March 8, 2009

What If I Don't Qualify for Free Money?

Did you or your parent's file your FAFSA application? What were your results? The results would be on your SAR (Student Aid Report) that you received in the mail or by email. The SAR would indicate your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). The EFC determines whether you or your dependent qualified for any free money, such as Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), State Grants, and local or community grants.

If your EFC was over 1000, you probably did not get enough grants (if any) to cover your tuition costs. what to do? If your parent's or grandparent's credit did not qualify for an education loan, you or your dependent will most likely get stuck with the student loan debt, right? You don't need to sweat it -- you have the option to apply for scholarships. Yes, it's a lot of work, but taking the extra step to get free money is worth the effort.

Did you know you can apply for scholarships while in college, and even if you're halfway through your last year? Also, there are scholarships to help you pay off your school debts. And, it's not too early to start searching for scholarships while you're in high school. It may be evident that most scholarships are catered for the top academic achievers or for the most neediest (poor) students. But, did you know that there are many scholarships available for everyone? Seriously, there are some ridiculous scholarships out there, such as the Duck Tape Prom Dress Award for students who attend their prom wearing just duct tape. Sounds silly, but it pays $3,000 to the winning recipient.

The number one killer of scholarship applications is missing the deadline. The second reason would be incorrect information; such as misspelling of names and words, missing information, such as leaving required boxes blank on the application form, or failing to include required documentation. The third reason is not following directions on the essay requirements. If the essay requirement specifies 500 words, then write it for that amount, no more or less.

The best method to avoid missing deadlines, use Microsoft Outlook on your computer or use the Google calendar to remind you of deadlines of each scholarship. The best chances to winning a scholarship is to be organized and apply for one scholarship each day. When you reach 100 scholarships take a break, and then start over again. Winning scholarships is a numbers game. The more you apply, the more chances you can win. Let's say you find 100 opportunities; and 10 of them you qualify for and apply to. Your chances of winning one of these is much greater than just applying for a handful at a time. Keep in mind...for every one scholarship you are awarded, you have to apply for 10 scholarships:

100 scholarships = 10 scholarships you qualify for = 1 scholarship award winning

Small is the new big. If you are awarded 10 scholarships for $1,000 or one scholarship for $10,000, the net effect is the same -- this means you don't pay $10,000 out of pocket or in loans. For each scholarship you are eligible for is worth applying, because a small group of scholarships will add up to one big amount.

The most important fact about smaller scholarships ,($500-$1,000) tend to have fewer competitors than larger ones. Most people search for the big awards and neglect the smaller ones. Your chances of winning the smaller scholarships are greater, because most people apply for the bigger ones. For example, if only two people applied for the small scholarship, that would give you a 50% chance of winning. That's a bet you should seriously take.

Reference: Scholarship Search Secrets, A publication of the Student Loan Network, Christoher S. Penn ,

If you haven't already -- check out the following scholarship websites:

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