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Where's the Money? Paying for School: Home

What To Do First?

"Do not pass GoDo not collect $200..." (Monopoly)

Your first stop in your quest to pay for your higher education is Mendocino College's Financial Aid Office. As your onsite experts, they can answer your questions and guide you through financing for your schooling. Ask questions, then ask more questions.

Financial Literacy for Students

"A college education is one of the most important investments you will ever make. By managing how you pay for school and what you spend money on, you can worry less about debt and more about your career come graduation time."

Advice on Finding Nonacademic Scholarships, by Reyna Gobel

"When you’re not a straight-A student or the top athlete in your school, it’s easy to feel like college scholarships aren’t for you. But before you start thinking about borrowing thousands of dollars, consider your skills and other ways you can qualify for free money for college. You may not get a full ride—but every little bit helps!

Here are a few simple ways to look for a college scholarship.

Be first in line If you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible, you may get awarded more state or university grant funds because you filled out the form before the money ran out. Timing matters. I got money for school simply by being the first person in line. TWICE! In my business master’s program, my school offered $1,000 to the first 75 applicants to get accepted during the summer session. It didn’t matter what your GPA was, as long as you qualified for acceptance. In the second year of my undergraduate program, a similar package was available for the summer session, as long as you had a 2.75 GPA or above and were one of the first 75 people in line.

Contact the school’s financial aid office and your high school counselor. The college’s financial aid officer can tell you about local, national, and regional scholarships you might qualify for. And the truth is, many scholarships go unclaimed. Talk to your high school counselor, too. They know a lot about scholarships for high school students and might be able to recommend the ones you’re most likely to get. Essay contests are one area where grades may not matter. It’s all about your writing quality and your passion for the topic.

Look everywhere Go online and use free tools such as Sallie Mae's Scholarship Search. (Check the tabs "Online Scholarship Aggregating Sites" and "Ethnic & Minority Scholarships" above for more free tools. Look beyond your GPA and create a profile that includes your skills, hobbies, and interests. Also, consider your workplace and your parents’ jobs. Many employers offer scholarships for the children of their employees. Your local library may have a scholarship contest. I even know a parent that found a scholarship offer in Costco’s magazine!

There are scholarships out there for everyone. Scholarship requirements are as individual as you are. Many scholarships are created by people and companies looking to reward attributes they admire. Being kind, patriotic, or having an interesting story to tell may get you as much scholarship cash as having a perfect GPA or being an all-star athlete."

 Goble, Reyna. "4 Easy Ways to Find Non-Academic Scholarships." SallieMae. Sallie Mae Bank, 16 
 2018, Accessed 5 Dec. 2018.

Grants, Scholarships--What's It All About?


Fill out your FAFSA as close to October 1st as possible. You can use this year's tax information for next year's FAFSA, so DO NOT wait until you or your parents file taxes in the spring. Be sure to apply even if you think you might not qualify.

There's no age limit for federal aid.

Fill out a "special circumstances" form if your income changes (loss of a job, change in salary, or medical event, for example). Ask the Financial Aid office for help.

DON'T pay  someone to fill out your FAFSA for you. Use the online FAFSA application form which has built-in edit checks. If you have to hand write your FAFSA, proofread, then  proofread again.

You MUST submit a new FAFSA every year. 

Avoid Scams

Avoid scams while searching for scholarships, filling out the FAFSA® form, repaying your student loans, or giving personal information to schools and lenders

Commercial financial aid advice services can cost well over $1,000. Now, simply charging for help or information that's available for free elsewhere is not fraudulent. However, if a company doesn't deliver what it promises, it's scamming you.

If you're unsure whether to pay a company for help finding financial aid, stop and think for a minute: What's being offered? Is the service going to be worth your money? Do the claims seem too good to be true? You might have heard or seen these claims at seminars, over the phone from telemarketers, or online:

  • "Buy now or miss this opportunity." Don’t give in to pressure tactics. Remember, the "opportunity" is a chance to pay for information you could find yourself for free. 
  • "We guarantee you’ll get aid." A company could claim it fulfilled its promise if you were offered student loans or a $200 scholarship. Is that worth a fee of $1,000 or more?  In general, you shouldn't have to pay to apply for a scholarship. 
  • "I've got aid for you; give me your credit card or bank account number." Never give out a credit card or bank account number unless you know the organization you are giving it to is legitimate. You could be putting yourself at risk of identity theft. (From:
  • Exclusive scholarship info: If a service claims to have "exclusive" information — not available anywhere else — this is almost certainly a fiction. In fact, the vast majority of financial aid comes from the federal government and from colleges themselves. Those private foundations and organizations that do offer scholarships are eager to spread the word so they can attract the best candidates; they have no interest in keeping secrets.
  • No work — free money for college: Another red flag is a claim from any service that it will do "all the work" for applicants. Any legitimate scholarship sponsor will want to hear from the student, and that often means filling out paperwork and writing a letter or essay. There is simply no way around it.
  • You've been selected: Unsolicited offers are always suspect and any notification that comes over the phone is almost sure to be a scam. If students receive information that was not requested, they should investigate before giving out any personal information or paying "processing" fees. Students should ask how the organization got their name, make follow-up phone calls to check the answer, conduct an online search on the organization and, of course, go to Financial Aid for advice.
  • "Advance-fee" loans: Tell families to be wary of any offer for an unusually low-interest education loan that requires the student to pay an upfront fee before the loan will be approved or disbursed. Real lenders deduct their processing fees from the loan check before they send it to the student. Families should be especially suspicious if they don't recognize the lender's name — it's worth showing the offer to their local bank officer for a professional opinion.
  • "Free seminar" or candidate interview: This is often a glorified sales pitch for a financial aid or scholarship consulting service, or a pricey private student loan. (From: 
  • Be smart. Do your research, ask your counselor, and/or check with the Better Business Bureau.

  • Find more information here: 

Try These Free Sources of Information  (from


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