships offered by local civic organizations, businesses, and scholarship foundations because the competition is minimal and your odds of winning are good.

Many local scholarship applications are due between March 31 and May 31 of each year. Local scholarships usually require applications, letters of recommendations, transcript copies, and essays. Some even require interviews. Although filling out additional applications, writing more essays, and conducting interviews sounds dreadful, doing so can pay off in a big way. With competition so low, you can win multiple local scholarships which can add up to several thousand dollars.

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