By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington
Most college-bound students and their parents know that there are thousands of scholarships and many kinds of federal, state and institutional grant programs out there – but how can your teen find this “free” money? Here are a few tips on where to look for scholarships and grants and how to begin the search:
Use an online scholarship search engine
There are a number of free scholarship databases online where your teen can search scholarships on a variety of criteria. FastWeb, for example, requires students to complete a detailed questionnaire and uses information provided to generate a comprehensive list of scholarships for which the user might qualify. In addition, FastWeb has a job and internship service as well as customizable online tools to help students stay apprised of application deadlines. Other similar scholarship databases include NextStudent, the College Board’s Scholarship Search and Scholarships.com.
Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
Any student wishing to receive federal student aid must fill out the FAFSA, which will require copies of his or her parents’ previous year’s tax return (or estimated figures). The FAFSA determines your teen’s eligibility for financial aid, including loans, work-study positions and grants. Grants are often awarded based on financial need, and do not have to be repaid, such as Federal Pell Grants, Academic Competitiveness Grants, National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grants and Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants. Keep in mind that grant money is limited – be sure to file your teen’s FAFSA early.
Fill out the PROFILE form
CSS/PROFILE, the financial aid application service of the College Board, is used by nearly 600 universities and colleges to determine students’ eligibility for nonfederal student aid. Contact the school to which your teen is applying to learn more about their financial aid process (and find out whether they require a separate application), and visit to complete the PROFILE application online. Note that the FAFSA is also used to apply for aid from states or universities – often in conjunction with other applications required by the institution or state.
Fill out state forms
Most states offer a variety of grants and scholarships to aid students pursuing higher education. Contact your state’s Department of Higher Education or other educational administration office to learn more about aid available to state residents and how to apply.
Investigate private scholarships
Your teen’s high school guidance counselor should have information on local or national scholarships sponsored by small and large businesses, professional associations or other community organizations. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program, for example, awards 50 four-year $20,000 scholarships and 200 four-year $10,000 scholarships annually, and the Best Buy @15 Scholarship Program awards $1,500 scholarships to 1,000 students each year.
The scholarship and grant application process is one that takes diligence and persistence, but is well worth the effort. Encourage your teen to utilize all available resources, narrow down his or her options, apply early and pay close attention to all scholarship deadlines and requirements.
Parents who want additional information are encouraged to call the local Huntington Learning Center at (253)582-4901.
Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has been helping children succeed in school for more than 30 years. For more information about Huntington, call 1-800 CAN LEARN.