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Financial Aid and Scholarships
Although they are a form of financial aid, most scholarships are based primarily or solely on merit, while financial aid, in the sense that most people think about it, is based primarily on need.
Scholarships are available from a wide range of organizations including private and philanthropic associations, special interest groups, businesses, governmental entities, and the colleges themselves. These are almost universally based on some notion of “merit” or on a desired quality, personal interest, or characteristic of the student. There may also be a need component.
The process of applying for scholarships is nearly as varied as the scholarships themselves. The primary task is finding a source of scholarship money and then researching its procedures and requirements.
Colleges and Universities
Colleges and universities make a variety of scholarships available to its students. These scholarships may be based on any or a combination of the following: academic performance (GPA, rank in class, etc.), leadership and extracurricular involvement, community service, and athletics.
With the exception of those given for athletics, most college and university scholarships are awarded based on information contained in the admissions application and accompanying materials. For these, no additional steps need to be taken other than applying to the college before the scholarship deadline. A limited number of scholarships, however, may have specific and unique requirements, including a specialized application process, additional recommendations, essays, special deadlines, etc. You should check with the school regarding the requirements for its scholarships.
Private Organizations and Businesses
Literally thousands of organizations across the country offer scholarships for various reasons and to various constituencies. There are so many, in fact, that it may be impossible to apply to all the scholarships for which one is eligible. Being eligible for a scholarship, however, does not mean that one has a great chance of winning it. A certain amount of judgment needs to be exercised in knowing for how many and to which scholarships one has the time and energy to apply.
The best way to research private scholarships is to establish a Fastweb account (www.fastweb.com). Fastweb maintains what is probably the largest scholarship data base in the country, and access to its information is free. Establishing an account requires answering some biographical questions and creating a user name and password. Fastweb uses the information you provide in order to identify those scholarships for which you might be eligible or interested. As the application periods for these scholarships arrive, Fastweb will alert you by email and then post the information to your Fastweb mailbox.
Additionally, you should check in the Guidance Department and on the Naviance website for information about scholarships to which you can apply. The Guidance Department adds to its list of scholarships as information arrives in its office.
State of Maryland Scholarships
The State of Maryland also provides scholarship opportunities for its residents. Information about these can be found by linking to the Maryland Higher Education Commission at www.mhec.state.md.us. Although there are rare circumstances that allow otherwise, scholarships from the State of Maryland must be used at a college or university located within the state.
Applying for financial aid begins with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Since much of the financial aid that colleges disburse comes from the federal government, submitting this form is required. Information about the FAFSA, including procedures and deadlines, can be found at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
The FAFSA must be filed as soon as possible after October 1 of senior year. Each organization or school that uses the FAFSA for the purpose of awarding aid has its own unique deadline. You should file the FAFSA prior to the earliest deadline of the organizations from which you are seeking aid, but in no case prior to October 1.
Because schools may also supplement financial aid with money from their own endowments, some have additional forms that you are required to fill out. The CSS Profile (http://student.collegeboard.org/css-financial-aid-profile) is one such form, but some colleges have their own unique forms. You should check with every school to which you apply in order to find out which forms each requires, and when they are due.
Catholic High holds a College Financial Aid Seminar for seniors and their parents, typically in December or January. Please check the school calendar for the date and time.