Items you will need
- FAFSA form
- Online access
- Transcript letter
- Explanatory letter
Earning a college degree can be expensive, including tuition, student fees, accommodation, transportation and books. Financial aid, such as grants, loans and work-study programs, can help reduce overall expenses for college students. Some financial aid is merit-based, so you’ll need to provide transcripts from your current college or former colleges attended. Others are need-based and don’t take transcripts into account.
Fill out the FAFSA form, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Government aid can take the form of loans, grants and work-study programs. Most of these options are need-based, so although you’ll need to provide extensive financial documentation (for example, tax returns or assets statements) it won’t be necessary to provide transcripts from former colleges. You will need to meet minimum requirements for satisfactory progress in order to continue receiving financial aid, however. This includes completing a certain number of units per academic year, depending on your part-time of full-time status, and maintaining grades above a 2.0 average.
Visit your school’s financial aid office to talk with a counselor. She can point you toward catalogs of available scholarships or online scholarship directory resources. Read through application requirements, carefully looking for scholarships that don’t require transcript submission from current or previous schools of attendance.
Apply for scholarships requiring only your GPA. If the prospect of providing transcripts seems discouraging because of one or two blemishes, it could be that your GPA is still relatively intact. Scholarship applications requiring only your GPA will allow you to demonstrate overall academic accomplishment without fully disclosing some of the lackluster specifics.
Apply for scholarships weighting factors other than academic performance. These might include scholarships for volunteer service, athletic ability, ethnic background, area of study or personal history. For example, corporations sometimes offer financial aid to deserving children of their employees.
If you’re worried about providing transcripts from former colleges because of the hassle, know that many universities offer simple online request forms that make transcript submissions more efficient. If you’re concerned about poor grades, request a copy of your transcripts for your own review. Check for errors to make sure grades aren’t inaccurately reported.
If your transcripts suffer because of bad grades from extraordinary circumstances, such as undergoing extensive medical procedures or enduring a death in your immediate family during the semesters you attended former colleges, consider attaching an explanatory note if you do decide to provide transcripts. Scholarship committees aren’t heartless, and if your current grades are decent, they may overlook negative blips.
Never attempt to provide falsified or altered transcripts from current or former colleges. This is unethical and will probably result in you losing financial aid awards.
- CBS News: How to Get Most Financial Aid for College; March 2010
- MSNBC.com: The Best Way to Get Financial Aid; Carrie Coolidge; November 2004
- Federal Student Aid: Myths About Financial Aid
- Jackson Community College: Financial Aid
- Student Loans for College: Do Bad Grades Affect College Financial Aid
- Mason Graduate Admissions: FAQs
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