After months of filling out applications, writing essays, requesting recommendation letters and finalizing documents, seniors can finally say that the college application process is coming to an end. However, the reality of the neverending journey of college preparation starts to sink in for upperclassmen, as scholarship application portals are on the brink of closing.
Since the fall months, the NHS counseling department has stressed the importance of searching for scholarships to help students fund their secondary education. Many students are unaware about the possible opportunities, with counselors emphasizing how there are scholarships available for everyone.
“Many students really just think scholarships are going to fall in their lap, that they’re suddenly going to appear,” counselor and scholarship liaison Ella Fravel said. “Some wait for somebody like a counselor or an employee or something to say, here’s a scholarship. That’s what I’ve seen since I’ve been at Naples High. The biggest thing is, most of the kids aren’t looking, and then they wonder why they don’t get it.”
With college tuition already being significantly high for institutions, especially those that are private and out-of-state, living expenses are becoming increasingly high for students. Even if tuition is paid for, students will still need to budget for housing, food, transportation and other daily expenses.
The process of applying to scholarships is known to be tedious, and writing additional essays is the last thing that any senior would like to do after just finishing college supplementals. However, preparing for these costs now is critical to building a more stable college life with finances properly allocated.
“A lot of the money goes untouched. The money’s out there, and it is a lot of work,” Fravel said. “It’s a process to apply, [write] essays and [ask for] letters of recommendation.”
The Collier Community Foundation is a website where Collier County students can apply for local scholarships in an efficient way. Only one application is needed, and once submitted, students are eligible for numerous scholarships, depending on their academics, extracurricular activities and other distinguishing criteria. Scholarship Connector is another site that allows students to find matching scholarships based on a filter that sorts their academic and personal profile.
“Look at the local scholarships, that’s where the bulk of the money is,” Fravel said. “Your chances of getting national scholarships is much less because you’re competing against kids all over the country.”
Most seniors already completed the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), which opened on Oct. 1. The CSS Profile, by College Board, is another application that some schools require, as it provides non-federal aid to students.
Counselors stress, however, that students should not solely rely on the FAFSA and CSS Profile to fund their education. Depending on family income and other circumstances, these aid programs can be quite limited in terms of money provided. Without ensuring multiple sources of funding, students run the risk of becoming drowned in student debt as they rush to take out loans.
In addition to scholarships offered by local charities and organizations, some colleges also have a range of grants that are given to eligible, admitted students. The quality of a student’s application in terms of past academic performance in classes, standardized test scores, essays and activities are the credentials most commonly used to evaluate qualification for these awards, rather than financial status.
“There are also institutional scholarships, but those are merit-based,” counselor Jennifer Correa said. “Private schools tend to give a little more in scholarships, but their price tag is also going to be significantly higher than a state university.”
The Bright Futures Scholarship Program is another opportunity that is available for those students who are planning to attend a college in Florida. The program has various levels that a student may earn, with the Florida Academic Scholars receiving an award equal to 100% of tuition at participating colleges. A qualifying GPA, standardized test score (SAT or ACT) and 100 volunteer hours are needed to be eligible. When submitting volunteer hours on Transeo, students must tag their hours for Bright Futures in order for them to be approved. A full list of requirements may be found here.
The full cost of tuition and other fees will be sent out by colleges after a student gets admitted to their institution. Then, students and their families are able to compare offers from the available colleges and make a decision before the enrollment deposit date of May 1.
“Once you get accepted, you’re going to get a financial aid package directly from the financial aid office,” Fravel said. “They’re going to give you the Estimated Family Contribution cost (EFC).”
Although the college and scholarship application process is undoubtedly a stressful time for seniors, setting a solid foundation for the future is critical for upperclassmen as their time as Golden Eagles is slowly coming to an end.
“The best advice I can give seniors or any of the students is to form a relationship with your counselor and listen to what we tell you,” Fravel said. “Don’t be afraid to step forward and come to your counselor, because that’s what we’re here for.”