Filing the FAFSA isn’t the only step you should take in finding financial aid. You can start even earlier, working to find scholarships.
Your first stop should be your school or college counseling office. Counselors often have an established—and winning—method to help you in your scholarship search. Other ideas:
Search. Investigate community resources such as civic groups, community foundations and faith-based organizations. Many extra-curricular organizations, such as your local 4-H clubs or scouting groups, offer scholarships, too. Your parents’ —or even your own—employer might have programs, too. You can also search online at FastWeb.com, but don’t ever, ever pay a fee for a scholarship search service.
Read the fine print. Before you apply, make sure you are a good fit for the scholarship. Do you meet the criteria? Follow all directions and complete the application on time. If the scholarship requires letters of recommendation, provide plenty of time—at least two or three weeks—to your teacher, coach or employer to write a glowing letter.
Proofread. Talk to everyone you meet about your search for scholarships. Friends, relatives, teachers and your school counselor may know of more scholarship sources. Before you hit “submit” ask a teacher, parent or friend to proofread your application and essay.
File the FAFSA. By filing the FAFSA, you may automatically qualify for some scholarships.