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It's not too early to apply for college scholarships

 

The new school year has just started, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early for seniors to start looking for money to pay for college.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted schedules and routines, and researching college scholarships may not be on the minds of some seniors.

But, some students can’t afford to think of college costs as something they’ll tackle later.

Part of college readiness is getting money to pay for college tuition.

Vanika Mehta, a senior at CATA, just started her scholarship search.

“The process is very nerve racking,” said the 16 year old. “I think when you break it down – and there are websites like Fast Web that can help narrow down your scholarship search - I think making a list of these and just knowing which ones I want to apply to helps. But it’s still nerve racking.”

The dream for Vanika is to attend UNC Chapel Hill.

“I am very into academics and the scholarships that I’m mostly going to apply to would be academics or club based. I don’t want them (family) to pay that much for me when I can use my talent and help them out and apply to these scholarships” Vanika said.

For most families, it’s all about financial aid: grants, scholarships and loans.

You don’t have to pay back grants or scholarships, but you have to repay loans.

College loans can leave families with staggering debt, which is why scholarships are critical.

“I would say with scholarships if you don’t apply, you’re not going to get any scholarships. You’ve got to put the work in and you’ve got to seek out those opportunities. They don’t just show up and come to you as a student” said Jessica Garner, Director of College Readiness and Innovation for Union County Public Schools. “Students pretty much need to do the leg work themselves and they’ve got to find these opportunities and apply for as many as they can. And the money is out there.”

Now, it’s time for the class of 2021 to start the process.

The UCPS College Readiness Department is available to help parents and students with college planning. Throughout the year, the department offers webinars, workshops and digital resources to help families with application deadlines, college visits and more.

Here's how to navigate the scholarship search.

  • Canvas: UCPS College Prep - Seniors can click into the class of 2021, where there’s a college application timeline. You can also find links to merit and need-based scholarships.

 

  • Scoir - An online system that makes the college application process more efficient for students, teachers and parents. Parents and students can use financial calculators on Scoir to find out how much a college will likely cost to attend.

 

  • Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
    • Applications open to seniors on Oct. 1.
    • Awards are made until the funds are depleted.
    • No deadline in North Carolina for completing FAFSA.
    • Federal deadline is June 31, 2021(check your intended college/university for information on deadlines).