How to find scholarships and grants

Finding the money: jumpstart your search

College can be really expensive. However, you may not know there is free money out there, waiting for you. You just have to know where to find it. Scholarships and grants are a good way to reduce the cost of college, but finding and qualifying for this money may take some thinking ahead. Here are some tips to jumpstart your scholarship search:

Grants and scholarships, oh my!
Grants and scholarships are forms of aid that you don’t have to pay back. In other words, grants and scholarships are free money. (However, you might have to pay back part or all of a grant if you withdraw from school before finishing an enrollment period.) Of course, that doesn’t mean getting them is easy. Some grants, like the Pell Grant through the U.S. government, are for students who have exceptional financial need and require filling out forms to apply. Some scholarships operate more like scholarship contests and require an essay or creative submission in order be considered.

Start your search
Begin your search for grants and scholarships by making a list of things that make you unique and potentially worthy of support from an organization. How are you different from other students? Why might you benefit from extra financial support? Scholarships are often funded by organizations that want to further a specific cause. If you have a specific artistic or musical talent, you might be able to get funding to study your craft. If you are a member of a minority religious, racial, or ethnic group, a church or community organization might offer money to help you achieve your dreams. There are tons of scholarships out there, awarded for everything from veteran status and sexual orientation to athletic ability and country of ancestry. The opportunities are vast, so don’t be afraid the think outside the box.

Use your resources
You might find great scholarships through a free scholarship database like Tuition Funding Sources (TFS), TFS effectively matches applicants with scholarships based on their own unique goals and interests providing access to over 7 million scholarships totaling more than $41 billion to help pay for college. Or dive into Wells Fargo’s guide to finding scholarships and grants for additional ideas to get started, but that is not all. Ask around in your communities; your school counselor, pastor, coach, or mentor may know of a local scholarship that’s right for you. Ask other people in your life how they afforded to go to college. Perhaps you can qualify for the same scholarship your friend’s older sister earned the year before.

Maximize your odds
The more scholarships you apply for, the more chances you have to earn much-needed cash for college. Start applying early in order to maximize the amount of money you qualify for. Don’t hold back. You never know where you’ll find your break.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to paying for college, but good planning and creative thinking can often help ease college expenses. Start now and hopefully you’ll be rolling in scholarship stipends by the time the acceptance letters come pouring in.

Tagged , , , | Be the first to comment

Five tips to better prepare your students for the SAT/ACT

As you’re aware, the SAT and ACT are right around the corner. By now your students may feel comfortable in the standardized test arena, but may not feel confident about the two with the biggest stakes. Here are five useful tips to help equip them for the big day.

  • Provide a study workbook. One thing that makes the SAT and ACT different is their unique format and timing. For this reason, we recommend SAT and ACT workbooks, found online or at your local bookstore. By letting students get familiar with practice test materials, they can master its cadence in a penalty-free space. That way they won’t be caught off guard on the big day.
  • Recharge for optimum performance. Strongly encourage your students to get at least eight or nine hours of rest before the big day. As with any test, a student’s mind needs to be performing at its best, especially on the day of the exam.
  • Offer an SAT prep class. Give your students an early jump on studying so they know the material along with the layout of the test beforehand. SAT preparatory classes are provided online or at most schools, and offer the ability to hone in on test-taking skills while boosting confidence. As you know, the tests don’t measure what students can cram in the week before, but instead, what students have learned throughout their education.
  • Provide a reading list. The SAT is more language-focused than the ACT. It’s also chock full of words that your students may be unfamiliar with – that’s because a percentage of language is pulled from colloquialisms, region-specific nouns, or terms that don’t see much light in 2015. But this doesn’t mean you need to cram a ton of vocabulary lessons into their daily routine. Classic literature can help students improve their comprehension skills as well as expand their vocabulary.
  • Guessing vs. skipping. In the past, guessing on the SAT was not recommended because it could hurt a student’s score. However, starting this year, the SAT has taken a new approach to the grading system and will only be counting the correct answers — just like on the ACT. Whichever test they’re taking, instruct your students to go ahead and give a difficult question their best guess instead of skipping ahead.

Do you have any useful tips to help better prepare students for the big testing day? Share your expertise with fellow school counselors and the Wells Fargo Community.

Tagged , , | Be the first to comment

Last chance for seniors to take the SAT or ACT

If your senior wants a final chance to take the SAT or ACT test, be sure he or she gets registered by the deadlines.

You can help your student prepare for these tests by encouraging them to study and take practice tests online in the weeks leading up to the test. There are online test prep options for the both the SATand the ACT.

Then, as the test gets closer, encourage your student to relax and take care. Talk to your student about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep before the exams, and eating a good breakfast on test morning.

Be sure to check out where the test site is located ahead of time, and have your student double-check that they have all their materials ready to go the night before the test. Here’s a checklist for ACT test takers. And here’s one for SAT test takers.

Tagged , , , , , | Be the first to comment

How to get into college

Three tips to help you stay on track

College can supply you with the tools needed to operate within a vast and complicated world. In studying for your next economics final, you’re also preparing for the real economic and social obstacles that await post-graduate life. But before you enter your new college life, there are a number of things to iron out depending on what school you’re trying to get into. No matter what you choose, here are three simple steps to help ensure you stay on track:

  • Research your dream school

Researching the school you want to go to means more than a walk through campus with a potential classmate. Do your due diligence to make sure the college offers the program you’re looking for, the classes that fulfill your educational needs, and the environment that suits your personality. After you’ve found your goldilocks campus, you will have much clearer idea of what you need for your application.

Perhaps your dream school is an in-state university that doesn’t require letters of recommendation, but has a great journalism program that requires a separate exam for admission. Scratch the standard “request letters of recommendation” off your to-do list and start brushing up on the exam requirements in its place.

  • Identify scholarship opportunities

After all your application materials are in hand, you’re ready to start applying to those dream schools. Before you take that step, take a look at the room and board and yearly tuition of each school. Out of budget? It may be time to look into scholarship opportunities.

There a variety of ways to find scholarships that can be applied across a multitude of fields and needs. Just remember: your needs are specific, so be sure to search for financial aid opportunities that are appropriate for your personal and academic qualifications.

  • Evaluate student loan options

The final element of this trifecta is evaluating your need for student loans. Though many students will start with federal loan options, these loans may be limited to basic funds that might not cover the full cost of college. Students looking for additional funding options may turn to private student loans as another option to fill the financial gaps.

The journey to a college degree is exciting, and a time of great academic exploration. Enjoy your journey in finding the college and education plan that is a good fit for you.

Tagged , , , , , | Be the first to comment

Laying out the college roadmap

Senior year is a busy time for students as they get ready for college. Fall of senior year is a good time for parents to step in and help lay out the roadmap of the goals and deadlines that will guide your student through all the tasks involved in college preparation.

First semester: application time

Your student’s first semester will be focused on both college and scholarship applications, so talk with your student about making a plan for getting these completed:

  • What tasks are involved with each? Help your student break down each item into manageable mini-deadlines.
  • Who do they plan to ask for recommendations? Encourage your student to reach out to these adults early, to give them plenty of time to write a good recommendation.
  • When is the deadline for completing essays? Keep the earliest deadline in mind, and help your student work towards that.

Encourage your student to look ahead and build in enough time to get their applications sent in without any frantic late-night sessions, or last-minute requests for transcripts.

Second semester: all the details come together

Things really kick into high gear during the second semester, so you’ll want to help your student have another plan of action ready for the upcoming deadlines and decisions. Among the tasks your student should plan for are:

  • Completing the FAFSA. All students and parents should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after January 1. Gather tax documents and other necessary paperwork ahead of time to streamline the application process.
  • College selection. This may be the biggest task of the semester. Now is the time to compare award letters carefully and have your student make a decision. Next, be sure your student mails in the tuition deposit by the deadline in order to secure admission.
  • AP tests. If your student is taking an Advanced Placement (AP) class, encourage them to take the test that may allow them to gain college credit for the class. Look ahead to testing dates, get registered, and have your student talk with his or her AP teacher about how to prepare.
  • Orientation. College orientation can sometimes come up very quickly after graduation. Once your student has selected a college, look ahead to orientation dates and choose one that works with your family’s calendar. Register early to secure your preferred timeframe.
Tagged , | Be the first to comment

Extracurricular activities can help you land your dream school

As you begin your junior year, your academics are still critical, but it’s time to also consider how your extracurricular activities could improve your chances of being accepted into your dream college.

If you need to work, don’t worry. Having a part-time job may help demonstrate to admissions that you have good time-management and other transferrable skills. Interning and volunteering are also great ways to stand out. Imagine you’re applying for a coveted pre-med spot at a top school. Steady volunteering with a local hospital would show your dedication, make your application more appealing and possibly even open doors to field-specific scholarships.

Colleges are looking for well-rounded individuals with focus and drive – who can balance work, hobbies, sports, and school. Having a plan for your extracurricular activities will give you a leg up during the college admissions process and a better opportunity for receiving a scholarship. Here are a few resources to help you form your strategy:

  • Understand all of your options. Which activities do colleges want to see? Not only do colleges look at your grades and the difficulty level of your courses, but the activities you participate in during high school have an impact, too. Take a look at this list of extracurriculars that can impress admissions officers.
  • Be strategic in choosing extracurriculars. Form a plan to choose and prioritize your extracurricular activities. Read these great responses on strongchoosing extracurricular activities from current college students and school advisors who have been through the admissions process.
  • Think ahead and align your extracurricular activities with your career path.Position your job, hobbies, community service, and activities with a possible career path you are interested in. This will show college admissions counselors that you are focused and dedicated.
  • Do things you enjoy. This is your future, so make sure your strategy starts with a foundation of passion. Find activities, jobs, and community service that you truly like doing. Watch this video from a Dean of Undergraduate Admissions discussing what he looks for in extracurricular activities.
Tagged , , | Be the first to comment

Six ways to map out the year ahead

The upcoming school year is approaching fast, and there’s no question that you have a lot on your plate. By simply outlining your academic year, you can equip yourself to better prepare your students for college. Here are six ideas to help you map out the academic year and to prepare your students for the year ahead.

  • Improve your communication strategy. Plenty of communication resources are available to get the most from your interactions with students. With services like Remindand Hubspot, you can instantly and effectively connect with your students by allowing your advising office to streamline its messaging for the year. This will help you stay on top of your student communications, and it can even automate your tweets, texts, and emails.
  • Eliminate frequently asked questions. Are you spending a lot of time answering common questions from students in your one-on-one meetings? Time with your students is precious, so to be more effective during meeting times, empower students with the answers to common questions prior to your student-advisor meetings. Flyers, brochures, and emails are great communication methods to answer FAQs.
  • Provide your students with resources. Offer your students enlightening information on how to accomplish goals, stay organized, and choose the right AP classes. Help your students establish the right study skillsand effective time managementbefore taking on these more difficult classes.
  • Know college admissions better than anyone. The more you understand the college admissions process, the more you can increase your students’ and parents’ knowledge and confidence in the year ahead. Step into the shoes of your students and research all you can about applying to college.
  • Be present on social media. Plan out your posts ahead of time to remind students of application deadlines, testing dates, and even guest speakers. A professional Twitter or Facebook account will help you keep up with your students’ college interests as you post your own thoughts, along with resources for both students and parents.

How are you making the most of the upcoming year with your students? Take to Twitter and the Wells Fargo Community to share your advice.

Tagged , , | Be the first to comment

Kicking off junior year with a plan

Junior year is the time when most students start getting truly focused on college planning. With only two short years to go before they begin their college journey, it’s time to start making a checklist of things to be done to prepare your student for college. Check out some of the ideas listed below to get your student started on the major items to tackle during the first semester of junior year.

  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT. This standardized test is taken by high school sophomores and juniors every year, and the scores are used to determine whether your student qualify for the National Merit Scholarship Program. Check with your school counselor to find out when and where the test will be administered and what your student should do to prepare.
  • Plan for the SAT/ACT. Typically, students will take the SAT or ACT in the spring of their junior year. Check out the test dates and sites at or and help your student plan for when to take the test. Then, talk with your student about how to prep for the test, whether it’s to take a class or use online resources.
  • Consider scholarship options. Talk about the importance of securing as much free money for college as possible, and what types of scholarships might be appropriate for your student to seek out. Find scholarships that fit your student at, a scholarship database with over 7 million scholarships totaling more than $41 billion to help pay for college.
  • Start mapping out college choices. Your high school junior might not have a clear idea of what college he/she would like to attend, but now is the time to start getting serious about looking at schools and determining which ones may be worthy of a campus visit this spring. Talk with your student about the different types of schools out there – large universities, small private schools, those in urban areas, those in small towns, and get them thinking about what they might prefer. Work together with your student to look over college literature, pull up websites and talk with your student’s high school counselor to get some ideas about schools to explore.
Tagged , , | Be the first to comment

Getting ready for junior year

Your junior year is a good time to start preparing in earnest for college, and making a step-by-step plan to work through next year’s applications.

Meet with your school counselor about the year ahead. Ensure that your courses and your grades put you on the right track for college admission; there is still time to pull your grades up if you begin now. Also ask about test dates for the PSAT, ACT, and SAT, and find out if your school offers any test preparation classes, or if you qualify for a fee waiver.

Take the PSAT. You’ll need to register up to six weeks ahead of time, so look into this right away. Taking the test as a junior will qualify you for some scholarship consideration and identify you to colleges as a potential applicant. When you receive the results (usually in December), review them to learn more about your strengths and weaknesses. Discuss the results with your family and school counselor to make a study plan for the ACT or SAT.

Consider your extracurriculars. If you haven’t participated in many activities outside of class, now is the time to look at signing up. Decide which clubs at schools, team sports, leadership roles, or involvement in your religious or civic community group would best fit your interests and talents and make a commitment. Colleges prefer to see serious involvement, over shallow engagements.

Begin researching scholarships. Start bookmarking links and keeping track of the names and due dates for scholarships that need to be completed in the future. You may find some that you can qualify for with one additional class or activity, and now you have the time to get that extra qualification. To get started with an online scholarship search, go to Tuition Funding Sources. This website offers students access to over 7 million scholarships totaling more than $41 billion in scholarship awards, along with a career aptitude test and detailed college and career information.

Tagged , , , , , , , | Be the first to comment

How to plan for college costs

Senior year is decision-making time for college-bound students. For many families, cost is a big part of that decision. As you and your student work through college choices, take some time to work through the cost details, so you’re certain about how different colleges compare.

Consider what the college can offer. Some colleges offer institutional aid that can help reduce their overall costs. Grants, scholarships and Work-Study jobs can help minimize the debt your student will need to take on. Find out what your school can offer in this arena, in addition to opportunities for scholarships and grants that your student may be seeking independently.

Make use of the Net Price Calculator. Start your research by checking out the Net Price Calculator of the colleges that interest your student. Each college should have one on their website, though you may have to search for it. The Net Price Calculator will help you estimate the amount your student will have to pay for tuition, room and board, books, etc., after scholarships and grants are applied.

Look into cost details. There may be some opportunities for wiggle room when comes to cost. Housing is usually one: are there some dorms that cost less than others? Are there ways to trim costs on meal plans? Buying or renting used textbooks when possible is a tried and true way to save money when fall rolls around. Save money on transportation by looking into bus passes with a student discount, and leave the car at home, if possible.

Make a budget. While you still have plenty of time to work out the details, it’s never too early to start putting together a preliminary college budget—you can always tweak it as time goes on and you have a better idea of specific expenses. Work together with your student to think through the costs that may come up during the first semester of college. It’s a good exercise for students to dig into the details of where their money will go next fall. With tuition costs as high as they are, it’s hard for students to get a sense of what those large figures mean. A monthly budget gives them a realistic place to begin managing their money, and will help them anticipate how a monthly student loan payment could factor in down the road.

Tagged , , | Be the first to comment