General Financial Aid Tips
Scholarships/Financial Aid…some facts:
The majority of financial aid for college (80%-90% depending upon where you look) comes from the Federal Government (FAFSA/need based) or from the colleges/universities in the form of merit aid/academic institutional scholarships. According to Debtaid.org, a report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers said that 88.9 percent of freshman at private colleges received a grant from the institution. Rarely does a student pay the full "sticker" price of tuition. How colleges disseminate that aid depends upon the college.
The remaining pool of funds to help with college comes in the form of outside scholarships. Many students are under the misconception that outside scholarships are the primary source of college funding. As stated above, the majority of aid for college comes from the Federal Government (need based grants or low interest student loans) or directly from the colleges/universities. The reality is that time in high school can be best spent by performing at one's highest potential, getting good grades and test scores, and being involved in extracurricular activities. As a senior, filling out the FAFSA (and CSS Profile if needed), re-taking a standardized test if it sets you up for more merit aid, putting together a well thought out list of colleges to apply to (maximizing aid according to your personal circumstances) and submitting well thought out applications is what should be focused on first. Applying for outside scholarships that you are a strong candidate for should be next.
Resources for learning about the complexities of maximizing financial aid:
- FinAid.org : the smartstudent (and parent) guide to all things related to understanding and maximizing financial aid
see strategies for maximizing financial aid
- The College Solution website/blog by financial journalist Lynn O’Shaugnessey
1. Never PAY to find scholarships. There is an abundance of internet sites, and scams, related to scholarship searches. If you take some time to educate yourself and develop a plan you will be more effective.
2. Be aware that many college and internet scholarship search sites pass along (and profit off of) the sale of your personal information to other companies. If you choose to utilize national search sites then use those that allow you to manage your privacy settings (like College Greenlight). Often the privacy feature is hidden, read the privacy policies closely.
3. Be strategic. Scholarship applications take time and awards are often for relatively small amounts of money. Weigh the time involved to apply (essays, letters of recommendation) closely against the size of the applicant pool and the amount awarded.
4. Go local first. Local scholarships at your school, in your community, or in Northern Nevada usually offer you the best chance of being awarded money because they have the smallest applicant pool. Many high schools have a general application, which opens you up to a variety of smaller scholarships. One application, many scholarships! Ours is the Reno High General Scholarship, typically due mid-December.
5. If your parents are employed in a specific industry or for a large company (advertising specialty, Washoe County School District, Nevada Energy, etc.), there are often scholarships available within that industry, or company, to children of those working there. Have them check with their employer.
6. There are thousands of scholarships out there. Be thoughtful about those to which you apply. See below under "Local/National Scholarships" for specific local scholarships and tools to effectively navigate searching for national scholarships.
FAFSA / WUE/ MILLENNIUM
The FAFSA opens on October 1st. The 2020-21 FAFSA for the Class of 2021 requires your 2019 tax information. Below is a link to the Federal Department of Education website which provides helpful information, tutorials and a link to the FAFSA application. The most commonly asked question, related to the FAFSA, is "should we fill it out if we don't think we will qualify for need based financial aid?". Answer? YES. As we've seen with COVID related layoffs and unemployment you never know when your financial situation can change. It's easier to modify if you've filed than to begin from scratch.
NOTE: The FAFSA is a FREE application. You should never have to pay to complete it.
Check out this article on Common Mistakes on the FAFSA
WUE: Western Undergraduate Exchange is a consortium of 13 western states. The goal is to provide affordable options for students wanting to attend college out of their home state. The eligibility requirements vary from merely being admitted to declaring a major in a particular program to academic merit scholarships. Please research specifics by going onto the college's website (type WUE in the search bar). The website, below, lists all of the colleges participating in the WUE by state, a general overview of savings and link to college website.
MILLENNIUM: Students do not have to apply for the Millennium Scholarship. It is automatically awarded to students attending college/university in Nevada based upon their final HS transcript. Their transcript is sent to the Nevada Department of Education after they graduate. See attached for specifics
GO LOCAL FIRST when searching for scholarships. The applicant pool tends to be smaller and your likelihood of receiving a scholarship is increased.
LOCAL SCHOLARSHIPS THAT RHS STUDENTS HAVE HAD SUCCESS WITH:
- Reno High General Scholarship: application distributed through The CUBE/counselors' office the fall of senior year. All college bound RHS seniors are eligible.
- Morby Fine Arts/ Morby Foreign Language: two scholarships for RHS seniors distributed through The CUBE/counselors' office. Application opens fall of senior year.
- The Doyle Foundation: see link for criteria and scholarship application
- Community Foundation of Western Nevada: a multitude of scholarships for local students historically opening January of their senior year. See link to website
NATIONAL SCHOLARSHIPS: There are thousands of national scholarships available. Generally speaking, competition is intense and applying can consume a great deal of time. We encourage students to utilize one or two national search sites, set up a profile and MANAGE YOUR PRIVACY SETTINGS. Many national sites sell or pass along student info to for-profit companies. See below for two reliable resources.
Don't check the box "HELP US HELP YOU", as you will receive emails from companies/colleges (most students are already receiving enough thanks to ACT and CollegeBoard).