I’m doing fine; how ’bout flu?

Hello everyone. Sorry that I have been away from the blog for a few weeks. I have been severely under the weather with the flu and I am just now beginning to feel human again.

Sneezing and coughing and fever, oh my!

Needless to say, my priority has been sleep, sleep, oh – and more sleep, so the blog has slipped by me. My theme for February is scholarships so I didn’t want to waste any more time before diving into our subject of the month, so here we go.

Much of your financial aid award is outside of your control (you either qualify for a Pell Grant, or you don’t based on your EFC), and while you can apply early to increase your chances of getting other kinds of aid, there are a limited number of funds your college offers.

The sky’s the limit, though, when it comes to scholarships.

Private or outside scholarships are funds available to you that are offered by private foundations or community organizations which are not (usually) affiliated with your college or university. Some examples include the Gates Millennium Scholarship, the Coca-Cola Scholarship, and the Sarasota Education Foundation.

Annually, over $17B is given out in private scholarships to students every year. This is more in total nationwide than is given out in state scholarships ($12.6B), so your chances of qualifying for a private scholarship are reasonable.

How do you do it?

First, you need to understand that looking for and applying for private scholarships takes time and effort. This isn’t a streamlined or “once and done” process. You will need to be organized and manage your time well if you want to pursue this.

Second, you should understand what benefit you might receive from an outside scholarship. If you have already received a full need financial aid package, adding a private scholarship means something needs to be removed from your financial aid total to make room for this new fund (usually what is removed are loans or work awards). If you do not have a full financial aid package (or you have no financial aid or just a Pell Grant), then outside or private scholarships can prove a large benefit for you.

The most important thing to do is to research what kinds of programs might be available to you. Start with the monster of all search engines for private educational scholarships, FastWeb. With FastWeb you can set up an account, search for matching scholarships, and even apply for some through the webpage.

While FastWeb has a lot of scholarship listings, it isn’t your only resource. I also strongly suggest checking with your college to see if they have a scholarship service through their web page (or if their community foundation offers scholarships for which you might be considered).

Remember though that no matter what scholarship search engine you use, identifying the scholarship is only the first step. Next we’re going to talk about how to apply for the scholarship!

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