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Scholarship Basics

Merit Scholarships 

Most schools review your application for their initial round of merit scholarships, without a separate scholarship application. For example, ASU’s priority deadline is December 1, and all students applying by that deadline will be considered for a merit award. Each school bases the merit money they award on a combination of Grade Point Average, rigor of curriculum (difficulty of coursework, e.g. honors and/ or AP classes), SAT or ACT scores, class rank and application essays (not all schools require an essay for admission).

Every school will have information about scholarships and financial aid on their website. Requirements, opportunities, and due dates will vary, so check the website of each of the schools on your list. Schools have other scholarships you can apply for which will require an application; the application may include letters of recommendation and/or a brief essay.There are a variety of sites to search for other scholarships. Check out the Web Links page.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is based on completing the FAFSA. You will want to complete your income taxes in January (or be able to estimate) so that you can complete the FAFSA. When you have submitted the information, you will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) which will indicate if you are eligible for financial aid.

Financial aid can be grants, work/study and low interest loans. Many schools ask that you file the FAFSA in order to be eligible for scholarships. The priority deadline for most financial aid for most schools is between February 15 and March 15, but check with the schools to confirm their due dates.

Go to for a financial aid estimator (select the Pay for College link). Another helpful website and

Some private schools require that you file the Profile; the website is


FAFSA ( stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Schools use the information from yourFAFSA to evaluate your eligibility for financial aid. To file the FAFSA, you will need two pin numbers. Go to You file the FAFSA in January when you are planning on attending college the following academic year. We recommend that you complete the application by mid-February. (The FAFSA can be filed beginning January 1; you have until June 30 to submit it. ) The application is online, and you will receive your Student Aid Report (SAR) in one to three days. The SAR is the form that tells you how much student aid you are eligible to receive. You can get assistance filing the FAFSA at College Goal Sunday. Check out to find out when and where College Goal Sunday is this year; there will be several locations (e.g., ASU, MCC etc.) so that you can find a convenient location. You can also get assistance by calling 1-800-433-3243. This application is free; if the site requires payment, you are on the wrong website. You will need you social security number, bank statements, mortgage and investment records, tax returns and W2 forms to complete the FAFSA.

Scholarship Web Links

Scholarship Tips

  • Check the websites out on a regular basis. New scholarships will continue to be posted throughout the school year.
  • Listen to your counselor about how to get a letter of recommendation; when you get a letter from someone, ask them for several generic copies.
  • Don’t give up! Be persistent.
  • Use a calendar to keep track of due dates
  • Use Google to search for scholarships that fit you. For example: "scholarships for children of educators."
  • There are scholarships that do not get awarded because no one applied: work hard and find them!
  • Every dollar counts. You can “stack” many scholarships; it just depends on the scholarship.
  • Once you have applied for a scholarship, you are halfway there on the next application. Keep copies of your applications and essays.
  • You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship.
Brooke Gabrielli,
Jan 16, 2014, 7:29 AM