Tips to fund yourself through financial aid

According to UCC’s Student Self Serve, the average annual cost of attendance for a full time student totals at $11,664. Compared to the $27,502 cost of attendance most four-year colleges have, community college presents an opportunity to run the same race without paying an arm and a leg. That being said, money is still a huge obstacle for many students on campus. Although ASUCC provides resources like gas cards, food, backpacks and even rides to and from campus, some students struggle with homelessness on top of work and academic responsibilities. Filling out scholarships and other financial aid can help relieve stress and potentially pay for student’s academic endeavors.

According to FastWeb, a website that offers scholarships at a national level, over $2.9 billion dollars went unused in the free federal grant money in 2015 and that in 2013 47% of high school graduates didn’t even complete the FAFSA. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a huge opportunity because it is a chance to get free money through the government for education. This application also opens up opportunities for the Pell Grant and Federal Work Study. Even in the case that students will not receive Federal Aid, most scholarships still require a completed FAFSA application. The FAFSA application for the 2018-2019 school year closes on June 30, 2019, and the application for the 2019-2020 school year will open on Oct. 1, 2018. This type of financial aid is awarded based on need and on a first come first serve basis, so it is important to submit the application as soon as possible.

It is important to note that when filling out the online FAFSA application, or any scholarship application, that you verify the legitimacy of the website or scholarship fund. These websites usually end in a .org or .gov to indicate ties to an organization or government office. There are several faux scholarship applications out there that only exist to steal information from students and sell their identity information to the highest bidder. With the exception of FAFSA and the OSAC application, scholarships should not need a social security number. Many scholarships ask for information like an address or proof of residence, names of dependents, the highest level of education of parents, G.P.A. and an essay on a provided prompt. For those worried about securing their information, FAFSA allows applicant’s to apply with a FSA ID instead of using sensitive information to sign in.

Although many applications ask similar prompts, it is important to make each response unique to each application. Scholarship essays should show an individual connection as a student as well as how the applicant plans to use their knowledge after graduation. For example, on this year’s OSAC application, they asked applicants to write about:
• What are your specific educational plans and career goals and why? What inspires you to achieve them?
• What have you done for your family or community that you care about the most and why?
• Describe a personal accomplishment and the strengths and skills you used to achieve it.
• Describe a significant change or experience that has occurred in your life. How did you respond and what did you learn about yourself?

These prompts are open ended so that students have the freedom to write about many different experiences, but it is always important to remember who the audience is. Scholarship committees want to fund students that will accomplish their goals and give back to their communities. Overcoming something like a drug addiction may speak to the applicant’s ability to thrive in any condition but may send the wrong message to scholarship committees.

The 2018-2019 OSAC application closed earlier this month, but the application will reopen for the 2019-2020 school year around January. It is important to fill out OSAC as soon as possible because this application is only open to Oregon students and the odds of receiving a state scholarship are far better than receiving a national one.

UCC’s website has a small scholarship section under the Cost & Aid tab. Outside scholarship applications as well as links to the UCC Foundation Scholarship Application can be found and accessed. The UCC Foundation offers several scholarships to further fund students who plan on attending UCC for the next academic year. Since these scholarships are limited only to UCC students the odds of receiving one of these scholarships are far higher compared to receiving a national or state scholarship.

Students who are transferring to four-year schools may want to spend some time navigating their school’s website. Most schools offer schoolwide scholarships as well as scholarships for certain majors. These scholarships often require an additional application to be filled out and ask the applicant to provide contact information for the financial aid office should they need any additional information.

On top of essays, scholarships can ask for additional information like family trees, an activities chart or letters of reference. Scholarship committees look for students who fill their time productively. It is not uncommon to have activities like paid work, volunteering or extracurriculars listed on the activities chart with a short description of the activity and an average of total hours spent in said activity.

Several scholarships look to fund a specific kind of student and many scholarships exist to support students of color, female students, first-generation or non-traditional students or even sight impaired left-handed vegetarians. Websites like FastWeb can be checked regularly for opportunities that are more specific as they usually have little competition. When finished completing an application, students can have a Peer Mentor, tutor or counselor double check that everything is in order.

For additional information visit:
UCC’s Peer Mentors in the Student Center
UCC’s Free Tutors in the Library’s Success Center
Federal Application for Student Aid
Office of Student Access and Completion

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