Your One Stop Shop for Scholarships

9 Stellar Scholarships to Apply for in Iowa

The Hawkeye State isn’t just known for its agriculture, it’s also home to a handful of great universities! Top schools like the University of Iowa and Iowa State University attract thousands of students from all over each year…but studying here doesn’t come cheap!

The average in-state tuition for the University of Iowa is $9,492 per year while out-of-state students can expect to pay $31,458. Iowa State University is a cheaper option, with in-state tuition costing $3,870 and out-of-state tuition coming in at $11,072. For some, these prices can make it difficult to continue their education, but scholarships can help!

Benefits of Scholarships & How to Apply

Scholarships are great because they never need to be paid back and there are tons of different ones for all types of situations. The best place to start your search is with Going Merry. We match you with relevant scholarships and allow you to apply directly through the sitesaving you both time and money! Then, talk with your high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office to learn about even more opportunities.

If you’d like more information and scholarship tips in the meantime, check out our comprehensive guide to applying for scholarships or our list of expert tips to bring your application to the next level.

scholarships in iowa

Check out these 9 scholarships in Iowa: 

1. The Robert D. Blue Scholarship

These Iowa scholarships are awarded to state residents who are planning to attend college during the next school year. Award amounts vary and winners are heavily determined by financial need.

Amount: $500 to $1,000

Provider: Iowa State Treasurer’s Office

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors & Undergraduate Students

Requirements: (a) Planning to attend an accredited college or university for the upcoming school year, (b) Residency in Iowa, (c) Financial need, (d) Academic achievement. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

2. The All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship

Incoming college freshmen who graduated within the last two years are eligible to apply for these renewable scholarships in Oregon. Priority is given to students who have overcome financially difficult situations. Some examples are children who have aged out of the foster care system, children of deceased public safety workers, and students who participated in the GEAR UP grant program in Iowa.  

Amount: Varies (For the 2018-2019 school year, the maximum award was $4,532)

Provider: Iowa College Student Aid Commission

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors & Recent Graduates

Requirements: (a) Planning to attend an eligible college or university in Iowa, (b) Residency in Iowa, (c) FAFSA, (d) Enrollment in at least three semester hours while in college, (e) Meet the criteria for Expected Family Contribution on the FAFSA (TBD). For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

3. The Tim Dwight Foundation, Inc. Scholarship

The Tim Dwight Foundation, Inc. scholarship focuses on students with high potential who have overcome challenges in their lives. Some examples include social, mental, and physical disabilities, one-parent families, and long-term health issues. Recipients must attend Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, or the University of Northern Iowa.

Amount: Full Tuition for One Year

Provider: The Tim Dwight Foundation, Inc.,

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Iowa, (b) U.S. Citizen, (c) Full-Time Enrollment in college, (d) Graduating from an Iowa High School. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in iowa

4. The Lois Dell Memorial Scholarship

The Lois Dell Memorial Scholarship is awarded to female students studying full-time at an accredited college or university. Any woman from Polk, Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Story, or Warren County can apply.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: The Des Moines Women’s Club

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate Students

Requirements: (a) Female, (b) Enrollment in an accredited college or university, (c) Full-time student status.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

5. Larry W. Carter Scholarship

These scholarships in Iowa were created in memory of Larry W. Carter, an activist and prominent community leader. Any African-American Iowa resident is eligible to apply. Applicants can be pursuing full-time or part-time studies at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Amount: Varies

Provider: The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students

Requirements: (a) Residency in Iowa, (b) African American, (c) Enrollment in a full-time or part-time college program. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

6. PMI Eastern Iowa Chapter Scholarship

These Iowa scholarships are awarded to undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a degree in project management or a related field. Priority is given to children and stepchildren of PMI residents who are residents of Eastern Iowa.

Amount: Up to $1,000

Provider: The Project Management Institute

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate Students & Graduate Students

Requirements: (a) Pursuing or planning to pursue a degree in Project Management or a related field, (b) Attending or planning to attend an accredited college or university. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in iowa

7. Home Builders Association of Iowa Scholarship

Students pursuing a career in the homebuilding industry or a related trade as well as immediate family members of association members are eligible to apply for these generous scholarships in Iowa.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: The Home Builders Association of Iowa

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, Undergraduate Students, Graduate Students

Requirements: (a) Pursuing or planning to pursue a relevant career, (b) Residency in Iowa. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

8. The Shirley and Kenneth Smith Memorial Scholarship

These generous awards are granted to male and female students planning to major or minor in art, especially painting or drawing. Applicants must be residents or full-time students in Polk, Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Story, or Warren County.

Amount: $2,000

Provider: The Des Moines Women’s Club

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in one of the counties mentioned above, (b) Plans to major or minor in art.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

9. Conservation Districts of Iowa Scholarships

Students interested in pursuing a degree related to conservation or agriculture are eligible to apply for these scholarships in Iowa. Applicants must be graduating from an Iowa high school and be residents of the state of Iowa. The winner is chosen based on career goals, involvement, leadership, character, conservation message, and academic achievement.

Amount: $600 to $4,000

Provider: Conservation Districts of Iowa

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Pursuing or planning to pursue a relevant career, (b) Residency in Iowa, (c) Entering college for the first time. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in iowa

Soon you’ll be able to apply to all of these on Going Merry (let us know in the comments section if there are others we should include). In the meantime, we already have thousands of scholarships which you can apply for directly.

Just fill out your profile, see what we match you with, and click apply! It’s that easy.

10 Spectacular Oregon Scholarships to Help You Pay for School

Beautiful hiking and breathtaking scenery isn’t the only thing that Oregon is known for; it’s also known for its stellar universities. With top schools like Reed College and the University of Oregon, it’s no wonder that thousands of students call this state home each year.

But a quality education doesn’t come cheap! Reed College, a private institution, charges students $56,030 per year for tuition (although they do have an excellent financial aid program). At the University of Oregon, in-state students can expect to pay $9,765 per year for tuition while that price rises to $33,345 for out-of-state students. Luckily, scholarships can help!

Benefits of Scholarships & How to Apply

Scholarships are great because they never need to be paid back and there are tons of different ones for all types of situations. The best place to start your search is with Going Merry. We match you with relevant scholarships and allow you to apply directly through the sitesaving you both time and money! Then, talk with your high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office to learn about even more opportunities.

If you’d like more information and scholarship tips in the meantime, check out our comprehensive guide to applying for scholarships or our list of expert tips to bring your application to the next level.

scholarships in oregon

10 Scholarships in Oregon

1. Oregon Community Quarterback Scholarship

Created for upcoming Oregon leaders, this scholarship aims to help students planning to attend a college, university, or trade school within the state. This scholarship is renewable for four years and each recipient receives a personal mentor throughout their college education.

Amount: $16,000 ($4,000 per year)

Provider: Harrington Family Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Involvement in the community, (b) Demonstrated financial need. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

2. Alice and Mason White Memorial Scholarship

Oregon high school graduates who are entering their junior or senior year of full-time undergraduate education are eligible to apply for this prestigious award. These scholarships in Oregon are based on financial need and awarded during the Fall semester.

Amount: Varies

Provider: Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC)

Who Can Apply: Junior and Senior Undergraduate Students

Requirements: (a) Minimum 3.0 GPA, (b) Participation in at least one extracurricular activity, (c) Demonstrated financial need.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

3. Horatio Alger Association Oregon Scholarship

Funded by Horatio Alger members, these generous scholarships are awarded to high school students who have faced and overcome substantial obstacles in life.

Amount: Up to $10,000

Provider: Horatio Alger Association

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Plans to pursue a Bachelor’s degree, (b) Demonstrated financial need, (c) Involvement in co-curricular and community service activities, (d) U.S. Citizen, (e) Minimum GPA of 2.0.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in oregon

4. The Asian American Foundation of Oregon Scholarship

The Asian American Foundation awards two $1,000 scholarships in Oregon each year. Students who have demonstrated participation in the Asian community and cultural events within the state are eligible to apply.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Asian American Foundation of Oregon (AAFO)

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, Undergraduate Students

Requirements: (a) Residency in Oregon, (b) Minimum 2.5 GPA, (c) U.S. Citizen.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

5. Sharon D. Banks Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship

Aimed at cultivating the development of women in the transportation field, the Sharon D. Banks Memorial Undergraduate Scholarship provides financial assistance in Oregon to qualifying women.

Amount: $2,500

Provider: WTS Foundation

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate Students

Requirements: (a) Minimum 3.0 GPA, (b) Enrollment in a transportation-related degree program, (c) Plans to pursue a career in a transportation-related field.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in oregon

6. American Council of Engineering Companies of Oregon

These scholarships in Oregon are awarded to graduating high school seniors or GED students with no previous college experience. Applicants must be majoring in civil, electrical, mechanical, or environmental engineering at a four-year Oregon university that offers an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Preference is given to students interested in entering a career in consulting engineering.  

Amount: Varies

Provider: Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC)

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors & GED Holders with No College Experience

Requirements: (a) Minimum 3.3 GPA, (b) 1280+ combined SAT Scores or 28+ composite ACT scores, (c) Full-time enrollment, (d) Major in any of the engineering fields listed above.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

7. Chick Evans Caddy Scholarship

These prestigious scholarships for golf caddies provide full tuition and housing at participating universities. Recipients live in Evans Scholarship Houses with fellow winners. Applicants should demonstrate a strong record as a golf caddy, academic achievement, outstanding character, and financial need.

Amount: Full Tuition + Housing

Provider: Western Golf Association Evans Scholars Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Strong record as a golf caddy, (b) Demonstrated financial need, (c) Academic achievement. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in oregon

8. Oregon Association of Nurseries Scholarships

These scholarships in Oregon, ranging from $500 to $1,500, are awarded to students interested in pursuing a career related to ornamental horticulture.

Amount: $500 to $1,500

Provider: Oregon Association of Nurseries (OAN)

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors & College Students

Requirements: (a) Majoring in a horticulture-related field, (b) Residency in Oregon. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

9. Association for Women Geoscientists Pacific Northwest Chapter Scholarship

Undergraduate women in Washington State and Oregon can apply for these awesome Oregon scholarships. Applicants must be pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in a geoscience-related field, such as geology, environmental/engineering geology, geophysics, geochemistry, hydrogeology, and hydrology.

Amount: $1,200

Provider: Association for Women Geoscientists Pacific Northwest Chapter

Who Can Apply: College Sophomores, College Juniors, College Seniors

Requirements: (a) Majoring in a geoscience-related field, (b) Residency in Oregon or Washington state, (c) Minimum 3.2 GPA.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in oregon

10. Portland Latino Gay Pride Scholarship

These scholarships in Oregon are aimed at supporting the Latino LGBTQ community. Applicants must be of Latino descent and either a member of the LGBTQ community or a child of a member of the LGBTQ community. These awards are available for Oregon residents and residents of Clark County, Washington.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: The Equity Foundation & Portland Latino Gay Pride (PLGP)

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors & College Students

Requirements: (a) A member or child of a member of the LGBTQ community, (b) Latino, (c) Residency in Oregon or Clark County, Washington. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

Soon you’ll be able to apply to all of these on Going Merry (let us know in the comments section if there are others we should include). In the meantime, we already have thousands of scholarships which you can apply for directly.

scholarships in oregon

Just fill out your profile, see what we match you with, and click apply! It’s that easy.

13 Exceptional Scholarships to Apply for in Arkansas

Arkansas is nicknamed as the land of opportunityand it’s higher education is no exception! With top schools like the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State University, thousands of students choose this state as the destination for their college education…but it doesn’t come cheap!

Across the entire state, in-state students can expect to pay an average of $4,703 in tuition per year while out-of-state students pay an average of $11,308. Keep in mind that these numbers might be different depending on whether your school is public or private. Luckily, scholarships can help!

Benefits of Scholarships & How to Apply

Scholarships are the best way to pay for your college education since they never need to be paid back! Plus, there are all different types for all sorts of people in all kinds of situations. But where can you find them?

The best place to start your search is at Going Merry. We match you with the scholarships you qualify for and allow you to apply directly through our site—saving you tons of time and effort! After that, head to your high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office to learn about more scholarships that you qualify for!

In the meantime, if you’d like to know more about applying for scholarships, check out our step-by-step guide and our list of expert tips.

scholarships in arkansas

12 Scholarships in Arkansas:

1. Arkansas Academic Challenge Scholarship

These generous scholarships in Arkansas, funded primarily by the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery, are for any Arkansas resident pursuing higher education. Academic status is not a factor in the decision process, so anyone from high school students to adults returning to school is eligible to apply.

Amount: $2,000 to $5,000

Provider: Arkansas Department of Higher Education

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Students, Non-Traditional Students

Requirements: (a) Residency in Arkansas, (b) Plans to enroll or currently enrolled in an accredited college/university/technical school.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

2. Governor’s Distinguished Scholarship

Based on academic performance, these prestigious Arkansas scholarships recognize students with a demonstrated talent for academics. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.5 and an ACT score of 32 or SAT score of 1410 to apply. Students who are National Merit Finalists or National Achievement Scholars may be eligible to apply without meeting the minimum GPA requirement.

Amount: Up to $10,000

Provider: Arkansas Department of Higher Education

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Arkansas, (b) Minimum 3.5 GPA, (c) Minimum ACT score of 32 or SAT score of 1410. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

3. Cornerstone Scholarship Charitable Trust

Black and African-American students in Arkansas are eligible to apply for these fantastic scholarships! Applicants must be between 17 and 25 years old, have a high school degree at the time of the application, and come from an economically disadvantaged background.

Amount: Varies

Provider: Cornerstone Scholarship Charitable Trust

Who Can Apply: Graduated High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Black/African-American, (b) Roots in the state of Arkansas, (c) U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, or Permanent Resident, (d) 17-25 years old. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in arkansas

4. National Rice Month Scholarship Program

Designed to promote and create awareness of U.S.-grown rice, these awards are granted to students in Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Texas. To apply, students must create a video about the importance of U.S. rice and National Rice Month.

Amount: $1,500 to $4,000

Provider: Corteva Agrisciences

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in a rice-growing state, (b) Original video. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

5. Arkansas Farm Bureau Scholarship

Both children and grandchildren of Arkansas Farm Bureau members can apply for these scholarships in Arkansas. Recipients should be planning to study agriculture at an accredited university within the state. The winner is chosen based on career plans, financial need, academic achievement, character, and leadership.

Amount: $3,000

Provider: Arkansas Farm Bureau

Who Can Apply: College Juniors, College Seniors

Requirements: (a) Minimum GPA of 2.5, (b) At least 2 full semesters away from degree completion, (c) Residency in Arkansas. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

6. Gary D. Holmes Smile Scholarship Endowment

Aimed at promoting athletic involvement, any graduating senior from Mississippi County who has participated in athletics during high school can apply for these endowed scholarships.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Arkansas Community Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Mississippi County, (b) Participation in athletics. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in arkansas

7. Ouachita County Community Engineering Scholarship Endowment

Ouachita County seniors who plan on majoring in Engineering are eligible to apply for these $500 scholarships in Arkansas. Recipients can pursue any field of engineering.

Amount: $500

Provider: Arkansas Community Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Ouachita County, (b) Plans to major in engineering. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

8. Dr. Austin C. Smith Memorial Scholarship Fund

Graduating seniors from any high school in Northwest Arkansas who plan on majoring in a healthcare-related field are eligible to apply for these generous awards.

Amount: Varies

Provider: Arkansas Community Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Northwest Arkansas, (b) Plans to major in a healthcare-related field. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

9. Jim and Jean Stanford Christian Health Center Scholarship Endowment

Residents of Cleburne County who plan to or are currently majoring in health- or medical-related programs can apply for these scholarships in Arkansas. Applicants can be high school seniors or current college students.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Arkansas Community Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Cleburne County, (b) Plans to major in a health- or medical-related field. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in arkansas

10. Elizabeth G. Redman Republican Party of Kansas Scholarship Endowment

One of the many awards for members of the Republican Party of Kansas, these Arkansas scholarships are granted to members or students who are active in the party.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Arkansas Community Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Member or activity in the Republican Party of Arkansas, (b) Residency in Arkansas. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

11. Arkansas Service Memorial Scholarship Endowment

These renewable Arkansas scholarships are awarded to the children of those who have lost their lives while serving the nation, state, or community, such as in the National Guard or any branch of the armed forces.

Amount: $2,500

Provider: Arkansas Community Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Child of Arkansas Resident who lost their life in the line of duty. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

12. AT&T War Memorial Scholarship Fund

Residents of Arkansas who have served in any branch of the Armed Forces, the National Guard, or the Reserves and have veteran status are eligible to apply for these $2,500 scholarships. Recipients should plan on attending a two- or four-year college or university within the state.

Amount: $2,500

Provider: Arkansas Community Foundation

Who Can Apply: Veterans

Requirements: (a) Residency in Arkansas, (b) Veteran status, (c) Planning to attend an accredited Arkansas college or university. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

13. Ted & Clara Gentry Scholarship

The AWW & WEA award six $2,000 scholarships per year to dependents of employees of public and private waterworks and sewage facilities within the state of Arkansas. Students must meet the dependency requirements set by the IRS to qualify.

Amount: $2,000

Provider: AWW & WEA

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Arkansas, (b) Dependent of waterworks/sewage employee.  For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in arkansas

Soon you’ll be able to apply to all of these on Going Merry (let us know in the comments section if there are others we should include). In the meantime, we already have thousands of scholarships which you can apply for directly.

Just fill out your profile, see what we match you with, and click apply! It’s that easy.

12 Awesome Scholarships to Apply for in Alabama

Alabama isn’t just known for its Southern lifestyle and downhome cookingit’s also known for its renowned universities! Top schools like the University of Alabama and Troy University attract thousands of students per year…but the cost of attendance doesn’t come cheap.

For example, at the University of Alabama, one of the largest public school in the state, in-state students can expect to pay $10,780 for tuition while out-of-state students pay roughly $28,100. Similarly, in-state student at Troy University pay around $7,584 per year for tuition while out-of-state students pay $15,168. Keep in mind that tuition prices vary from school to school and depending on if the institution is public or private. Luckily, scholarships can help ease the burden.

Benefits of Scholarships & How to Apply

The best part about winning scholarships? The money is yours to keep and you never have to pay it back! Plus, there are thousands of scholarships out there for all types of people in all different situations. But where can you find them?

The best place to start is Going Merry! We match you with the scholarships you qualify for and then allow you to apply directly through our site to save you time and effort. The next step is to speak with your high school guidance office or college financial aid office. They’ll have plenty of info on local scholarships and awards that you qualify for.

For more information on applying to scholarships, check out our step-by-step guide and our expert tips on making your scholarship application stand out from the rest.

scholarships in alabama

12 Scholarships in Alabama

1. CollegeCounts Scholarship

These scholarships in Alabama are awarded to first-time freshmen who demonstrate financial need and a strong desire to make a difference. Applicants must be Alabama residents and must enroll in a college or university within the state. Four-year students receive $4,000 while two-year students receive $2,000.  

Amount: $2,000 to $4,000

Provider: Office of State Treasurer

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) U.S. Citizen, (b) Residency in Alabama, (c) Plans to enroll in a Georgia college or university, (d) Financial need, (e) Minimum GPA of 2.75. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

2. The Two-Year College Academic Scholarship

Not based on financial need, these Alabama scholarships are a great opportunity for students with a knack for academics. These generous awards cover full tuition plus books for students attending an accredited two-year school within the state.

Amount: Up to the cost of full tuition + books

Provider: Alabama Commission on Higher Education

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, Two-Year Community College Students

Requirements: (a) Residency in Alabama, (b) Academic Achievement, (c) Attending a public, two-year institution in Alabama. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

3. Linly Heflin Scholarship

Designed for Alabama women pursuing a four-year degree, recipients of this award receive $6,000 per year for four years or until graduation (whichever comes first).

Amount: $6,000 per year (Up to $24,000)

Provider: Linly Heflin Unit

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Female, (b) Residency in Alabama, (c) Plans to pursue a four-year degree, (d) Financial need, (e) Minimum GPA of 2.5, (f) Minimum ACT of 23. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in alabama

4. GEAR UP Student Scholarship

High school students who participated in the GEAR UP program are eligible to apply for these full-tuition scholarships in Alabama. Applicants should be intending to study at a technical or community college within the state.

Amount: Full Tuition

Provider: Gear Up Alabama

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Alabama, (b) Intention to attend an Alabama technical or community college, (c) Participation in Gear Up. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

5. Alabama Concrete Industries Association Foundation Scholarship

The Alabama Concrete Industries Association Foundation (ACIF) awards two $8,000 scholarships per year. The awards are granted to college seniors majoring in architecture, engineering, and building sciences at universities within the state.

Amount: $8,000

Provider: Alabama Concrete Industries Association Foundation (ACIF)

Who Can Apply: College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Majoring in a field mentioned above, (b) Attending an Alabama university. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

6. Alabama Home Builders Foundation Scholarship

Students pursuing an education related to residential building at a junior college, technical school, or university within the state are eligible for these scholarships in Alabama. Some examples of commonly accepted majors are civil engineering, drafting and design, masonry, landscaping, and sustainable construction.

Amount: Varies

Provider: Alabama Home Builders Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors, Technical School Students

Requirements: (a) Majoring in a relevant field, (b) Residency in Alabama. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

7. Cabaniss, Johnston Alabama Law Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship, granted by one of the oldest law firms in Alabama, was established in 1987. It’s geared towards students entering their second year at accredited U.S. law schools, even ones outside of Alabama.

Amount: Up to $5,000

Provider: Cabaniss, Johnston, Gardner, Dumas & O’Neal

Who Can Apply: Law students entering their second year

Requirements: (a) Residency in Alabama, (b) Attending accredited U.S. law school, (c) Academic excellence. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in alabama

8. The Junior and Community College Performing Arts Scholarship

Students with a talent for the performing arts can apply for these generous, full-tuition scholarships in Alabama. Recipients should be full-time students attending accredited junior or community colleges within the state. The winner will be decided through competitive auditions. Students can contact the financial aid office at their intended school for more information.

Amount: Up to the cost of full tuition + books

Provider: Alabama Commission on Higher Education

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, Junior College Students, Two-Year Community College Students

Requirements: (a) Residency in Alabama, (b) Major in performing arts-related field, (c) Exceptional talent. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

9. The David Womack Memorial Alabama LGBT Scholarship

These Alabama scholarships are awarded to gay and lesbian undergraduate students throughout the state. An essay with a maximum length of five pages is required for the application and recipients can use the money at any accredited school in the United States.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: IanThom Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Alabama, (b) LGBT status, (c) Attending a public, two-year institution in Alabama. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

10. The William Verbon Black Scholarship

Endowed by Mrs. Delia Black in 2007, these scholarships in Alabama aim to help full-time students at the University of Alabama School of Law. Applicants should be Alabama residents.

Amount: Varies

Provider: Alabama Law Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Alabama, (b) Enrolled in University of Alabama School of Law. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in alabama

11. Suzy Spiceland Michelson Memorial Scholarship

Graduating Calhoun County seniors who are involved in either Track & Field or Cross-Country can apply for these running scholarships. Applicants should also demonstrate involvement in school and community activities.

Amount: $500

Provider: Anniston Runners Club

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Alabama, (b) Participation in track & field or cross country, (c) Involvement in school and community activities. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

12. Alabama Funeral Directors Association Scholarship

This niche scholarship is geared towards students studying funeral service at an accredited mortuary science school. Applicants must be sponsored by a current member of the AFDA and should have plans to work in Alabama upon graduation.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Alabama Funeral Directors Association (AFDA)

Who Can Apply: Students intending to or currently studying at mortuary science school

Requirements: (a) Acceptance into accredited mortuary science school, (b) Plans to service the public working in Alabama, (c) Minimum GPA of 2.5, (d) Residency in Alabama, (e) AFDA sponsorship. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in alabama

Soon you’ll be able to apply to all of these on Going Merry (let us know in the comments section if there are others we should include). In the meantime, we already have thousands of scholarships which you can apply for directly.

Just fill out your profile, see what we match you with, and click apply! It’s that easy.

10 Helpful Scholarships for Students in Utah

The Beehive State is known for more than just its bees: Utah is also a great destination for pursuing higher education. Tens of thousands of students call top universities like the University of Utah and Utah State University home each yearbut attending school here doesn’t come cheap.

Utah residents can attend the University of Utah for about $8,382* per year and Utah State University for roughly $6,800*. For out-of-state students, those prices rise to $26,298* and $20,450* respectively. Luckily, paying for school doesn’t have to break the bank; scholarships can help.

*tuition only

Benefits of Scholarships & How to Apply

The best part about winning scholarships? You never need to pay them back! That’s rightscholarships essentially provide you with free money for school. Plus, there are scholarships available for all different people in all types of situations.

The best place to start is Going Merry! We match you with the scholarships you qualify for and then allow you to apply directly through our site to save you time and effort. The next step is to speak with your high school guidance office or college financial aid office. They’ll have plenty of info on local scholarships and awards that you qualify for.

If you’d like more information on scholarships and how they can save you money on college tuition, check out our step-by-step guide on applying for scholarships and our list of tips on making your application stand out from the rest.

scholarships in utah

In the meantime, here are 10 awesome scholarships in Utah:

1. Utah Jump$tart Coalition/America First Credit Union Scholarship

The Utah Jump$tart Coalition uses advocacy, research, and education to promote financial literacy among K-12 youth. In order to apply for these scholarships in Utah, applicants must create an informative YouTube video on avoiding college debt.

Amount: $1,250

Provider: Utah Jump$tart Coalition & America First Credit Union

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in Utah, (b) Senior in High School. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

2. Utah New Century Scholarship

These Utah scholarships are designed for high school students who either complete an associate’s degree before their high school graduation or complete a specific math and science curriculum. Students can complete the associate’s degree through schools that are part of the Utah System of Higher Education, including Dixie State University, Salt Lake Community College, Snow College, Southern Utah University, Utah State University, Utah Valley University, the University of Utah, and Weber State University. The scholarship itself can be used at a four-year institution within the Utah System of Higher Education as well as at Brigham Young University and Westminster College.

Amount: Varies (Maximum $1,250 per semester)

Provider: Utah System of Higher Education

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Minimum high school GPA of 3.5, (b) Minimum Associate’s degree/math and science curriculum GPA of 3.0, (c) Residency in Utah. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in utah

3. Horatio Alger Utah Scholarship

Students who have overcome obstacles and demonstrated success at facing adversity in their lives are eligible for these scholarships in Utah. Horatio Alger members, many of whom have overcome obstacles themselves, fund these generous awards.

Amount: Up to $10,000

Provider: Horatio Alger Association

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Commitment to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in the United States, (b) Critical financial need, (c) Involvement in co-curricular and community service activities, (d) Minimum 2.0 GPA, (e) U.S. Citizen. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

4. Utah Association of Independent Insurance Agents Scholarship

The Utah Association of Independent Insurance Agents grants a minimum of 3 scholarships in Utah to high school seniors each year. The best part? Applicants don’t need to be entering into an insurance-related major as long as they meet the basic requirements. 

Amount: $500 to $2,000

Provider: Utah Association of Independent Insurance Agents

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors

Requirements: (a) Minimum 3.0 GPA, (b) Participation in extracurricular activities in school, work, community, or church. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in utah

5. RMCMI Engineering & Geology Scholarship

The RMCMI, founded in 1912, is a non-profit organization that aims to promote Western coal through education by sponsoring educational programs relating to coal mining technologies and production techniques, mining management and safety, and laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to coal mining and other energy-related issues.

Amount: $5,500 (over 2 years)

Provider: RMCMI: Promote Western Coal Through Education

Who Can Apply: Upcoming College Juniors & College Seniors

Requirements: (a) Residency in one of eight RMCMI member states (Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, or Wyoming), (b) U.S. Citizen, (c) Intention to develop a career in the coal industry. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

6. RMCMI Technical Scholarship

Another scholarship sponsored by RMCMI, these scholarships in Utah are awarded specifically to students pursuing an education in a technology-related field that can benefit the coal mining industry.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: RMCMI: Promote Western Coal Through Education

Who Can Apply: College Freshmen

Requirements: (a) Enrollment in a technical program at a two-year school, (b) U.S. Citizen, (c) Intention to use skills in the coal industry, (d) Residency in one of eight RMCMI member states (Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, or Wyoming). For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in utah

7. APWA Utah Chapter Scholarship

Full-time public works employees who plan on pursuing education relating to public works or engineering can apply for these generous awards. The organization also awards two scholarships to full-time graduate students studying Water Resources Engineering.

Amount: $2,500

Provider: APWA Utah Chapter

Who Can Apply: Graduate Students or Full-Time Public Works Employees

Requirements: (a) Job in a relevant career field or studying for a graduate degree in a relevant career field, (b) Studying a field related to engineering, public works, or Water Resources Engineering, (c) Residency in Utah. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

8. Bervin Hall Scholarship

These Utah scholarships are for students pursuing an undergraduate safety degree program. First priority goes to students who are Colorado Chapter ASSP member, Colorado residents, or ASSP Region II members in the states of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Students currently living within ASSP Region II are considered next.

Amount: $1,000

Provider: American Society of Safety Professionals

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate Students

Requirements: (a) Completion of at least 60 undergraduate semester hours if pursuing a Bachelor’s degree or 24 undergraduate semester hours if pursuing an Associate’s degree, (b) Full-time or part-time status, (c) Pursuing a safety degree program, (d) Minimum 3.0 GPA. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in utah

9. Stephen T. Kugle Scholarship

ASME student members attending a public college or university in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, or Wyoming are eligible for these generous scholarships in Utah. Strong participation in the organization is a major factor in the decision-making process.

Amount: $3,000

Provider: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

Who Can Apply: College Juniors, College Seniors

Requirements: (a) U.S. Citizen by birth, (b) Attending an accredited school in one of the states mentioned above, (c) ASME membership, (d) Minimum 3.0 GPA. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

10. ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Scholarship

Amateur radio operators who are legal residents of Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Colorado are eligible for these scholarships, which can be used at any fully-accredited college or university in the United States.

Amount: $500 + Membership

Provider: ARRL Foundation

Who Can Apply: High School Seniors, College Freshmen, College Sophomores, College Juniors

Requirements: (a) U.S. Citizen, (b) Residency in Rocky Mountain Division state, (c) Letter of recommendation from sitting officer of an ARRL-affiliated club. For more information, please visit the scholarship website.

scholarships in utah

Soon you’ll be able to apply to all of these on Going Merry (let us know in the comments section if there are others we should include). In the meantime, we already have thousands of scholarships which you can apply for directly.

Just fill out your profile, see what we match you with, and click apply! It’s that easy.

The Ultimate Guide to Completing the CSS Profile

When it comes to applying for financial aid, most schools and the federal government use the FAFSA to figure out their award packages. But some schools, around 250 to be more exact, use the CSS Profile, which was created by the College Board and looks at student aid from a different perspective. If you’re applying to one of those schools, you’ll need to know how to approach the questions to get as much financial aid as possible.

Are the FAFSA and the CSS Profile Similar?

Before we dive into specifics, let’s go over the similarities and differences between the CSS Profile and the FAFSA. For starters, both forms ask for financial information and use it to determine student aid eligibility. Plus, both are online forms and both are sent to the schools you choose.

But there are 7 major differences between the forms that you should keep in mind:

1. The Issuer. The federal government handles all things FAFSA while the College Board (the same organization responsible for AP classes and the SAT) is in charge of the CSS Profile.

2. The Cost. The FAFSA is always free, but the CSS Profile isn’t. As of 2018, the fee for the application and one school is $25 plus $16 for each additional school. When applying, low-income students are automatically considered for fee waivers.

3. The Financial Section. The financial section of the CSS Profile is more comprehensive than the FAFSA. You’ll be asked more about things like non-custodial parent income (if your parents are divorced), home equity, medical expenses, non-qualified annuities, and the value of small family businesses. Student assets are also weighed heavier. We’ll give you more info on all of this down below.

4. The Methodology. Each form approaches financial aid in a different way. The FAFSA uses Federal Methodology, which considers parental gross income as the main factor for aid eligibility. The CSS Profile uses “Institutional Methodology”, which takes a more rounded look at a student’s financial situation, looking at factors such as home value, non-custodial parent income, and medical expenses. The CSS Profile also considers special circumstances that affect your ability to pay for school.

5. The Flexibility. With the FAFSA, financial aid is determined by a set formula without any room for human interpretation. In other words, the FAFSA is based solely on the Federal Methodology formula. The CSS Profile, on the other hand, allows more room for professional opinions and colleges have their own formulas for interpreting it. More specifically, college financial aid offices have more freedom and say in the amount of financial aid that a student receives.

6. The Use. The FAFSA is the only form used for federal aid, such as Pell grants, federal loans, and work-study, and most schools also use it to decide their institutional financial aid packages. The CSS Profile, on the other hand, is used only for institutional aid at around 250 colleges and universities.

7. The Questions. The FAFSA has the same questions for all students while the CSS Profile customizes the questions that students see depending on their answers in the registration phase.

css profile

Now, let’s dive into the specifics for how to fill out the College Board CSS Profile.

1. Take Out Your Calendar

Before you even start, get an idea of the submission deadlines for the schools you’re applying to. Hint: most deadlines are between January 1st and March 31st.

2. Gather Your Documents

To make completing the CSS Profile easier, get your documents together before you start filling it out. You’ll need the following documents for yourself and, if you’re a dependent, for your parents as well:

-Last year’s tax returns

-W-2s and income records from both this year and last year

-Records of untaxed income for this year and last year

-Bank statements

-Mortgage info

-Records of savings, stocks, bonds, and trusts

-Info on small businesses and other assets

css profile

3. Create a College Board Account/Register

Before you start the form, you’ll need to create an account. If you took the SAT, you likely already have one. Either way, head over here to sign in or sign up. Then, follow these steps:

1. First, you’ll need to provide basic information like your name, email, date of birth, and permanent address. The section also asks for your social security number, but it’s optional. Next, you’ll be asked about your year in school and which school you’re attending.

Keep in mind that even if you’ve taken AP courses for college credit or a few classes at a community college, you can still select that you’ve never attended college before. As a general rule, only students who have been enrolled at least half-time in a college program are considered to have attended college in the past.

2. After providing that information, the registration phase will take you through some questions to determine your dependency status. The “Student Expected Resources” section asks questions about the financial help that you expect to receive from family and your own income. Your answers to these questions will determine whether you see questions for dependent or independent students while filling out the form.

3. The next step of registration is the “College and Program Search” which is where you choose the schools you want the form sent to. Unlike the FAFSA, you should take some time to carefully think about which schools will receive your CSS Profile since there’s a cost involved.

Send it to each school that you’re applying to, but make sure that the school actually requires the form. If you can’t find it in the search then it probably doesn’t. You’ll also be asked housing information for each school, so be sure to check and see if there’s an on-campus housing policy for freshmen.

4. Lastly, you’ll need to provide information about your parents’ marital status, finances, home, employment, etc. Again, all of the questions in this step will determine the questions you’ll see on the form.

After you’ve completed the registration step, you’ll have access to the pre-application worksheet, which will show you the questions you’ll see on the form. If it helps, print the sheet out and feel free to make notes on it.

4. Parent Data (if dependent)

If you qualify as a dependent, you’ll need to fill out the Parent Data section, which is the first part of the official form. Keep in mind that you can save and continue at any time as well as jump between sections. If you need help, there are question buttons throughout the form with more information. If you need extra help, contact the College Board.

First, you’ll need to fill in the data for your first parent. The form will ask for basic information, including employment data and retirement plan information. After that, you’ll provide the exact same information for your second parent if applicable.

When asked about the number of people in your household, always include yourself. When asked about the number of people in your house who will be attending college, don’t include your parents even if they are.

This section also covers any public assistance plans that your family is involved with.

Note: Many people get confused about the question asking if your parent is a “dislocated worker”. The purple question mark provides more in-depth information about what exactly defines someone as a dislocated worker.

5. Parent Income & Benefits (if dependent)

Next, you’ll move on to parent income and benefits, the longest section of the CSS Profile. Having a copy of your recent federal income tax return will speed up the process. Each question gives you the exact line number where you can find the information on your return. If you don’t have it on hand, you can enter estimates rather than the exact dollar amount.

The first part of this section is about the previous year’s income and the second is about the year before that so that financial aid advisors can see if your family is going through major financial changes from year to year. The third section goes on to asks about your expected income for the following year. If there are any big changes coming up or currently happening in your life that will have a significant impact on your ability to pay for school, you can mention them later on in the “Special Circumstances” section.

6. Parent Asset Section (if dependent)

The next section is the Parent Asset section. You’ll find questions about assets in your parents’ names and also in your siblings’ names, such as college savings plans. You’ll see questions about investments, current home value, and how much money your parents owe on their home as well.

Note: home equity has been a huge topic of debate and confusion on the CSS Profile. Some schools don’t consider home equity at all, or don’t weigh it very heavily, while others consider it to be a major factor.

Most schools will cap home equity value at double the family income. So, as an example, if family income is $80,000 and the home equity value is $500,000, the school will only value the home equity at $160,000 when calculating Expected Family Contribution. Then, most schools will count 5% of the home equity value towards what the family is expected to pay for school. In this case, 5% of $160,000 is $8,000. Therefore, $8,000 is added to your EFC.

However, a select number of schools use the full value of your home equity. In this case, 5% of $500,000 is $25,000, which would greatly affect your eligibility for student aid

Additionally, since student assets are generally valued higher than parent assets on the CSS Profile, it might be helpful to switch assets from a student’s name to a parent’s name before filling out the form.

7. Parents’ Expenses (if dependent)

This section is used to determine if parents have any unusual or extra expenses that haven’t been covered in previous sections, including child support, educational loans, out-of-pocket medical and dental expenses, and educational expenses for other children.

Other examples of extra expenses are elementary or high school tuition for the previous or upcoming year and monthly home mortgage or rental payments.

8. Student Data Section

Now that the parent section is done, it’s time to move on to the student section. This part will begin by asking you about the high school, college, or university that you’re currently attending as well as your year in school.

You’ll also be asked some financial questions, including the scholarships and grants that you’ve been awarded and how much your parents have paid for your education so far (if applicable). There are also a number of questions related to dependency status, such as whether you’re in danger of homelessness, have ever been a part of the foster care system, or have ever participated in the Upward Bound program.

The Income & Benefits area contains questions about your tax return from the previous year and the financial help you expect to receive for the following school year. Other questions range from veteran benefits to income to expected parent contribution. With the last point, feel free to use a conservative (but realistic) estimate if you’re not sure of the exact amount.

9. Student Assets

Similar to the Parent Asset section, this section asks about assets that are in the student’s name. Remember that, unlike the FAFSA, student assets are generally valued higher with the CSS Profile.

In this section, you should list the amount of cash in your bank accounts, retirement accounts, and investment funds. Don’t be alarmed if most of your answers are “0” in this section since students usually don’t have many, if any, assets in their name.

10. Family Member Listing – Parent’s Household

This section goes over the additional people living in your household besides you and your parents, such as siblings. You’ll be asked to list educational and other expenses for these people that your parents are responsible for paying.

11. Explanation & Special Circumstances

This is your chance to explain anything you’d like in further detail. You have up to 2,000 characters to describe special financial circumstances or anything that you feel will negatively affect your financial aid eligibility when it shouldn’t. Some examples of special circumstances include dramatic shifts in income and debt recovery.

12. Supplemental Questions

Schools can choose to ask additional questions specific to their institution at the end of the CSS Profile. Depending on which schools you’re applying to, you might not see this section at all. The specific questions asked depend on the school.

13. Pay the Fee or Get it for Free

Students are automatically considered for fee waivers when filling out the CSS Profile. Waivers generally include the $25 application fee plus the cost of sending the form to up to 8 schools. Students normally qualify if they’re an incoming freshman and annual family income is $40,000 or less. Some schools also provide fee waivers for students by giving them a code to enter at the end of the application.

If you don’t qualify for a waiver, you’ll need to pay the $25 fee before submitting the application. The first school is included in the fee, but each additional school is $16.

14. Double Check & Submit

Make sure to double check your form before you submit it since you won’t be able to make any changes online afterward. If you do make a mistake and need to correct it, you’ll have to print out the application summary form, make corrections, and then fax, email, or mail it to your school’s financial aid office.

After you submit it, you can get an idea of your aid package by using this EFC calculator. Keep in mind that your actual award might be different.

15. Submit It Every Year

Just like the FAFSA, the CSS Profile needs to be completed and submitted every year, so keep an eye out for deadlines!

css profile

Have additional questions about completing the CSS Profile? Let us know below!

The Trickiest FAFSA Questions & How to Approach Them

Every year, college students all over the country complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA. The FAFSA determines these students’ eligibility for federal loans, grants, and work-study as well as financial aid at their colleges and universities of choice.

The FAFSA becomes available on October 1st each year. After you submit it, you’ll receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) that gives you basic information about your eligibility for federal student aid and also indicates your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). 

EFC is the most important number on the form. It represents the estimated amount of money that your family can contribute to the cost of your college education.

In addition to the federal government, the majority of colleges and universities use your EFC to determine the financial aid package that they will offer you. Alternatively, some schools prefer to use the CSS Profile.* Though the outputs and resulting financial aid packages can be different, the CSS Profile is used in the same way as the FAFSA to determine how much financial support a student needs.

For more information on filling out the FAFSA, check out our step-by-step guide.

How to Approach the Trickiest FAFSA Questions

While a lot of the questions on the FAFSA are quick to answer, there are a few tricky ones that can leave students puzzled. There are others too that seem easy but you need to be careful when you answer as small mistakes can have a significant impact on the amount of financial aid you receive.

fafsa questions

Here are the 7 trickiest FAFSA questions and our best advice on how to approach them:

1. Your Name & SSN

While nicknames are cool, the FAFSA doesn’t appreciate them. The name that you enter must be an exact match to the name associated with your social security number or alien registration card. Otherwise, the federal government won’t be able to locate your information in the system. You should keep this in mind for both the student section and the parent section.

2. Your Legal Status

It’s worth mentioning that even though the FAFSA asks you for your legal status, both green card holders and U.S. citizens are treated the same in terms of financial aid. Essentially all U.S. citizens are eligible for financial aid as well as green card holders, conditional permanent residents, any person with a legal status stating “asylum granted”, “refugee”, “indefinite parole”, “humanitarian parole”, or “Cuban-Haitian Entrant”. Lastly, citizens of the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated State of Micronesia are considered eligible non-citizens

DACA students are not eligible for federal student aid, but they are eligible to receive financial aid packages from many schools and sometimes from States too. Therefore, it’s still worth filling out the FAFSA if they have a social security number.

3. A Note About Selective Service…

All men in the U.S. are required to register for the Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday (either before or after). After that period, they have up until their 26th birthday to file a late enrollment. Women are exempt.

The FAFSA asks men if they’ve enrolled for the Selective Service and, if they select no, it asks if they would like to register now. Students who don’t enroll by their 26th birthday are ineligible to receive student aid from the government. Some state laws also prevent students from receiving school-based aid if they select “no” to Selective Service on the FAFSA. 

fafsa questions

4. The Size of Your Household

Some students get confused when asked about their household size, which isn’t necessarily the number of people who live in your house. Rather, it’s the number of people that you (if you’re independent) or your family (if you’re dependent) financially support.

Why does it matter so much? This little number makes a huge difference when determining the amount of financial aid you receive. Luckily, it’s not too difficult to figure out by following a few easy steps. First, you’ll need to determine if you’re a dependent student or an independent student.

There are 10 FAFSA questions to determine dependency. If you answer “no” to all of the questions, you’re considered a dependent student and must include your parents’ information on the FAFSA (more on that below). If you answer “yes” to one or more questions, you’re considered to be an independent student and only need to provide your own information. Now, let’s see how you can figure out your household size based on your dependency status.

For dependent students:

  1. Start with your parents and yourself.
  2. Add all children under the age of 24 that live in your parents’ house and receive more than half of their support from them. You can also include children who will be born during the school year.
  3. Then add any other people who live with your parents, receive more than half of their support from your parents, and will continue to receive half of their support from them during the school year (e.g. an elderly relative).

For independent students:

  1. Start with yourself and your spouse (if married).
  2. Add your children who receive more than half of their support from you.
  3. Then add any other people living with you who receive over half of their support from you and will continue to receive more than half of their support from you during the school year (e.g. an elderly relative).

Note: When the FAFSA asks about the number of people in your household attending college, don’t include your parents even if they are enrolled in a program leading to a degree or a certificate.

fafsa questions

5. Who is the Primary Parent?

Determining who to list as the primary parent, or your parents in general, can get tricky depending on your family situation. In general, only legally adoptive or biological parents can be listed as your parents on the FAFSA. Legal guardians don’t count even if they claim you on their tax forms.

If your parents are divorced and you qualify as a dependent, there are a few things you should keep in mind:

  1. You must include at least one parent’s information on the form.
  2. If your parents are divorced or separated but still live together, provide both of their information.
  3. If your parents don’t live together and you need to decide whose information to provide, choose the parent that you’ve lived with the most in the last 12 months. Keep in mind that this might be different from the parent who has legal custody. If your primary parent is remarried, be sure to also include your step-parent’s information, too!
  4. If you spend an equal amount of time with both parents and receive more or less equal support from each, then you can choose which parent to include. To maximize your student aid, list the parent with the lowest income. And remember again to include your step-parent’s information if your parent is remarried.

Side note: When the FAFSA asks about your parents’ education levels, only enter information about your biological or legally adoptive parents. Step-parents don’t count for this one.

5.5 A Note About Recent Divorces…

If your parents were divorced recently, it won’t show up on their most recent tax return–meaning you could run into some issues. To fix this, contact the financial aid offices at the colleges or universities that you’re applying to and see if they can work with you to correct it. Schools are usually willing to provide FAFSA help as long as you can give some additional information (like your parents’ W2 forms). 

fafsa questions

6. Reporting Income for Parents and Students

The most confusing part of the FAFSA is the income section, since there are various questions about taxed and untaxed income. However, it’s also the most important determinant of your EFC. There are a few things you should keep in mind when filling out these FAFSA questions to help you get as much aid as possible for school.

If students have a part-time job, any annual sum of money earned over $6,310 is expected to be used toward paying for college. In fact, students are expected to put 50% of their earnings towards saving and paying for school.

When it comes to reporting income, parents should never list their 401K plan. Parents are never expected to use retirement money for college costs and as parent age rises, EFC decreases. Additionally, most social security runs out when a student hits 18, so you’re not expected to use any of that.

7. And What About Assets?

Deciding which assets do and don’t count can be confusing…and these FAFSA questions can also heavily impact your financial aid award. There are some assets that you’re required to report and others that, surprisingly, don’t really matter.

As a general rule, you should only report assets that are liquid and cash-based. Things like trust funds and 529 savings plans (if they’re owned by you or your parent) do need to be reported, as well as more obvious things like your bank balances.

Some assets that don’t need to be reported include 401K plans, small family businesses, and your parent’s home. Retirement assets are never included when calculating EFC. Additionally, the maximum contribution possible from parental assets is 5%. In other words, if you report $100K worth of assets, your contribution to paying for school would be $5K. Student assets, on the other hand, are weighed heavier. Students are expected to contribute 20% of their assets towards paying for college. Check out this list for a more detailed breakdown of which assets count and which don’t.

Side note: Try to complete the FAFSA on the day that your checking account is the lowest, like right before payday. That way, the amount that you report as your account balance will be smaller.

Side note 2: It’s best to keep college savings plans in a grandparent’s or non-custodial parent’s name so that you don’t have to list them on the FAFSA (i.e. to maximize your award!).

*While the CSS Profile and the FAFSA are both used to determine financial aid, they differ in a few ways.

  1. The CSS Profile asks questions based on the specific schools you’re applying to while the FAFSA questions are the same for everyone.
  2. The CSS Profile has a “Minimum Student Contribution” section while the FAFSA does not.
  3. The CSS Profile gives more decision-making power to financial aid officials.
  4. Home prices are taken into account on the CSS Profile, which can become an issue when home equity values rise.
  5. Lastly, the FAFSA is always free and the CSS Profile has a cost. As of 2018, the cost is $25 for the first school and $16 per additional school.

fafsa questions

Which FAFSA questions do you find most confusing? Let us know below! 

Everything You Need to Know About Filling Out the FAFSA

Figuring out how to apply for financial aid can be stressful and overwhelming, but it’s really not so bad once you have all the info. The FAFSA, or the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the form that the government, along with several colleges and universities, use to determine how much financial aid college students should receive each year.

But what is the FAFSA and how does it work? In general, federal student aid (i.e. financial aid from the government) is determined based on four factors: Expected Family Contribution (EFC), year in school, enrollment status (i.e. part-time or full-time), and the Cost of Attendance (COA) at your intended school. Colleges and universities might use a similar method or a completely different one.

The FAFSA becomes available every year on October 1st and must be completed again each year. We recommend filling it out as early as possible since some awards are given out on a first-come, first-served basis.

EFC and COA

When it comes to figuring out how to apply for financial aid, students are often overwhelmed by all the technical jargon. EFC and COA are both determining factors when it comes to deciding financial aid awards. Understanding what they are and how they affect you can help you maximize the aid you receive and make paying for college much easier.

Your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is essentially your family’s ability to help you pay for school (i.e. how much they can contribute). It’s based on factors like your parents’ taxed and untaxed income, assets, benefits (like unemployment or social security), your family size, and the number of people in your household also attending school that year. Your EFC is determined by a set formula established by law. For more information, check out the official EFC Formula Guide.

Your Cost of Attendance (COA) is the price of attending your college or university of choice. In addition to tuition, the COA can also include the cost of books, transportation, supplies, loan fees, personal expenses, child or dependent care, disability-related costs, and study abroad program expenses.

how to apply for financial aid

Types of Federal Student Aid

The U.S. government offers several forms of financial aid, including grants, work-study, and loans, to help students pay for school. Grants are the best form of financial aid since they provide students with money that doesn’t have to be repaid.

Students have a variety of different grants available. The most common are Federal Pell Grants, which are worth up to $6,095 each year and are awarded to undergraduate students with significant financial need. Other programs include Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants, and Iraq and Iran Service Grants. For more information, check out our helpful section on federal grants.

Another option is federal work-study, which involves students being provided with part-time jobs while in school. Students can’t work more than a set number of hours per week (usually around 20) and can either work on- or off-campus. For more information about work-study, head over to our comprehensive financial aid guide.

Loans should be your last option for funding your education. The federal government, however, does offer options to help students avoid taking out private loans. The government currently offers five loan types: Direct Subsidized Loans, Direct Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans, Direct Consolidation Loans, and the Federal Perkins Loan Program. Check out this article for more info on the different loans offered by the federal government and how you can avoid loans altogether.

How Schools Use the FAFSA

When schools use the FAFSA to determine student financial aid packages, they often focus most of their attention on COA and EFC. Each school uses its own formulas, standards, and methods for calculating financial aid based on these numbers. You’ll likely receive a different financial aid offer from each school since each institution has a different level of funding available to assist students.

What If I Don’t Think I Qualify for Financial Aid?

You should fill out the FAFSA whether you think you qualify or not. It’s free and takes under an hour to complete, so what is there to lose? While your family’s income might be too high to qualify for federal aid, you might still qualify for awards at private universities or colleges. Spending a small portion of your day applying for financial aid could save you thousands of dollars on college tuition.

how to apply for financial aid

How to Apply for Financial Aid: Step-by-Step

What You’ll Need

To complete the FAFSA, you should have the following documents ready:

-Social Security Number (SSN) for US citizens or Alien Registration Number (ARN) for non-US citizens

-Your/Your parents’ income tax return

-Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

-Investment records (if applicable)

Step 1: Create an FSA ID

Before you begin the FAFSA form, you should create an FSA ID, which serves as your username and password for entering the U.S. Department of Education’s websites. It’s used to confirm your (or your parent’s) identity while logging in and can also be used to sign and submit the form. Both students and parents can access the FAFSA, but each need their own FSA ID.

Step 2: Begin Your FAFSA at fafsa.gov

Once you have your FSA ID, head over to fafsa.gov to complete the form. When it comes to figuring out how to apply for financial aid, getting the website and dates correct is important. The form becomes available each year on October 1st and closes on June 30th. You should complete the FAFSA as early as possible, since many university-based awards are given out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Pro Tip: At the beginning of the application process, you can create a “Save Key” which temporarily allows you and your parent/student to share the FAFSA back and forth.

how to apply for financial aid

Step 3: Complete the Student Demographics Section

The first step to completing this section is to make sure you’re filling out the correct section. The parent demographics and student demographics section are different, so make sure to double check that you’re entering the information where it belongs.

You should enter your information exactly as it appears on your Social Security Card or Alien Registration Card. Generally, it’s only necessary to enter the information for the first time; it should autofill the following years.

Step 4: Decide Who Gets It

You’re allowed to send your FAFSA to up to 10 colleges and universities. You should list all the schools you’re applying for, even if you haven’t been accepted yet. You can always add and remove schools later if you change your mind. If you wind up not applying for a school or weren’t accepted, schools will automatically disregard your FAFSA.

Step 5: Are You Dependent or Independent?

Dependent students are required to provide parental information on the FAFSA while independent students are not. Keep in mind that the FAFSA uses a different set of requirements than the IRS when it comes to determining dependency. For more info on the FAFSA’s dependency guidelines, check out this page.

how to apply for financial aid

Step 6: Complete the Parent Demographics Section

If your status is determined to be “dependent”, you’ll need to complete the parent demographics section. It simply requires your parents’ basic info and can be filled out by either you or your parent.

Step 7: All About Taxes

The next step is to fill in your and/or your parents’ tax information. To make it easier, the FAFSA has an IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which automatically fills in your information (if you’re eligible to use it). Make sure to double check and fill in all areas that aren’t automatically completed.

Step 8: Sign, Submit, & Cross Your Fingers!

Surprisingly, many students make it through the FAFSA and then forget to sign and submit it at the end! Make sure to do it and remember, dependent students also need their parents to sign the form! 

Finally, here are 10 common FAFSA mistakes to avoid…

1. Never leave a field blank on the FAFSA. It can make your processing time longer and could require you to go back and edit the form. Instead, fill in answers that don’t apply to you with a “0” (zero).

2. Make sure to report all sources of untaxed income to avoid legal issues. Untaxed income sources can include non-educational veteran benefits, child support, workers comp, disability, and more.

3. Enter the correct marital status. In order to file as married, you must be married before or on the date that the FAFSA is submitted. If you’re getting married in the near future, file as single for this year.

4. Make sure to include all parents. If your parents are divorced, then you also need to include your step parents’ (if applicable) financial and demographics information on the FAFSA.

5. Include yourself in your household size. Even if you haven’t been living at your house recently, you should include yourself when determining your household size.

how to apply for financial aid

6. The early bird gets the worm. Don’t wait until the last minute to complete your FAFSA. Lots of colleges and universities give out financial aid awards on a first-come, first-served basis. Also, filing early ensures that you won’t miss the deadline.

7. Use the correct website. The ONLY website you should use to complete the FAFSA is fafsa.gov. Any other website is untrustworthy. Also, the FAFSA is always free, so stay away from any sites requesting money.

8. Get your FSA ID before beginning the FAFSA. The first step to determining how to apply for financial aid, you might need to wait up to three days to sign the FAFSA after applying for your FSA ID – meaning that it doesn’t hurt to get a head start!

9. Add all the colleges! Well, maybe not all of them, but definitely more than one or two. Even if you’re not sure about applying for a school, you should add it. You can add up to 10 schools and change your preferences any time.

10. Just do it! The biggest mistake you can make is not filling out the FAFSA at all. It involves zero money and little time and can save you thousands of dollars on college tuition.

Once you successfully determine how to apply for financial aid and submit the FAFSA, you’ll automatically be considered for all types of federal student aid – grants, loans, and work-study. You’ll also be considered for a variety of school-based aid depending on your college or university.

how to apply for financial aid

What are your best tips on how to apply for financial aid? Let us know below!

The Only Financial Aid Guide You’ll Ever Need

Figuring out how to pay for college is often the most difficult part of the application process. Just as the need for a college education is rising, the cost of tuition is skyrocketing. Between 2003 and 2013 alone, the cost of tuition rose by 79% above inflation. Since 1982, the cost has increased by a total of 500%. As a result, about 40% of soon-to-be college students end up turning down their first-choice school and going for a cheaper option

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One major reason for such drastic increases in college costs is a lack of funding from state and local governments. As more and more funding is being taken away from universities and colleges, upping tuition rates is an easy way to make up the difference. Other factors have also contributed to this, such as the ‘recreation parks arms race’ to attract students and rise up college rankings.

how to pay for college

Is the Price Worth the Education?

Current tuition rates are enough to cause some students to wonder if it’s even worth going to college. After all, who wants to end up with piles of student debt at the beginning of their career?

However, despite the price, the numbers show us that attaining a secondary degree is generally worth it–even after taking the potential debt into account.

First of all, the pay gap between degree holders and non-degree holders is forever widening. Those who hold a Bachelor’s degree earn an average of $2.27 million throughout their lifetime compared to $1.55 million for those who completed some college and $1.3 million for high school graduates with no college education.

As of 2017, unemployment rates for the 25+ demographic also show that getting a college degree is generally the way to go. The unemployment rate among graduates with a Bachelor’s degree or higher was 2.5% while the rate rose to 5.3% for those with only a high school degree and to 7.7% for high school dropouts. 

How Does the Cost of School Affect Me?

The rising cost of tuition tends to have a heavy impact on middle- and low-income families as well as on students who are tasked with figuring out how to pay for college on their own. Studies show that middle-income families often earn too much for federal need-based aid but too little to pay out-of-pocket, presenting a challenging situation.

If a student’s intended program or school are out of their budget, they’ll likely need to adjust and attend a more affordable school. This can be discouraging because it forces students to stray from their initial goals. 

how to pay for college

What Can I Do About It?

Luckily, when it comes to figuring out how to pay for college, there are various options available. Whether you decide to take advantage of federal aid and scholarships, take out student loans, enter a work-study program, or a combination of them all, help is available. The key is deciding which option is the best for you and your situation.

So, let’s start with the basics!.

What is Financial Aid?

In short, financial aid is money to help you pay for college. It can come in a variety of forms, such as grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal and private loans, as well as from a number of sources, including the federal government, the state government, nonprofits, and private organizations.

A great tool to help you figure out how much financial aid you’ll need in order to attend school is the Financial Aid Calculator. It calculates the difference between the cost of the school and your expected contribution, which comes from the FAFSA (see below).

What is the FAFSA?

Now let’s dive into the holy grail of all financial aid formsthe FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The FAFSA is used primarily to determine the financial aid you’re eligible to receive from the federal government, but many schools also use it when determining their own financial aid packages.

The good news is that the form is relatively simple and only takes around 30 minutes to fill out. In order to complete it, you’ll need to have a few things on hand, including:

-Your Social Security Number (SSN)

-Your Alien Registration Number (for non-U.S. Citizens)

-Your or your parents’ federal income tax returns (these can often be transferred into the form automatically)

-Records of untaxed income (if applicable)

-Investment records (if applicable)

Shortly after submitting the FAFSA, students receive an electronic or paper copy of their Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR lists basic information about a student’s financial aid eligibility as well as their answers to the questions on the FAFSA. The key number and indicator of your financial aid eligibility is the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). It is an estimate of the amount of money your family can contribute towards your education. We’ll talk more about how it’s used below.

The FAFSA becomes available to students each year on October 1st. Once it’s available, it’s recommended that students fill it out as soon as possible to avoid missing any deadlines and to ensure they have enough time to plan for how to pay for college. Some schools also grant financial aid awards on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, check out the video below.

University-Based Aid

Many schools also use the FAFSA to determine how much financial aid to award their students. As part of this, they take three factors into account: enrollment status (part-time or full-time), cost of attendance, and EFC. Generally, they subtract the EFC from the cost of attendance to determine your financial need and present you with scholarships, grants, and more. Awards can differ wildly from school to school since each institution has its own requirements and a different amount of funding available.

Alternatively, some private colleges and universities use the CSS Profile to determine financial aid eligibility. The CSS Profile is provided by the College Scholarship Service, which is the financial aid sector of College Board. Unlike the FAFSA, the CSS Profile asks questions related to the specific school or program that the student is applying for and takes additional factors into account, including minimum student contribution. Financial aid officers are also able to weigh in on individual student circumstances. The CSS Profile can be completed online and has an application fee of $25 USD.

how to pay for college

It’s also worth discussing the differences between Need-Aware and Need-Blind colleges and universities (some schools also use a blend of both approaches).

While each has its pros and cons, a student’s academic and financial status often determines how they are affected.

Need-Blind schools don’t consider students’ financial need during the application process. While this sounds positive, it can result in schools giving out some not-so-great financial aid packages. Need-Aware schools, on the other hand, do take financial need into account. While this often results in better financial aid packages overall, it can also lead to wealthier students being chosen over financially needy students when limited spaces are available. 

Now that we’ve covered all the background info, let’s dive deeper into the different types of financial aid available!

how to pay for college

Government Grants

When it comes to figuring out how to pay for college, grants and scholarships are arguably the best way since they both offer free money with no strings attached! But what’s the difference?

To begin, grants are generally awarded by the federal government and are based on financial need.

The main grants that the U.S. government currently offers are the Pell Grant and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Both apply to participating public and private universities as well as four-year and two-year degree programs and some vocational training programs.

The Pell Grant is awarded to undergraduate students who demonstrate financial need and the maximum amount of the award varies from year to year. For the 2018-2019 school year, students can receive up to $6,095.

The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) is a campus-based aid program (i.e. it’s administered directly by each school’s financial aid office rather than the government itself) that offers additional aid to students with a high amount of financial need. Award amounts range from $100 to $4,000 and students with an Expected Family Contribution of 0 are given highest priority. Participating colleges and universities receive a set number of FSEOG funds from the federal government each year, meaning that the number of awards, award amounts, and award availability vary by school.

In order to apply for government grants, all students need to do is complete the FAFSA each year. They’ll automatically be considered for any grants and federal student aid that they qualify for and will be notified in their award letter.

how to pay for college

Scholarships

Scholarships are also free money to help you pay for college and are generally offered by nonprofits, individuals, corporations or universities and colleges. Anyone can apply for scholarships and deadlines vary throughout the year, meaning there are always some available!

Luckily, figuring out how to find scholarships is an easy task. The first step to finding excellent scholarship opportunities is to talk to your guidance counselor or financial aid advisor. They should have the most up-to-date information on local scholarships, allowing you to start your search off on the right foot.

After discussing possibilities with your advisor or counselor, continue your search online with Going Merry! Inspired by what the Common App has done for college applications, we make the scholarship application process much simpler by allowing you to apply directly to scholarships through our site. Simply fill out your profile, then we’ll match you with the scholarships that are best for you and let you apply directly. You can even upload documents, like letters of recommendation or transcripts, and reuse them for every application.

The best part about scholarships is that they’re available to all sorts of people in all different situations. Whether you’re transferring schools, majoring in marketing, or just looking for scholarships that only apply to residents of your state, there’s something for you! Most scholarship applications take some time to complete, but if you’re short on time you can also consider scholarship sweepstakes. Check out our list of essay-free scholarships for an idea of where to get started!

For more information, check out our step-by-step guide on applying for scholarships.

how to pay for college

Work-Study

Work-Study is a type of financial aid that provides you with a part-time job while you’re enrolled in school. Part-time or full-time undergraduates, graduates, and professional students that express financial need and attend a participating school are eligible. Over 3,400 schools participate in the federal work-study program. To find out if your college or university is eligible for work-study, contact the financial aid office or visit the financial aid website.

Through this program, students earn at least minimum wage though they can only work a limited number of hours. While the amount of hours per week varies depending on the job, most student employers only require 10 to 20 hours per week. Jobs can be on- or off-campus and, if possible, are related to the student’s field of studymeaning you can get some relevant work experience under your belt at the same time!

In general, undergraduates are paid by the hour while graduate and professional students are either paid by the hour or paid a fixed salary.

Student Loans

Student loans strike fear into the hearts of college students all over and they’re often the least-desired option when deciding how to pay for college….and for good reason! Who wants to be welcomed by thousands of dollars of student debt after graduation? Not many.

But realistically, student loans don’t have to be the enemy. While you should always try to get financial aid from other sources first, student loans can make higher education a real possibility for many people in cases where it wasn’t before.

Here’s a  step-by-step guide through the different types of loans and all of the important information that you should know about them. First, let’s talk about federal versus private loans.

how to pay for college

Federal Loans

Federal loans are, unsurprisingly, issued by the federal government. When you’re considering taking out student loans, it’s a wise choice to target federal loans first since they offer more benefits than private ones.

One such benefit is that federal loans don’t require a cosigner or guarantor. That means you can apply independently. And most importantly, interest rates are generally lower than with private loans, meaning you’ll end up paying less in the long run. For the 2018-2019 school year, the interest rate is 4.45% for undergraduate loans and 6% for graduate and professional loans. These interest rates are fixed for the life of the loan, so you always know the interest rate you’ll be paying.

When you receive a federal loan, it will either be subsidized or unsubsidized. Subsidized loans don’t accumulate interest for the entire time you’re in school while unsubsidized loans do. Unfortunately, students don’t have much say in which type of loan they receive, since it’s heavily based on financial need. Only students with financial need are eligible to receive subsidized loans while financial need is not a requirement to receive unsubsidized loans. Federal interest rates are currently the same for both subsidized and unsubsidized loans.

Loan amounts vary considerably based on a student’s year in school and their level of financial need. Take a look at the table below to get an idea of your eligibility.

Year in School Dependent Students (Except students whose parents are unable to obtain PLUS loans) Loan Limit Independent Students (and dependent undergraduate students whose parents are unable to obtain PLUS loans) Loan Limit
First Year Undergraduate $5,500 (Up to $3,500 of this amount may be granted in the form of subsidized loans while the rest is granted in unsubsidized loans) $9,500 (up $3,500 of this amount may be granted in the form of subsidized loans)
Second Year Undergraduate $6,500 (up to $4,500 of this amount may be granted in the form of subsidized loans) $10,500 (up to $4,500 of this amount may be granted in the form of subsidized loans)
Third Year & Beyond Undergraduate $7,500 (up to $5,500 of this amount may be granted in the form of subsidized loans) $12,500 (up to $5,500 of this amount may be granted in the form of subsidized loans)
Graduate or Professional Students All graduate and professional students are considered to be independent $20,500 (unsubsidized only)

*Source: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans/subsidized-unsubsidized#eligibility

PLUS loans are another type of loan that students should be aware of. They are a federal loan offered to independent students or parents of dependent students and are intended to make up for any gaps between the cost of attendance and financial aid. PLUS loans can be a convenient option for covering the remaining cost of tuition as they have fixed interest rates and virtually no borrowing limit. However, keep in mind that PLUS loans do require a credit check, an origination fee (i.e. a fee for processing the loan), and payments are expected to begin immediately (although deferment is an option).

Lastly, Perkins Loans are for students who demonstrate high financial need. While the Perkins loan is a federal program, loans are granted to students by individual schools (about 1,700 schools participate in the program). When paying back the loan, students make payments either directly to the school or to the school’s loan servicer. Like other federal options, an advantage of Perkins Loans is that their interest rates are fixed. The current level is 5% and the size of the loan depends on the amount of funds available at each individual school.

how to pay for college

Many students prefer federal loans because of the flexible payment plans available. When paying back student loans, most monthly payments are based on a 10- or 15-year payment plan, but sometimes the monthly payments are just too high for new graduates. Federal loans work with you to find the best payment plan for your situation.

The best way to determine which payment plans you qualify for is to talk to your student loan servicer. They’ll be able to provide you with the most up-to-date information and guide you on the repayment plan that’s best for your situation.

One of the most common repayment plans is income-based repayment and the process of switching plans is quick and painless. Students need to submit their most recent tax information to determine their eligibility. Each year that they’d like to continue with the income-based payment plan, they simply need to recertify by sending their latest tax records.

To see if you qualify for income-based repayment, check out the Department of Education’s Repayment Estimator Tool. If the calculated cost of your payment is lower under an income-based repayment plan than it is under the standard repayment plan, you likely qualify and should discuss options with your student loan servicer.

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to discharge student loans if you go bankrupt (although it’s much more difficult than with traditional loans). In order to have loans discharged, it’s required to file for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and prove that loan repayment would impose undue hardship on you and your dependents during an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court. However, what makes it difficult in practice is that undue hardship has never been defined. For more information, head over to the FSA website.

For the latest information on loan forgiveness options, please visit the Federal Student Aid Loan Forgiveness page.

how to pay for college

Private Loans

Private loans are often used as the last option after all other financial aid options have been exhausted. While they can be helpful in providing that little extra bit of money needed to fund your education, they shouldn’t be your first choice when deciding how to pay for college.

Private loans are issued by banks, credit unions, or private companies and the rules, interest, and repayment terms can vary wildly depending on the lender. Some private loans also have variable interest rates, meaning that your interest, and your loan payment as a result, can increase.

Another downside to private loans is that they’re based on credit, so a cosigner or guarantor is generally necessary.

how to pay for college

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I apply for aid even if I don’t think I qualify?

Yes! The FAFSA is a free form and you never know what type of student aid is available to you until you apply…you might be pleasantly surprised! Thirty minutes of your time could save you thousands of dollars on your tuition bill and make paying for college much simpler. To apply for Federal Student Aid, head over to the FAFSA website.

Do I need to be accepted into a university or college to apply for financial aid?

No. You can apply for financial aid at any time you want, regardless of if you’ve been accepted into a school or not. However, you do need to be enrolled and accepted in order to receive the financial aid. Applying early can be a great option and provide you with a clearer picture of how to pay for college.

Is the FAFSA a one-time thing or do I need to reapply every year?

The FAFSA is based on the previous year’s tax records, so it’s necessary to fill it out once a year to qualify for financial aid. Luckily, it’s quick and easy and should become even easier after the first time.

When do I need to start repaying my student loans?

Most federal loans allow a six-month grace period after graduation (except the Perkins loan which allows a nine-month grace period). In other words, you’ll be required to start paying back your federal loans six months after graduation. Private loan repayment terms vary, so it’s best to check with your lender for the most accurate information.

Where can I get more info about financial aid?

The Federal Student Aid Information Center (FSAIC) is the best place to get the most up-to-date information on financial aid. Reach out to them with one of the methods below:

Federal Student Aid Website

FAFSA Website

Phone: 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243)

Phone (if hearing impaired): 1-800-730-8913

Mail:

Federal Student Aid Information Center

PO Box 84

Washington, DC 20044

Financial Aid Glossary

Let’s face it, financial aid terms can be confusing and unclear. We put this glossary together to turn you from clueless into a financial aid expert.

Cosigner → A second person (i.e. not the original borrower) who also signs for a loan and assumes the same amount of financial responsibility for the loan. Having a cosigner can often help make loans possible for those with bad or no credit.

Deferment → Allows you to stop making your monthly federal loan payments for a determined amount of time.

Expected Family Contribution (EFC) → A number that represents your family’s ability to help you pay for college. It’s determined by a number of factors, including taxed and untaxed income, family size, and the number of family members in college. It’s used in determining financial aid eligibility on the FAFSA.

FAFSA → The Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s a free form used by the federal government and many universities to determine if you qualify for financial aid and, if so, how much.

Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) → A need-based grant offered by the federal government for students with the greatest need of financial aid.

Financial Aid → Financial assistance to help students and their families pay for school.

Financial Aid CalculatorA free tool that allows you to estimate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) before completing the FAFSA. This tool can simplify the process of deciding how to pay for college. 

Forbearance → Like deferment, forbearance allows you to stop making your monthly loan payments for a determined amount of time. The difference is that deferment doesn’t always require you to pay interest, but forbearance does.

Grants → Money for college, generally awarded by the federal government, that doesn’t need to be paid back.

Guarantor → Similar to a cosigner, a guarantor agrees to pay for a loan if the original borrower defaults or is unable to pay. Having a guarantor can help make loans possible for those with bad or no credit.

Loan Forgiveness → Options for saying goodbye to student loans in exchange for non-profit, government, or volunteer work. For more information on current requirements, visit the FSA website

Payment Plans → Options for repaying your student loans based on income or other factors. To find out which payment plan is best for you, check out this article or discuss options with your student loan servicer.

Pell Grant → A need-based grant offered by the federal government for undergraduate students who express financial need.

PLUS Loan → An unsubsidized loan offered by the federal government to students’ parents. It’s intended to cover remaining education costs not covered by other forms of financial aid. This loan is available only to parents of dependent undergraduate students or independent graduate/professional students and, as of 2018, the interest rate is 7.0%.

Tuition → The amount of money a university, college, or institution charges students for education.

Scholarships → Money for college, generally awarded by corporations, nonprofits, schools, or individuals, that doesn’t need to be paid back.

Student Debt → The type of debt that is accumulated from taking out federal or private loans in order to attend a college, university, or institution.

Student Loans (Federal) → Financial assistance in the form of a loan from the federal government. Student loans accrue interest and must be paid back.

Student Loans (Private) → Financial assistance in the form of a loan from a private provider. Student loans accrue interest and must be paid back.

Subsidized Loans → A type of federal student loan in which the federal government pays the interest while the student is in school or while the loan is in deferment.

Unsubsidized Loans → A type of federal student loan in which interest begins accruing as soon as the loan is taken out.

Work-Study → A type of federal student aid that provides students with part-time jobs while in school.

Useful Resources

Information about the cost of attending school 

FAFSA 

Information about Federal Student Aid and deciding how to pay for college 

Information about private student loans 

Financial Aid Calculators 

Information about repaying student loans 

Considering your options for paying for school? Check out our ultimate guide to financial aid (from scholarships to student loans) to get started!

Have questions about how to pay for college or financial aid that we didn’t answer in this article? Let us know below!

12 Essential Tips for Winning More Scholarships

It’s no secret that scholarships are one of the absolute best ways to pay for college, but how in the world do you get started? With nearly every scholarship application requiring an essay, letters of recommendation, and a plethora of personal information, starting the process and figuring out how to get scholarships for college can be overwhelming.

At the same time, with the cost of school on the rise each year, scholarships are becoming more and more important. Unlike student loans, scholarships don’t need to be paid back and they offer free no-strings-attached money. Winning scholarships can significantly reduce (or even help you completely avoid) the burden of student debt and increasing interest rates after graduation.

Despite how fantastic they are, students are often puzzled about how to get scholarships. Where should you begin? When should you begin? Which scholarships are worth your time? How many should you apply for?

The questions can start to become overwhelming and even scare some students away. Luckily, applying for scholarships really isn’t all that complicated when it comes down to it! With a little dedication and perseverance, you can be well on your way to winning scholarships of your own.

Check out our 12 best tips on how to get scholarships and make your applications shine!

how to get scholarships

1. Go Local

While national scholarships generally get more visibility and press online, local scholarships usually offer better chances. You’ll only be competing against other students in your area rather than thousands of students all over the nation. Not only that, but you’ll be supporting local initiatives in your community that represent awesome causes.

Your high school guidance counselor or college admissions office should have plenty of information on local scholarships that apply to your situation. If not, try searching for “scholarships + your state/city” on Google or using a scholarship search engine, where you’ll likely be able to find lists of scholarships. Did we mention that we have tons of state-specific scholarship articles on our blog? 

Going Merry also makes finding local scholarships a piece of cake (really, what don’t we do?). Simply head to your profile and click on “scholarships” then “local scholarships” to see what’s going on in your area.

2. Find Your Edge

Scholarship providers spend countless hours reviewing scholarship applications and essays that are responding to the same prompt. Unsurprisingly, a hefty majority of applications are forgotten. The memorable have the best chance of winning. Just like in marketing, search for what gives you an advantage over your competition and use it.

Start by creating a list of your strengths. What are you good at? What are your friends always asking you to help them with? Then, figure out how to highlight your strengths throughout your application, specifically in the short answer and essay questions. Show the scholarship committee why your skills make you the perfect candidate for the award.

Your life experiences can also make your applications stand out. You’ve likely experienced events or challenges that are different from others: brainstorm a list and use it to your advantage.

how to get scholarships

3. Make Your Essay Shine

Another way to make your application shine is to approach the essay from a unique angle. As long as you’re thoroughly answering the prompt and using your best writing skills, there are no rules saying that you can’t put your own unique spin on the essay (unless your application does, in fact, have specific instructions not to do this!).

But what exactly does it mean to put your own unique spin on an essay? Basically, take your own life experiences and incorporate them into your writing. For example, let’s imagine that the essay question is “why do you want to study medicine?”. It’s safe to say that a good majority of the applicants will respond with something along the lines of “I want to help people.” While it’s a perfectly acceptable reason, it doesn’t make for a very interesting essay.

Instead, try approaching the essay differently by telling a story about a doctor you once had, the first time you felt inspired to study medicine, or a dream you have that medicine can help you achieve. It’s okay, and even recommended, to take some time and reflect before writing the essay. The deeper you can dive into your personal dreams and goals, the better.

If you’d like more tips on how to write an amazing essay, check out our step-by-step guide on applying for scholarships.

4. Seek Out Similar Applications

Let’s be real, scholarship applications can be lengthy and time-consuming. Between classes, homework, studying, and work, who has time to write several essays a week? Luckily, if you’re smart about your approach, that won’t be necessary at all.

Lots of scholarship applications are actually quite similar and, while it may feel like cheating, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using the same responses on various applications (as long as they’re relevant, of course). If it fits, you could even reuse the same essay or slightly change one that you’ve already written to fit different applications.

Applying for scholarships seems a whole lot less overwhelming when you already have half the work done! Plus, you’ll increase your chances of winning scholarships with less overall work.

If you’re not sure where to look for scholarships with essay topics similar to what you’ve already done, feel free to shoot us an email at support@goingmerry.com. Give us a list of topics you’ve written essays on before and we’ll do our best to find scholarships with similar or matching ones for you! You can also comment down below and you’ll be able to get feedback from us and fellow students.

how to get scholarships

5. Use Another Set of Eyes

Having another person, whether it’s a family member or a friend, look over your application can save you the embarrassment of unnecessary typos and also provide you with a second opinion. Often times, others can notice things about our writing that we have trouble seeing, like being too repetitive, writing too much unnecessary information, or being too boring.

Family and friends can provide helpful insight on how to get scholarships that you may have not thought about yourself.

6. The More the Merrier!

When it comes to scholarships, more is always better! There’s no limit on how many you can apply for and applying for more only raises your chances. Try setting time aside each week dedicated only to searching for and applying for scholarships. You could even try setting a monthly goal for how many scholarships you’d like to apply for (but keep it realistic).

If you only have a few minutes on hand, it’s even worth boosting your chances of winning scholarships by applying for some scholarship sweepstakes or scholarships without essays. Check out our extensive list of easy scholarships for an idea of where to get started.

how to get scholarships

7. Get a Head Start

Waiting until the last minute hardly works out in any situation, and scholarships are no exception. The best way to take advantage of as many scholarships as possible and avoid the last-minute stress is to start early!

High school students can start applying for scholarships as early as their junior year (Going Merry has a wide selection of scholarships for juniors to help you out!). High school seniors and college students can start applying as early as one year or more before the semester they hope to win scholarships for.

Scholarships are available all year with a number of different deadlines, but many deadlines fall around March.

8. Take Advantage of Going Merry

Not only does Going Merry allow you to apply for scholarships online for free, but it also helps make the scholarship application process easier by automatically matching you with scholarships that you qualify for and allowing you to directly apply to each one (just like the Common App does for college applications!). Not only does it require less effort on your part, but it can introduce you to hundreds of scholarships that you never even knew existed!

Plus, did we mention that it’s completely free for students? If you’re wondering how to get scholarships, Going Merry is a fantastic starting point.

how to get scholarships

9. Check Yourself Out Online

In this day and age, social media says a lot about who we are. Some scholarship providers might do a quick Google search of your name or head to your social media profiles to see if you’re online presence aligns with what they’re looking for. Doing a quick search of your own name to see what pops up can help you avoid any surprises.

Your social media profiles don’t necessarily need to be professional (except LinkedIn), but be careful about posts that could be viewed as negative by scholarship committees.

10. Do Your Research

On the flip side of things, doing a little research on the scholarship provider doesn’t hurt either. Not only is it a great way to make sure that the scholarship is legitimate, but it can give you an advantage on your application. Take some time to find out the type of person they’re looking for and play on your strengths to show them that you’re the perfect candidate.

It’s also worth checking to see if the profiles of past winners are available on the scholarship provider’s website. Doing your research on the type of students who won this scholarship in the past can give you an advantage during the application process. Some providers also allow you to see the winning essays, which can give you an idea of exactly what they’re looking for!

how to get scholarships

11. Plan Letters of Recommendation in Advance

When students are trying to figure out how to get scholarships, asking for letters of recommendation is often the most stressful part and requires the most advanced planning. Waiting until the last minute to ask your teachers, professors, counselors, etc. for a letter of recommendation is only going to stress them out. Make sure to notify them at least four weeks before the scholarship deadline.

Going Merry makes the process of getting Letters of Recommendation easier by allowing your recommender to upload their letter on the site so that you can reuse it for various applications. This means that you can ask for recommendations at the beginning of the school year and use them for your scholarship applications all year round!

Besides asking in advance, selecting the right person to recommend you is crucial. If you’re trying to get a scholarship for foreign language study, a recommendation from a French teacher will be much more relevant than one from a physics teacher, for example. It’s also helpful to ask for a recommendation from someone who has witnessed your academic ability and/or personal character.

12. Keep Your Eye on the Prize!

Whatever you do, don’t lose hope during the application process! Figuring out how to get scholarships can seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but it’s 100% worth it in the end. Don’t be discouraged if you find that you’re not winning as many scholarships as you had hoped.

In the end, your patience and time can help you pay for college while avoiding dreaded student loans at the same time, leaving you in a significantly better financial situation after graduation.

how to get scholarships

What are your best tips on how to get scholarships? Share them with us below!

Want to bring your scholarship applications to the next level? Check out our list of awesome scholarship tips to help you save money on college tuition!

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