Easy Money

Counselor provides hints for college financial aid

After applying to college and getting in, students are then saddled with the next step- find a way to afford said college. Fortunately for upcoming college freshmen, they’re not alone and there are some great resources to work this out.

“Scholarships are very important, however, they’re hard to get,” College and Career Transition Coordinator Christina Wallace said. “While we absolutely do recommend that students fill out scholarship applications, and there can be pay-off there, students should prioritize the Free Application for Federal Student Aid first. The FAFSA is what makes them eligible for both federal financial and institutional aid.”

The only way to get access to scholarships provided for students by an institution is to submit the free application for FAFSA. Deadlines vary college to college, so be sure to check their official website.

“Once you fill out the FAFSA, you can look for scholarships in all different places,” Wallace said. “My best recommendation to start would be the local ones, because they go to local students.”

This means students should start by searching for scholarships in Williamson County. Local organizations are guaranteed to give their scholarships to local students, so applying gives you a higher chance of getting that money.

“The requirements for scholarships vary from organization to organization,” Wallace said. “Sometimes they want you to write a generic essay having to do with why you want to go to college or another topic.”

Besides searching local scholarships, Wallace suggests looking at alumni groups from your intended college. The scholarships you’d get from these groups don’t go through the school, so they provide students with more opportunities.

“If you know that you’re going to an out of state school, look and see if they host any events where you could get a scholarship,” she said. “I’ll use LSU, since I’m biased. The alumni holds a breakfast or luncheon in the spring for local students who plan to attend LSU, and they give scholarships to the students who just show up. If you get invites like that from alumnus, definitely explore that route. No guarantees or anything, but you never know.”

Leander ISD provides students with Naviance and their collective of scholarships. Students should also search on their own and look at scholarships that may be given by local businesses.

“The largest resource we have here is Naviance,” Wallace said. “When you go into the program, you will see a long list of scholarships. Some of them are current, some of them aren’t, but when you see a scholarship from XYZ organization, and you see the date next to it is expired, Google it anyway. You might find an updated application online from that organization for a newer scholarship.”

If the application is expired, or not up on a website yet, don’t be afraid to ask people for help or guidance.

“I would definitely recommend reaching out to people,” Wallace said. “If you’re looking at a website, and there’s a contact person, contact them. Say, ‘Hey, I’m a student, graduating from Rouse High School and I plan to attend XYZ college. Do you have any information on your scholarship?’ It doesn’t hurt to ask. You may get a response, you may not.”

While searching for applications, there are several things to keep in mind, but following through is an important one. Some scholarships are more specific, and that means there is a smaller  pool to pick from, so you would benefit from just applying for it.

“What I see a lot of times is that with these scholarships, is that it requires time and effort, so students end up not applying,” Wallace said. “When a scholarship requires an essay, a lot of times the application ends up sitting there, and students don’t apply for it. That’s probably the number one reason students don’t get scholarships. Because they don’t apply.”

If you’re looking for a place to get started, here is a link to the Guidance and Counseling homepage: