Earn Free Money For College Today

By Trina Bernal

    If you’re reading this right now, drop everything and sign up for scholarships. Scholarships are time-sensitive. Some are due as soon as the end of November.
    Before you do anything, make sure you visit the website scholarships.com to “start your free search” to narrow down your post-high school prospects. From there, the process of applying for any scholarship, grant, or student loan will be easier. Also visit fafsa.gov to create a FAFSA (Federal Student Aid) account. If you’re interested in out-of-state colleges, tuition costs more but it’s still doable. If you’re interested in out-of-country colleges, there are scholarships specific to international students.

    We have scholarships, one-time money orders for incoming college students to fulfill their tuition. You can pay one-time or monthly, and they can even last you all the way to your Ph.D. level studies. We have Cal Grants that cover your state college. We have student loans you repay after your college education.

Let’s cover the types of scholarships first:

    The non-essay scholarship is a popular student choice. Instead of personal-writing, it’s more about how you plan to contribute to your future college. Visit your guidance counselor or college supervisor. And ask for letters of recommendation by anyone who isn’t your family member. Make sure you ask at least two weeks in advance for better chances of a good letter of recommendation. One of our Benicia High students, Ai Lorprasert (12), applied for a noteworthy scholarship. It’s called NCWIT Aspirations, which is perfect for any girl high-schooler interested in computing and technology. For this you simply fill out an application and press submit. A word of advice Lorprasert wants to share is to “detach yourself from your own story to make it easier to write.”

    The essay scholarship is an easy process. You’re more likely to get in. Some requirements include having a certain GPA, having some level of financial need, or having good writing style. Remember this isn’t an essay you can just sloppily write. Plan ahead and ask for revisions from people you respect, like your parent, your teachers, your local librarian, or your counselor. Another scholarship Lorprasert (12) signed up for is ‘I matter’, where you submit high school transcripts, two letters of rec, a resume, and a 1-2 page essay on whether social media affects your political view. Apply today, because the deadline is March 31, 2018 with a $5,000 award.

    The easy scholarship is, well, easy. It’s a minimal yet enjoyable application process. All you need is an accomplishment, like participation in service projects or winning photography contests. Maybe refer a friend to a scholarship app for $1,000 (see The “Tell A Friend” Scholarship Sweepstakes).

    And lastly we have the unusual scholarship. Basically, look up anything you’re interested in. For example, there’s the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest. For this you must be a high school senior in the US and you must successfully do four types of duck calls within 90 seconds. There’s also scholarships for unique last names.
    Let’s not forget about the grants however. We have Cal Grant A, appropriate for UC and CSU’s, Cal Grant B, appropriate for community colleges, and Cal Grant C, appropriate for occupational or career technical schools.
    In addition, we have student loans. If done correctly, your entire post-secondary ed tuition would be covered. Two categories of student loans exist: federal and private. Federal is divided into subsidized loan, where you pay after your schooling is done, and unsubsidized loan, where you pay during your schooling. A federal loan you can apply for is Stafford Loan, a low-interest loan sought after by college students whose overall tuition couldn’t be covered by scholarships alone. Be vigil with this, because if the money sum passes borrowing limits, you cannot take out the Stafford Loan.
    I’ve also had the privilege of interviewing Benicia High School’s scholarship program chair, and our colleges and career counselor, Mrs. Lisa Douglass, about scholarships.

    What experience do you have that makes you the acclaimed individual we all go to when we need college guidance?

    My background is higher education. Ten years at St. Mary’s and five years as a higher-education lobbyist for all the private colleges in California. As well as an undergraduate degree at St. Mary’s business. I also have a business-law and a graduate degree in counseling and communications. I maintain good contacts at the places I’ve worked; UC’s, CSU’s, private, and non-private colleges.

    Future college students start here in room H-109. How do you do it?

    All students feel they have some kind of a plan set when they graduate and that they feel like a winner. So I help nurture that by providing workshops, resume-building workshops, and mock interviews.

    Where should students start with scholarships if they don’t know where to start?

    I always tell students and families ‘never have money be the reason you don’t pursue your dreams’. There are 30-40 great community donors. Last year, a total of $1.2 million scholarships (from colleges and universities) was awarded to 62 seniors. The community really wants to help our students. It’s phenomenal. Good websites to look at are Unigo.com, Goingmerry.com, and Cappex. I give hints. Seniors need to take a workshop I can offer. There’s a lot of money out there; you just have to roll up your sleeves and find it. There are also Access Events during block days, which are post-high-school/college-oriented events you can apply for on the school website.

    What are the types of scholarships students can apply for?

    There’s Merit scholarships given by colleges. St. Mary’s College of California, my alma mater, gave two full-ride pay each year, times four, for two students. $53,000 a piece for two students times four. Dominican University in San Rafael gave $58,000 for one student times four. It was amazing, very exciting. There are the Local ones where you might be an artist. You can perform or submit an art portfolio. Random (parents’ employers, medical). Looking online for scholarships can be daunting, but actual scholarships don’t ask you to pay. Make sure you also check Fafsa.gov. FAFSA is a form that helps you see if you get grant aid from state of California, starting in October, ending in March.

    Any other tips?

    Cast a wide net. Start early. Visit Naviance, then under ‘About Me’ tab. You’ll see the scholarships. There’s a file cabinet in H-108 by the reception area in alphabetical order (January at front and December at back). Ask your parents, employers, look up local hospitals. Branch out. I don’t give tests, bring your questions.
    No matter your path after high school, there’s something for everyone. Start early (talking to you freshmen) and be diligent in your applications for free college money.

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