Save with Scholarships!

A Smart Approach to Lowering College Debt

by Kristine Worthington – April 13, 2017

Rising college debt is a real problem for students and their families. Is there a way to reduce the financial burden of attending college? Yes, scholarship money. Families and students are often overwhelmed by the process of applying for scholarships. Students feel like they won’t qualify for a scholarship due to their household income or insufficient GPA level. According to the experts, there are scholarship opportunities out there for everyone. Scholarship money is a gift that does not need to be paid back, but how do you find a scholarship? We went to a local expert to get some clear answers. John Szentesy is the Associate Director of Financial Aid at Mansfield University. He gave us valuable tips to help students and families successfully attack the scholarship application process.

Mr. Szentesy suggests that students must apply for as many scholarships as possible. Students should investigate local opportunities available through community groups, schools, and local businesses. But don’t stop there. There are several quality online search engines that will help you identify a variety of scholarship options that fit your situation. Mr. Szentesy specifically recommended the following search engines: Fastweb.com, Cappex.com, and Chegg.com. By filling out the profile completely, including the optional questions, you can increase the number of scholarship matches. By setting up profiles on multiple sites, you can identify more scholarship opportunities. When choosing scholarship search engines, check how often their data is updated and whether they keep your information private. Mr. Szentesy warns students to avoid online resources that require payment to help you find scholarships.

Universities often provide scholarship opportunities for their accepted students. Eligibility for many University scholarships depends on completion of a FASFA, Free Application for Student Financial Aid. Be sure that you access the free FASFA application through FASFA.gov. Mr. Szentesy informed us that Mansfield University has hundreds of scholarships for incoming students. The scholarship opportunities for new students at MU do not require a formal application. Many of the scholarships are awarded based on academic merit which is determined by SAT scores, class rank, and grade point average. Upper classman at the University need to complete application forms to be considered for available scholarship possibilities.

It is best to start seeking scholarships early. High school juniors should determine what universities they are applying to and what scholarships may be available in the major they are pursuing. Find out when the application deadlines are and submit your application before the stated deadline. That being said, do not think it is too late to apply. It is generally true that scholarships that require extra steps like writing an essay or doing community service will have less applicants. Clearly, your chance of winning the scholarship increases when there is less competition. Writing a couple quality essays to submit with a variety of scholarships is a good strategy. The essay is an important part of the application; therefore, it should be written well and proofread. Furthermore, larger scholarships often get many applicants thus making them more difficult to get.

Remember, your goal should be to narrowing down the scholarships that you may be competing for. Mr. Szentesy mentioned a scholarship for a left handed Biology major. That is not a joke. There are many unique niche scholarship opportunities that relate to hobbies, nationalities, and majors of study, just to name a few. Experts at college financial aid offices are eager to help students find the special scholarship opportunities that they qualify for. Contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend. Mr. Szentesy stated you don’t need to be the valedictorian or salutatorian of the school to be a competitive scholarship applicant.
Every student has a chance to decrease your college expenses with a little bit of effort. Know that help is available from many scholarships sources. Keep these goals in mind as you move forward: minimize the competition, cast a wide net, and ask experts at your target school for help. Do not forget, there is no need to pay for help with your college financial needs.

Credits:
Videography: Andrew Moore, Erin O’Shea
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Kristine Worthington
Correspondent: Kristine Worthington

Produced by Vogt Media
Supported by Laurel Health Center, Mansfield University

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