Op/Editorials 11/22/10

Free money for college

By Angelina Folchi

With high school quickly coming to an end for many LHS students, they are pressured to face the thought of college or trade school. Money for college is an issue for many families in the area, but most aren’t aware that there are numerous ways for students to receive money to help continue their educations.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the Cal Grant and various scholarships are some different ways for students to be awarded with financial aid. The FAFSA is an application in which the taxed and untaxed income, assets and benefits of the student’s family are examined and put into a formula. The formula is used to calculate their Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is a measure of a family’s financial strength. Schools then use the EFC to determine how much financial aid they will award to the applying student. The FAFSA must be resubmitted every year that a student is in school, and the EFC can change from year to year.

Cal Grants are funds provided by the state of California, with a minor portion of funding from the federal government. To receive a Cal Grant, a student must submit the FAFSA, have at least a 2.0 GPA and be viewed as in need of financial aid. This grant program is only accessible for attendance at schools in California, but the awards do not have to be paid back.

The FAFSA and Cal Grant both reward money based on need, but most scholarships, on the other hand, are merit-based. That means that most scholarships are awarded based on individual academic success, not necessarily financial need.

Winning one or multiple scholarships is a great way for students to get a good amount of their schooling paid for. The government and national, state and local organizations offer many different scholarships for students, and colleges also offer scholarship money for applicants.

Since scholarships are so important and can sometimes determine where students go to school, it’s beneficial for them to learn some good strategies for applying. Last year’s seniors Alex Folchi, Weston Roberti and Kayla Gressel received thousands in financial aid last year through local and national scholarships. The three successful freshmen came up with some pieces of advice for how to be one of the winners in scholarship competitions.

• Organize scholarships by the dates they are due, early to latest, so you always know what’s due when.

• Get good letters of recommendation.

• Fill out the applications in advance and have friends, family or teachers go over them.

• Complete scholarships by their difficulty. You can finish three easy scholarships in a few days and then have energy and time to focus on a more difficult scholarship that would take longer.

• Keep track of all your activities in some form of a record book.

• Always mail scholarships at least one day before they are due.

• Work hard in and outside of classes to gain good items to put on a resume.

• Don’t over-think your essays. Let your thoughts flow. The people who give the scholarships want to know who you are, so just be yourself.

• If you have an interview, relax. The interviewers are normal people like anyone else, not interrogators or anyone to be afraid of.

• Always apply! The small amount of effort could result in so much money.

Janet McHenry has a file cabinet in room 100 full of scholarship application for juniors and seniors, and students can access it at any time.

Financial Aid Night will be on Dec. 6 at 6:30, also in room 100, and the FAFSA, Cal Grants and scholarships will be discussed in more detail.


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