shaun-85Just in time for the scariest holiday, I thought I would share a few of the fears that I had while trudging through the seemingly endless college process and provide a few choice words of encouragement and wisdom for you high school seniors!

When I began applying to colleges, I had already done most of the grunt work, just as I’m sure many of you have: established a strong GPA, received high standardized test scores, done well on my junior year APs, and secured those important letters of recommendation. My biggest fear was that, despite all of the work I had done, I would not be able to afford the college that I wanted to go to.

In order to make sure that you have the costs covered, I would recommend doing several things. First of all, apply to any and all scholarships available to you. Yes, this is time consuming, and you might be tempted to not apply for the “little” five hundred dollar scholarships, but you never know what you might get, and that $500 will pay for a semester of textbooks. Also, do not rule schools out that have awesome scholarship programs just because you do not initially think that it is one of your top choices. I never thought I would end up at Washington and Lee, but I saw that they gave out a high number of scholarships every year, and I applied. During the application process, which included visiting campus and meeting students, I found that W&L was not only a perfect match for me financially but the perfect place for me as a person, too! Always give a school a chance, because you never know where you might end up. Don’t rule anything out too soon.

One scholarship in particular I wish more people knew about is the Questbridge Scholarship Program, which provides amazing financial support for low-income families. I am not a Questbridge Scholar myself, but I have several friends who are, so if anyone has questions about the program, let me know and they would be more than happy to help. Additionally, Wells Fargo, Best Buy, and Lowes all have very general scholarships that they give out monthly or annually to college applicants. Every dollar helps!

In terms of financial aid, if you have a special situation, be sure to tell the school about it. If you have a parent that is out of the picture or an added expense that isn’t represented on the financial aid forms, you and your college advisor (or parent) can work together to write a letter to a school’s financial aid program explaining your situation more in detail (this is particularly helpful in the case that a non-custodial parent has a significant income but refuses to contribute). Never be afraid to actively petition for the aid you need, because you have nothing to lose, but possibly quite a bit to gain.

The application process for financial aid and scholarships is long and often tiresome, but the important thing to keep in mind is that, if you keep at it, you will get the support that you need! There are many great scholarships out there, just for you, and if you try for them, you are more than likely going to be successful.