To increase your chances of landing a college scholarship, begin searching for programs even before your senior year in high school, or at least a year in advance of your college application if you've already graduated form high school. There are several free scholarship sites available online. With more than 1.5 million scholarships worth more than $3.5 billion, the FastWeb.com is the largest and most frequently updated scholarship search database. Students often ask if there are any scholarships available for them because they don't have a 4.0 GPA. In fact, there are many scholarships that focus on other qualities besides grade point averages alone. More stats can be found in the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics.
In general, parents may count on paying at least half to two-thirds of their children's college costs, through a combination of savings plans, current and future income contributions, and student loans. Government aid, scholarships, and grants, account for only about a third of the cost of a college education. Thus, it is important that parents think about starting a savings plan many years before their kids reach high school age.
Another option may be the ROTC program. The Reserve Officers' Training Corps pays for college tuition as well as a stipend while you're still in school. There is no fixed military commitment for the first year, allowing you to enroll in ROTC on a trial basis. If you then choose to commit to a military career, ROTC scholarships pay for almost all tuition and fees, and textbook costs, for up to four full years of college.
US Navy: 1-800-USA-NAVY
Air Force: 1-866-423-7682
US Service Academies:
US Military Academy, West Point: 1-800-822-8762
US Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD: 1-800-638-9156
Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO: 1-800-443-9266
Sources: Business Week, USA Today
A Federal Pell Grant, unlike student loans, does not have to be repaid. Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who have never earned a bachelors or professional degree. Award amounts change yearly, but the maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $5,730 for the 2014–15 school year. The grant distribution will depend on demonstrated financial need, according to the FAFSA application, the cost of attendance, your status as a full-time or part-time student, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less. You may not receive Federal Pell Grant funds from any more than one educational institution at a time.
Students who receive Federal Pell Grants and have extreme financial need will receive FSEOG grants first. The FSEOG grant does not need to be repaid, and the FSEOG program is administered directly by the financial aid office at each participating school. Check with your school's financial aid office to find out if your school offers the FSEOG. You can receive anywhere between $100 and $4,000 a year, depending on when you apply, the amount of other financial aid you get, and the availability of funds. Each participating school receives a certain amount of FSEOG funds each year from the US Department of Education, office of Federal Student Aid. Once the full amount of the school’s FSEOG funds has been awarded to students, no more FSEOG awards can be made for that particular year. This system works differently from the Federal Pell Grant Program, which provides grant funding to each eligible student.
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