Diminish your tuition with scholarships

Natasha Aragon, Staff Writer

Going to college is not cheap, and options can be limited when it comes to paying for it. You can either take out a loan, apply for scholarships or pay for it on your own. Paying for it on your own is not an option for everyone, and the idea of paying off student loans for the rest of your life is not a pretty picture. This leaves us with our last option: scholarships. But where do we start? 

The first thing to do when considering scholarships is to take a breath and acknowledge that the process is tedious but not impossible. For starters, scholarships consist of two main categories: merit and need-based. Merit scholarships are based on your achievements, talents or your academic record. Need-based scholarships are exactly what they sound like: based on your financial situation (also known as financial aid). If you’re applying for merit scholarships, you need to find your personal network. Make a list of your involvements: the organizations you’ve been a part of, places of employment for both you and your guardians, the bank you use etc. These can be used to narrow your search locally as many organizations offer scholarships. In addition to your network, create a list of your talents, extracurriculars and interests, in order to create a pool of scholarships you are eligible for. 

Need-based scholarships require a different set of tools. To determine your eligibility for financial aid you need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The window to apply is Oct. 1 through March 1 of your senior year. To fill out the FAFSA you will need to have income documents, your social security number and driver’s license. The application is done at www.studentaid.gov. Please note that you and your parents will need a FSA ID and this can only be done once! You must complete the FAFSA every year you are in college. After submitting, the information will be sent to all the schools you applied to; try to apply to a university in Maryland to be considered for State Aid. The government then takes your application and determines the Expected Family Contribution and combines it with the Cost of Attendance (tuition, books etc). If you aren’t eligible for the FAFSA, you can apply for The Maryland State Financial Aid Application. This allows for undocumented immigrants, that qualify for in-state tuition, to apply for need-based state financial aid. Need-based scholarships, like merit, can have academic requirements and thresholds, but they include a financial criteria. For more information on financial aid, don’t hesitate to message your counselor. 

Despite being knowledgeable about scholarships, finding scholarships can be hard. Luckily, starting in December, Dulaney High School’s College and Career Readiness Counselor, Julie Wheeler, does “Scholarship Wednesdays.” Ms. Wheeler advertises one to three scholarships a week until April to help seniors find scholarships. Students can also do a search in Naviance or use the website www.fastweb.com. Naviance is accessed with your Baltimore County Public School email and password; however, Fastweb requires you to make your own account and offers scholarships world-wide. If you want to talk with Ms. Wheeler to ask questions, send her a message on Schoology or set up an appointment like you would for your counselor. 

You don’t lose anything by applying, even if you’re rejected. You may think to yourself “I’m not even going to win,” but if you don’t try, you’ll never know. Many people don’t apply for scholarships locally so your chances of winning actually increase. In addition, for seniors the work needed is done. Transcripts, letters of recommendation, resumes, activity lists and most of the required documents for scholarships have already been made for applying to colleges. With just a little bit of tweaking you’re good to go! It’s less work than you think, and your chances of getting the scholarships are high; the worst you can do is not apply.