I’ve Been Accepted to College…How Do I Pay for It?

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In a few weeks or months, if they haven’t already, students will begin receiving those long-awaited admission letters, notifying them that they have been accepted to the school of their dreams. The culmination of years of effort and dedication is at hand.

Now the hard part begins: figuring out how to pay for it.

It is no secret that the price of higher education, certain notable local institutions notwithstanding, generally continues to climb here in the United States. Along with tuition increases, the competitiveness of admission and the imbalance in the ratio of merit- and need-based aid has also increased. The end result is that it is more difficult for the average student to afford quality education, at least without loans making up a significant portion of their financial aid package. With that in mind, here are a few guidelines on finding the right scholarship for you:

Do your research.

To begin with, look up the admission profile for students enrolled at the school the previous year. What were their test scores, GPA’s, class rank, etc.? Where do you fit compared to that range? If at or above, the school might be a good fit and you probably have the opportunity to receive some merit-based aid. If below, it will be more difficult to earn merit-based aid at that school, so if finances are a concern, it might not be the best fit.

Know the institutional scholarships you qualify for or are interested in at each school.

This is a continuation of doing your research, but this specific knowledge can have quite a few benefits. It lets you know what particular numbers (test scores, GPA) you might have to reach to receive a specific dollar amount. It helps you decide whether a school will be affordable or not and allows you to contact your admission officer about being considered for the

award. Sometimes just reaching out via a professionally worded email or phone call can put you on a short list of potential recipients. At the very least, it demonstrates your sincere interest in the school.

Avoid “Scholarship Websites.”

There are excellent independent scholarships out there, but they are not typically found on the buffet-style scholarship websites one often hears about. Instead, you usually find minimal scholarships with lots of competition. For example, there is in fact a scholarship for being left-handed, but it is a single award of $500 given each year to one student…not really worth the time and effort to receive it. A great deal of research is required to find independent scholarships that are appropriate to your specific situation and worth the time it takes to apply.

Start early.

Many scholarship deadlines are very close or have already passed. Others require that students apply early decision or early action, which again, are deadlines that are fast approaching or already passed at many schools. Finally, if you do need to improve your test scores or GPA, you want as much time as possible to do so. Don’t delay another day!

Best of luck, and enjoy your Thanksgiving!

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