Top 7 Things Students Seeking Scholarships Should Know

 

You’re on-board for college. You’re researching schools, thinking about majors, and writing your application essays. The question now is: How am I going to pay? You’ve heard about the MAC Program and you’re planning on giving us a call after January 1st when the new FAFSA is released so you can be eligible for as much federal financial aid as possible, but will it be enough?

Reality Check

The truth is, even if you qualify for the maximum amount of federal aid, you may not receive enough to pay for college. According to recent figures from CollegeData, the average cost of tuition and fees was $22,261 in 2012-2013 at an in-state public college and $43,289 at a private college. If you, like many people, are worried about paying the difference, you’re going to need scholarships. Here are some helpful tips to find them.

7. Don’t Pay to Find Scholarships.

There are many free ways to check for scholarships online for free. Check out FastWeb, Cappex, and Scholarships.com for a start. You can also talk to a counselor at your high school, who should have information about local scholarships and tips for filling them out.

These are reliable, easy-to-use resources, so don’t let anyone make you pay for services they’ll provide for free.

6. Look for All Kinds of Scholarships

Scholarships are not limited to students with the highest GPAs. Having great grades or test scores will help you, but there are a variety of scholarships out there for everything from financial need, to athletic ability, and even to hobbies.

Maybe you’re tall. Maybe you’re creative and looking to save money at prom. Maybe you’re just crazy about duck-calling. If you look around enough, there’s a scholarship out there for you.

5. Pay Attention to Deadlines

Each school has its own scholarship deadline, and many of them are earlier than you’d think. Make sure and check the website of every school you’re considering and put in your scholarship applications even before you know if you’re accepted.

Get your applications in before January. Some school’s deadlines are before January anyway, but even schools with later deadlines will get very busy after January hits. Early submissions are a good way to avoid the lines and make your application stand out.

4. Scholarships and Paperwork

When you’re filling out your scholarship application, it can be easy to overlook a step or a form you have to fill out. Make sure and read the instructions carefully and, more importantly, follow them. Even if a question doesn’t apply to you, make sure and mark it as “Not Applicable” or “N/A.” If an application is available online, or you can write the answers on your computer, always choose that over writing by hand. Even an accurate and punctual application is useless if it’s not legible.

Pro Tip: Make sure and use a professional email address on your applications, something as simple as firstname_lastname will do the trick. If you don’t have one, create one. It may not seem like a big deal, but whose application is more likely to be taken seriously: John_Smith@generic-but-respectable.com or goldengod89380x@dont-use-this.ever?

3. Make Your Application Stand Out

Put effort into making your application rise above the rest. You’ve already got a head start if you submit it early and have kept your hand-written answers to a minimum, now it’s all about the content.

Check and double-check your essay for spelling/grammar mistakes. Then do it again. Then ask a teacher to proofread it.

List all your accomplishments, including community service, awards, and evidence of your academic excellence.

If you need a letter of recommendation, choose a teacher that you have a good relationship with and give them plenty of time in advance to write it.

Then, proofread your essay again (can’t do this enough).

2. File Your FAFSA

Many scholarships, even those not based on financial need, require you to submit a FAFSA. You might be eligible for federal aid, so don’t miss out on that and scholarship money by forgetting to fill this out. If you want help, feel free to contact the MAC Program to set up an appointment.

We help file over 2,000 FAFSAs each year and we will never charge you, so give us a call.

1. Apply to the MAC Program

There is no reason not to. The only thing our application requires is your contact information and submission of a FAFSA. We offer a MAC Grant of up to $1,000 per semester to any McLennan County high school graduate with a family income of less than $50,000 who attends MCC or TSTC during the first four semesters and a MAC Scholarship of up to $1,250 to any McLennan County high school graduate with a family income of less than $50,000 who attends any college or university during the 3rd and 4th year.

Maybe you don’t think you’ll qualify because you’re not going to MCC or TSTC, or your family makes more than $50,000. But the MAC Scholarship during the last two years of school isn’t limited to MCC or TSTC, and maybe in a few years the economy will dip again. Things change, but we only accept applications to the MAC Program during your high school senior year, so be ready with a backup plan by submitting your application to our program now.

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Financial Aid for College: First Steps

Deciding which college you want to attend is an exciting process! But it can also be stressful trying to figure out the best choice, how you’re going to pay for it, and the myriad details that may arise. So we’ve done some of the legwork for you with these first steps.

First off, make a list of the colleges you are considering and do some research. There are a number of factors that will impact your decision, but here are some fundamentals that will serve as a good baseline for your comparisons:

  • Tuition Expense
    • College for All Texans is a great resource for finding out the cost of tuition at any college or university in Texas.
  • Admissions Information and Deadlines
    • You can usually find these on a college’s website. Look for the keywords “Admissions” or “Prospective Students.” Once you know the application deadlines, you can check out Apply Texas to submit an application to each college you’re considering. While many colleges require an application fee, some (like McLennan Community College and Texas State Technical College) do not. Don’t underestimate the value of a free application to a school to which you’re even remotely interested in applying!
  • Financial Aid Information and Scholarship Deadlines
    • Again, the best place to look for this is the college’s website. Some colleges have priority scholarship deadlines as early as a year before your first semester there and require you to apply for scholarships before you even know if you’re accepted, so make sure and check early!

Remember that you can start looking for scholarships long before you’ve been accepted to a college, or even before you’ve submitted an application! Local scholarship information is sent to your high school counselors each year, and will often offer that information on your high school’s website.

You can also use several free resources online to search for other scholarships for which you might be eligible. Some of our favorites are FastWeb, Cappex, and Scholarships.com.

We’ll post more about federal and state financial aid in the future, but for now if you’d like more information about it you can visit the Department of Education’s website. And for an estimate of the aid for which you may be eligible, check out the FAFSA4caster.

If you’d like to learn more about financial aid, we here at the MAC Program are always happy to help. Feel free to email the program director Robbie Stabeno or program coordinator Sterling Moore with any questions you might have. If you’re looking to make an appointment with us, you can also call the MAC Program at (254) 752-9457 to set one up.