Congratulations! Let’s move to the next steps. First, send the college which just accepted you a check, usually for $100 or so, to secure your placement for dorm assignments. You will not yet select or be given a dorm assignment, but this just assures you a slot on their master list. The sooner you do this, the better the odds of you getting into your first choice.
The next step is to contact Admissions and/or Financial Aid to inquire about any In House Scholarships you may be eligible to apply for. You may have received an initial financial aid letter for automatic scholarship based on the information on the application like GPA and ACT scores. However, they probably are others and sometimes these others require a separate application. Ask for these In House Scholarships! A common example is a Leadership Scholarship. Here is where a sound Student Resume Portfolio can really pay off with real money saved. For example, this Leadership Scholarship could very well be for $1000, plus the added benefit of being renewable for four years. Thus, your time and efforts while at St. Pius (think Service Hours) have not only paid off in terms of character building and contacts and exposure to the real world, but also has saved you and your parents $4,000! Another type of In House scholarship is a particular department’s scholarship. For example, the Art Department or Business Department may have monies allotted to them to develop their own criteria and choose their own candidates. This is why is can be to your advantage to put down an intended major on the application instead of putting Undecided. If you are leaning towards a certain Major, put that down. It is still OK, though, to put Undecided. It would not be fair or honest to put Art as an intended major if this is not the truth in order to be able to apply for the Art Department Scholarship. This would not be the Pius Way and I will not support it.
You may be applying to two, three or four schools and that is fine. However, do not just blanket the market with your applications. I will not support that either. It is not fair to those schools which have to spend time and money to process each app. It is also not fair to me! Apply only to schools you have thoroughly investigated and discussed with your parents. Remember here what you read above. Are you going to send a room deposit check to every school? This adds up. Two to four is realistic and you will get the monies back from the schools you eventually decide not to attend. In April or May you will need to contact the schools you have been accepted to but have decided not to attend. This also frees up the scholarship money promised to you that can now go back into their limited pool of money to maybe go to another student who is attending that college. Think about how this same process in reverse might benefit you. This is why some seniors receive scholarships in April and May and even June! Boy, is that neat and welcomed! My daughter, Harper, received a $2,500 scholarship the week before she graduated. We suspect the above happened. Someone accepted to Hendrix chose to not go and these released funds came to us. This was renewable, so it actually saved us $10,000! Do you think Mom and Dad were happy about that? This is yet another reason why seniors cannot slack off and coast. They must push through and strive to do their best to the last day of high school. Also, once accepted to two or three schools, you may want to revisit them. Visiting as an accepted student may evoke different feelings. Personally, I am a big believer in having that gut feeling while walking on campus that this is your new “home,” that you are comfortable and happy here. I also believe, and you may not agree with this, that this feeling is more important than choosing a school because of your intended major. It is OK to have an idea, i.e., business or education or computer science, but the student simply does not realize how his world will explode with opportunities and ideas when he goes to college. Please go in open minded and be willing to change majors. Please do not pick a major because of the money associated with that career field. Go with your passions.
Also ongoing this senior year is you and your parents figuring out how to pay for this education. Another source of scholarships is the national ones like AXA and Got Milk. Remember, who is your competition? For In House scholarships at your college, the competition is only those fellow admitted incoming freshmen. For the national scholarships, it can and will be tens of thousands. Wendy’s Scholarship last year had over 40,000 applicants! Unless you have really done something to set you apart, do not waste your time. Apply to only the ones you have a real shot at. See me before you do this. I will always list all these on my web page. The last category of scholarship opportunities is from the local civic organizations like the Elks and the Chamber of Commerce. Your competition here is only the area high school seniors. Our students often do very well here. Most of these will be announced in the spring. Again, check the website. Along with these I would encourage your parents to inquire about scholarships sponsored by their workplaces and the organizations they might belong to which provide scholarships to only their membership families. Here too, the applicant numbers may be low thereby increasing your chances.
And finally, there is FAFSA the free application for federal student aid. Never pay to file FAFSA. There are many scams out there, especially online. A senior last year was asked to pay $80 in advance with a credit card! NO! Every family, regardless of income or assets should file this in December with anticipated tax forms or in January or February with completed tax forms. You will need both students and parents to do this. You will also need a PIN number to electronically sign it later. So you might as well get it now. FAFSA needs to be filed ever year. When returned to you, FAFSA tells you the expected family contribution (EFC). This dollar amount will shock and depress you. The government is saying that based on your incomes and assets, you can afford and are expected to pay the stated amount per year. Some colleges (like Maryville) do use that actual figure. Others use the EFC in their own formula to determine financial need. Filing FAFSA also makes the students and parents eligible for government loans. Usually and especially in this current economy, the interest rates and repayment timeline is better from the government. The student loan, in the student’s name, is called a Stafford Loan and repayment does not begin until after graduation. The parent loan is called PLUS and payments begin right after disbursement. I do not mind telling you my daughter graduated with $18,000 in loan debt and my wife and I borrowed $40,000 in PLUS loans and still owe $23,000. This was an educated choice we made and it fits with our Who Pays What Philosophy. In no way am I pushing my philosophy on your family. We are all convinced Harper’s college experience was worth every penny.
If a family does not file FAFSA, the student and parents cannot apply for federal loans. Nor are they eligible for grants. A grant is free money that is not repaid. Generally, this is for low income families and we have always had students qualify for these. (I find it remarkable that so many of our parents sacrifice so much to pay tuition.) Again, though, no filing no eligibility.