Got enough money for college? Most of us would say NO. But don't despair. Financial aid for college is there for the taking--like picking money from a money tree. You'll need a ladder, time, and an "orchard map" to help you make your search most productive.
Step 1. Assess Your Financial Aid Needs
Most families begin the scholarship search process by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Using the online forms (http://www.fafsa.ed.gov), families enter income and assets and receive a report listing their Expected Family Contribution (EFC). All colleges and universities use the EFC to determine whether federal dollars can be used to support your college bill. More selective institutions may require additional financial information.
Step 2. Find Out What Admitting Colleges Offer
The second largest tuition support comes from the admitting colleges themselves. Colleges will use their own resources to further support students they are hoping to "land." Find out from the college's financial aid office whether admitted students are automatically considered for these funds, or if there are tests or additional applications to file.
Step 3. See If You Qualify for a Corporate Scholarship
Nike, Intel, Prudential, Toyota, Microsoft, Coca Cola are just a few of the companies that give significant scholarships to very few extraordinarily talented students or those with extensive community service experience. But don't count on getting one, unless you can get a recommendation from Kofi Annan or the Dalai Lama.
Step 4. Use Your Affiliations
Contact national and local organizations to which you and your family are connected--many offer funding. Here are some categories to consider:
- National Jewish organizations like Hillel, Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women, Jewish Vocational Services, and others offer scholarships or free or low-cost college loans. (See "Fruits for the Picking," facing page.)
- Jewish organizations such as your synagogue, Jewish federation, and JVS may offer funding earmarked either for local students or out-of-town students attending college in their area.
- Sectarian clubs and organizations such as the local Rotary or Kiwanis club and educational foundations may offer support to worthy students.
- Employers, schools, and governmental organizations often have special funds for the "children of the employees" or the "citizens of the town."
Step 5. Use Your Community Contacts
Your high school guidance counselor, rabbi, and school librarian are there to assist you. Ask them for help in finding local funders who support the school, synagogue, and/or community.
Step 6. Explore Other Resources
- Web searches: When I googled "Scholarships Jewish," I received 10+ pages of contacts. Try search engines like fastweb.com or inaid.org/otheraid/jewish.phtml.
- Contests: Students who enter essay, photography, art, and public service contests may win cash awards.
- Books at libraries, guidance offices, and/or bookstores can help students find scholarships by categories (fine arts, religious studies, community service, etc.). Kaplan, Petersons, Princeton Review, and Arco all print annual scholarship guides.
- Aunt Ethel might be happy to help. Consider asking family members for support. They may have made plans for you in their wills and estates, but if asked, might well prefer to help you sooner rather than later.
Picking from the money tree takes work and effort. It also takes timing. Like fruit, financial support has to be ripe and in season. Watch for deadlines and strictly adhere to them. Be mindful of specific instructions regarding eligibility. And beware of scholarship services or contests that charge a fee, especially if what they promise sounds too good to be true--it probably is.
--John B. Boshoven, president of the Michigan Association for College Admission Counseling and a private college consultant