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Getting into college is tough enough. Then you've got to figure out how to pay for it. If you want to secure assistance from a university or a private institution in the form of scholarships, you can learn to negotiate the process and give yourself the best chance for getting big money. While "full rides" are rare, most state schools offer a number of them to qualified students, and you can learn to patch together different foundation options to help you pay for school. See Step 1 for more information.

Method One of Four:
Applying for University Scholarships Edit

Apply to your top schools in state first. There are two major ways to get a big scholarship to attend school as an undergraduate: winning a scholarship from the school itself, or winning a private or federal scholarship that can be used at any school. Both varieties of scholarship are typically given for a combination of demonstrable financial need and excellence in achievement. To start narrowing it down, think about nearby schools that will value in-state applicants.
  • Typically, but not in all cases, state schools offer more full scholarships to in-state applicants with fewer criteria that need checked off to apply. In other words, the only criteria to apply needs to be that you're a resident of the state in which you're applying, in many cases. Because the rent covered by the full scholarship is a lesser amount, more of these scholarships are sometimes offered. Smaller, more expensive private schools out of state typically offer the fewest scholarship options.
  • Getting a big scholarship will have more to do with how well the application board thinks you'll fit in with their mission for the university, meaning that you'll stand a better chance of big scholarships at schools where you think you'll fit in.
Find out what financial aid options your top schools offer. The scholarship opportunities and financial aid packages that each school offers will vary based on a number of factors, including the school's endowment, the enrollment numbers in a given year, and their focus on attracting specific varieties of students. Each school will offer a limited number of scholarships to students based on merit and other factors.
  • Typically, you can learn everything you'll need to know on the website of the university to which you're applying by clicking on "Financial Aid" and selecting "Scholarships." Most schools will separate the scholarships available to in-state, out-of-state, and international students, so you can find the scholarships available to you.
Fill out the financial aid application at each school . To apply for scholarships at a university, you don't need to apply for individual scholarships separately, but you do need to mark on your financial aid application that you'd like to be considered. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the universal template for applying for aid in the United States, and it's typically due around the same time as the general admission application, and will come with a variety of other supplementary materials to determine what financial aid to offer you. This includes loans, scholarships, and grants, including the Pell Grant. [1]
  • To start the process, you'll usually need to register on the FAFSA website and receive a PIN number to get started entering your information. You can access FAFSA here .
  • After starting an account, you'll need to fill out your financial information regarding income, savings, investments, and other holdings, or provide this basic information about your parents if you're applying to college as a dependent. The application process will help you determine whether or not you're a dependent.
Demonstrate financial need. Full scholarships are primarily offered to in-state applicants who wouldn't be able to pay for college otherwise, with some being offered to exceptional students and athletes variously, depending on the institution. On your FAFSA application, then, it's important that you demonstrate a lack of the essential funds and holdings that would make you able to pay for your education otherwise, and for your application to be as strong as possible in demonstrating your potential to succeed at the school you choose.
  • For most students, applying for FAFSA as a dependent means that you won't qualify for any full scholarships offered by the university that are offered on a need basis. If you're up in the air about how to apply, it might be smarter to apply as an emancipated or an independent student.

Cast a wide net. You should be applying to a variety of schools, the financial aid packages at each, and looking for private and federal ways to pay for your schooling on top of university scholarships. For the most part, paying for college is like a patchwork, you'll be accounting for it from a variety of different places, meaning that you'll want to give yourself the most possible options.

Maintain an exceptionally high grade-point average. To qualify for a full scholarship, whether you're applying for money from private foundations or applying to university scholarships, you need to demonstrate your excellence first by maintaining good grades. Most scholarships have a cut-off somewhere around 3.3 or 3.5 GPA, but you'll probably need more like a 4.0 to really stand out. Focus on keeping your grades very high.

Get involved in lots of extracurricular activities. When considering scholarship applicants, boards are looking specifically for well-rounded students with dynamic presences and personalities. In addition to academics, joining an extracurricular organization can help to demonstrate that you're a serious and dedicated student.
  • Formal organizations such as Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) or Future Farmers of America (FFA) will demonstrate your commitment to a particular field, while also offering networking privileges and insider info on securing scholarships and applying.
  • Take small steps by joining clubs and school organizations early on in your high school career and becoming a president or officer by the end of your time in high school. Being a part of athletics, bands, and other types of extra curricular activities can be an excellent way of standing out.
Write an excellent personal statement . Well before your scholarship applications and college applications are due, you should start crafting a personal statement that you can use to apply for colleges, and tailor to specific scholarships as needed. The personal statement should introduce you to the organization by articulating your interests, your goals, and your personality. Many people use the personal statement to describe an obstacle overcome or a challenge met.
  • Don't use your personal statement to list things that can be easily found on your resume. Instead, use the personal statement to highlight your goals and your personal connection to those achievements and events. Where do you want to go from here? The personal statement should address that question primarily.
  • Revise your personal statement every time you submit it. You shouldn't use a single blanket statement that you send everywhere, instead choosing to do a little bit of digging and make your personal statement specific to the institution to which you're applying. How does your mission fit in with this school? With this scholarship organization?
  • Personal statements aren't the best time to start experimenting with form. You don't need to write an experimental meta-short-story full of $20 vocab words to try to trick the admissions board into thinking they've got a genius on their hands. Write with concision. Use the thesaurus sparingly.

Highlight your disadvantages. So you didn't go to a prestigious prep school. So you didn't enjoy reading in school when you were younger. So your parents haven't been to college. These aren't things to hide on your application, these are things to highlight. Scholarships are most often awarded to students who've faced an uphill battle, not students who've been handed a silver spoon. Don't worry about whether or not your application will look prestigious, make it true to you and your experience.

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