Marguerite Dennis, Higher Education Consultant
The best time to apply for scholarships will depend on how much research you have done on the schools you want to apply to. As you begin to investigate colleges and universities you may want to attend, you should, at the same time, research the type of scholarships each of the schools on your list offer students. Colleges and universities cannot award scholarships until an applicant is accepted. So the earlier you apply, the better your chances for being considered for school-based aid. Colleges and universities offer two types of scholarships: merit-based and need-based. Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students with specific talents. Academic scholarships, musical scholarships and athletic scholarships, are examples of merit-based awards. These scholarships are not based on financial need. However, most scholarships have specific stipulations, like graduating within a specific period of time or maintaining a certain grade point average. So be certain to check for requirements.
Need-based scholarships are awarded to students on the basis of financial need, measured, in part, on your family's ability to contribute. You should fill out the federal government's free form to determine eligibility, (FAFSA), as soon as possible. This will give you the best chance of being awarded financial aid based on your family's income.
Colleges and universities have a specific amount of money to award, so if you know where you want to apply, do so as soon as possible. This will increase your chances of being awarded either merit-based or need-based aid.
In addition to school-based aid, you should check out the federal government's website for scholarships and/or grants. Go to www.federalscholarships.com and review the terms and conditions for receiving scholarship and grant assistance from the federal government. Do the same for your state scholarship program. You are also eligible to apply for scholarships on your own.But again it is wise to check with the schools on your list. Some schools will deduct the amount of outside scholarships from your total financial aid package.