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Even Wealthy Families Can Get Scholarship Money



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Last year when our daughter was looking at colleges, she qualified for many big figure scholarships. She went after them full throttle and prepared for full-day competitions at these schools. A lot of work! But she succeeded and received five excellent offers. (One offer she received was $17,000 per year at a selective private school.)

This result was a God-send for us. Our family could barely afford to send her to community college (living at home). These offers paved the way for her to attend a four-year private school instead.

My sister (with two teenagers of her own) was very interested in how we got there. Specifically, she wanted to know how much our financial need played into receiving "the big bucks," as she called it.

The answer is good news for those of you who don't qualify for much financial aid. These scholarships were NOT based on financial need. They were based totally on merit. And anyone can go that route!

You see, there are two different kinds of aid. One is need-based; the other is merit-based. Our daughter actually received both. But the big bucks, the large figures, those wonderful thousands of dollars, were given to her based on merit. We could have had a million dollars in the bank, and she still would have received them.

The scholarship application process itself proves the distinction. She applied for her scholarships in January of her senior year. She attended scholarship competitions at several of the schools that winter. She received offers in the mail regularly after the competitions. Scholarship decisions are usually made through the admissions office of the college.

The financial aid process, however, is completely separate from this. In order to apply for financial aid, the first step is to fill out the federal government's aid form called the FAFSA. (Get it at www.fafsa.ed.gov) This form requires you to divulge all your financial information: your income, savings, investments, etc. Then the feds calculate what they expect you to be able to afford. The college receives this information (at your request), and the college's financial aid office decides from there what aid they might send your way.

By the time the college receives your financial information, the scholarship offers have already been sent. In fact, if you have any concern about getting bumped out of scholarship funds because you have money, you can delay sending the financial information to the school. Even better, you don't have to send it at all. The school suggests you apply early only because their aid monies might have already been designated for other families if you wait too long.

Ginia Dible has authored Preparing Your Student to Win College Scholarships, a blueprint for parents, available at scholarshipprep.com.



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