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Francesca Kelly, a former


AFSA News editor, is currently

the university counselor at QSI

International School in Tbilisi,

Georgia, as well as a private

essay tutor. She writes frequently on college

admissions for the




aying for college in

the United States

can be a herculean

task. But some of

the burden can be

reduced with scholar-

ships. Unlike loans,

scholarships and

grants are gifts—and a gift is always better

than a loan.

The best source of funding—“inside”

funding—comes in the form of merit

scholarships and need-based grants from

the colleges themselves. These are often

renewed each year, as long as you keep

your grades up and have no disciplinary

problems while in college.

Merit-based scholarships are awarded

tion of grants and loans, often adminis-

tered by the federal government, such as

Pell Grants or Stafford Loans.

Previously, this form was not avail-

able until Jan. 1, creating challenges for

students and schools trying to connect

admissions decisions and financial aid

decisions. Starting this year, the FAFSA became available on Oct. 1 and require


the previous year’s tax information

(2015), which should alleviate delays in

processing federal aid decisions.

Once you submit the FAFSA, you

almost immediately receive a number

for “Estimated Family Contribution” (the

EFC), which serves as a guide for what

you can expect to receive in need-based

financial aid.

Actual financial aid packages vary

from school to school and will be sent to

you with your acceptance letter or shortly


Other Sources of Funds

There are many additional, private

(“outside”) sources for scholarship

based on grades, test scores and other

achievements. If a college really wants

you to attend, you will often get a letter

announcing a merit-based scholarship

long before the usual April 1 acceptance

notification, as those are not based on

financial need.

It pays to research colleges with large

endowments that can afford to give out

more money, as well as the many excel-

lent private colleges that are less selective

than the “top tier.” They often generously

award students who rank in the top 25

percent of their high school class.

Need-Based Aid

Need-based financial aid is a differ-

ent story. But it’s worth reviewing the

basics of this, because there is increasing

overlap in the forms required for both

need-based and merit assistance.

To be considered for federal aid, the

student must submit the Free Applica-

tion for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA

determines eligibility for need-based aid,

which is generally awarded in a combina-

Finding Money

for College

A Guide to Scholarships

Scholarships can lighten the financial burden of a college education.

Here are some tips on finding them.