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College scholarship opportunities easily accessible for seniors

With all the stress of applying to college, many students forget they will soon have to be paying for that hard-earned education. Though many colleges offer their own merit and need-based scholarships, there are also various external companies students can use when looking for merit scholarships.
Students can find many scholarship opportunities on the Naviance website, one of the most easily accessible sources Paly students can use to search for scholarships. Through the national scholarship search tool on Naviance, students can access the Sallie Mae Fund, part of the SLM Corporation, which helps students find scholarships. After entering information about activities and academic interests, they are matched with scholarships not affiliated with certain schools.

Many of these scholarships are aimed at low-income students, so it may take some searching to find an appropriate grant. Students can also use Scholarship Match on Naviance, which shows students scholarships they may qualify for based on GPA.

However, college and career counselor Sandra Cernobori pointed out there are better options.

“Because Naviance only has GPA and test scores, I’m not sure how useful that is,” Cernobori said. “What is very useful is the scholarship list.”

The list consists of all the scholarships entered by Paly, some of which are school-specific and some of which are more general. Both need-based and merit-based are included and columns on the side indicate if there is an essay requirement or community service requirement, making it easy to sort through the various options. The list, which is updated weekly, can be sorted by clicking on the columns showing amount, need-based or merit, and deadline, or with a drop-down menu that shows scholarships for particular activities such as art or music.

“When you click on the hyperlink it will give you a brief synopsis of the scholarship and bring you to the website, where you can to apply for the scholarships,” Cernobori said. “Your odds of the regional ones [in the Scholarship List] are better than doing a national search.”

Cernobori strongly suggests looking at local scholarships, as students have a greater chance of receiving these awards.

“Tapping into your local resources can be useful,” Cernobori said. “What I mean by that is everything from cultural and religious organizations, to parent’s employers, places where you volunteered, or other organizations you have been involved in, like the Boy Scouts.”

On the Paly website, under colleges, there are lists of other internet search engines to use and a link to the Community Scholarship Application. The application is a short, two page form that students fill out and turn in to the College and Career Center to match them with local scholarships.

“Some of those sponsors are community based, like the Palo Alto Weekly, others are memorial scholarships that families have set up for people who used to work here—there’s a whole host of things in the pool,” Cernobori said.

The Scholarships Committee both decides who will receive the scholarships and nominates students who applied for scholarships, working from February through April. In addition to merit-based scholarships there are also need-based ones included in the Community Scholarships Application, though these require more forms.

“Students who want to apply for need based do need to fill out some financial information from your family, fill the FAFSA and attach the submission page so I know you actually filed it.” Cernobori said. “But if you’re looking for need-based scholarships you should be applying for need based financial aid so you’ll be filing the FAFSA anyway.”
Another popular place to look for scholarship opportunities is, a website that lists different contests, grants and scholarships. The list is regularly updated, and the page for each opportunity shows the eligibility requirements, a brief description of the contest or scholarship, and where to find additional information and the application form.

Though many students are dismayed by all the testing fees that go to the College Board, the organization has a surprisingly thorough scholarship search program.
The list is updated monthly, contains a wide variety of options and is more reliable.

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