Georgann Yara

Students seeking scholarship must get paperwork ready now

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For most high school seniors, their last year of school is a chance to take a slight breather: enroll in a few elective classes, eat lunch off campus and carry a lighter schedule.

But the end of fall marks the beginning of the scholarship season, when college-bound seniors and their parents must get their ducks in a row to get the optimum shot at non-loan tuition funds.

“If their son or daughter is a junior, they need to think what they need to have in place. In the fall of their senior year, they need to get paperwork in. Start looking during the summer before their senior year,” says Mistalene Calleroz, assistant vice president for university student initiatives for Arizona State University.

“If you wait until the last minute, the pool of money is not available that was earlier.”

Often one scholarship is not enough to foot the bill. Many scholarship winners end up also taking out loans or applying for multiple scholarships.

The first step is filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is the easiest way to apply for federal student financial aid because most states and schools use the information to award financial aid. Students should aim to get their application and all supporting documents, which include family financial documents, ready to go by Jan. 1.

Calleroz says high school seniors should apply to ASU by Dec. 1 in order to be automatically considered for merit-based scholarships upon admission. Students who have high grade point averages or are in the top 5 percent of their class will likely be awarded a scholarship.

There are a variety of scholarships available for the nonathlete or nonhonors student, as many schools offer scholarships based on need and potential. ASU’s Maroon and Gold Scholarship is reserved for first-generation students from low-income families. There is also the Hispanic Community Partnership Scholarship Program, a joint venture among organizations, including Chicanos por la Causa, the Hispanic Women’s Corporation, and the National Hispanic Scholarship programs.

The fact is that there is a scholarship for everyone, whether they are based on ethnicity, income, gender, major or talent. Doing the research is the best way to access all of them.

“A lot of them don’t require a 4.0. They’re looking for someone who articulates well, works hard. Some are very general, some are specific,” Calleroz says. “They’re looking for stories behind the numbers.”

USEFUL LINKS

• Arizona State University: www.asu.edu/fa

• University of Arizona: http://web.arizona.edu/~scholar/scholars.htm

• Northern Arizona University: http://www4.nau.edu/finaid/

• FAFSA: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/before003.htm

NEED TO KNOW:

• Deadlines vary by scholarship, so be sure to confirm and keep track of them.

• From the student, applications usually require a personal statement, the field of interest, high school transcript and list of extracurricular activities.

• From parents, applications may require financial documents, including income tax, mortgage and bank statements.

• Look for free scholarship search Web sites; many are listed on school Web sites.

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