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Higher learning: Scholarships can help ease financial blow


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For many students and families the excitement that comes with that long-awaited acceptance letter is often followed by the hard truth: College is expensive.

Students attending Indiana University and Purdue University pay about $20,000 per year for tuition, housing and books. Students whose families weren’t able to save $80,000 to $100,000 for their college education will have to borrow whatever they don’t have and repay it with interest — unless they can find scholarships.

Students might qualify for and receive scholarships from the colleges and universities they’re applying to based on their grades and other accomplishments in high school. The students who have the best chance at receiving those scholarships are the ones who apply early. Early next year, students also will have the chance to apply for additional scholarships based on their family’s income, college officials said.

But students also can receive scholarships through community organizations, such as the Johnson County Community Foundation, based on where they went to high school, the activities they participated in and where they live.

And the more scholarships students apply for and receive, the less they’ll have to pay for on their own or with loans.

Here’s what high school students and their parents should consider when thinking about scholarships for college:

Admissions application

Colleges, including Purdue and Franklin College, often use a student’s admissions application to decide whether they will receive any scholarships for their grades or other high school achievements.

So when a student is writing 100- to 650-word essays about why they want to attend a particular college or experiences they’ve had that have shaped their character, they should remember that they’re also applying for scholarship dollars, Purdue associate vice provost for enrollment management and dean of admissions Pamela Horne said.

“We want to see promise of future contributions, and evidence of things they’ve done in the past is often indicative of that,” Horne said.

The amount of money colleges give to students based on their applications varies. Franklin College officials try to find money for nearly everyone who is admitted. The cost of attending Franklin is more than $30,000 per year, and scholarship amounts range from $2,500 to having the full cost of tuition paid for, director of financial aid Elizabeth Sappenfield said.

But families also shouldn’t count on receiving scholarship dollars during the first round. Horne recently saw a survey that said between 75 and 80 percent of students expect to get scholarships based on their grades, while the actual rate of students who receive scholarships is about 20 percent.

Meeting deadlines is essential: At Purdue and Indiana, all application materials must be received by Nov. 1 for students to qualify for the first round of scholarships. At Franklin, that deadline is Dec. 1.

Students who apply to Purdue after the November deadline still could qualify for scholarships based on financial need, but they won’t qualify to receive as much money as they would have had they met the first deadline, Horne said.

She said missing college application deadlines is one of the biggest mistakes students make.

Find the local dollars

Last year, the Johnson County Community Foundation awarded about 130 scholarships to students, and about 700 area students applied for the money. On Dec. 1 the foundation will release a list of scholarships online and to local school districts that students attending college next school year can apply for, president and CEO Gail Richards said.

In 2013, the foundation offered 20 scholarships to students from all Johnson County schools; three were offered to Center Grove students; four to Edinburgh students; 16 to Franklin students; nine to Greenwood students; five to Indian Creek students; seven to Whiteland students; and two to Franklin College students.

Need-based scholarships

In January, students typically start receiving information about and applying for scholarships based on their family’s income. Franklin and Purdue students need to complete the Free Application For Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to qualify for scholarships; and at Purdue and other colleges, students might need to fill out additional applications, officials said.

Purdue typically provides 200 to 300 need-based scholarships each year, from a few hundred dollars to the full cost of attending the university, Horne said.

FAFSA deadline

The latest students can submit the FAFSA form in Indiana, which is a required part of almost every college and university financial aid application, is March 10.

But students should check with their prospective college to see if the information should be submitted earlier.

Other places to look

Students and parents can look online, including fastweb.com and findaid.org. Specifics on the Johnson County Community Foundation’s scholarships can be found at jccf.org later this year. Officials also warn families to never pay anyone in exchange for financial aid.

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