ASPIRE Tips: How To Apply For Scholarships

How are you paying for college? Scholarships are the best way to get FREE money.


In today’s world, when you hear the word free, it usually is too good to be true, but that is just what scholarships are – free money to use for your education after high school. Different than student loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid. Generally, scholarships are awarded based on criteria established by the donor.


Not convinced? Here are a few things scholarships can do for you:

  • Help pay your college expenses including tuition and fees, room and board, books, and supplies
  • Reduce your need to take on student loan debt and the amount of money you owe after graduation
  • Honor your achievements by awarding you for a job-well-done


So how do you apply? There are thousands of types of scholarships available to students from all walks of life. Scholarships can be based on GPA, extracurricular interest, career interest, family background, ethnicity, geography, financial need, or type of schooling, just to name a few. Navigating and determining what scholarships are right for you can be challenging.


Your ASPIRE mentor will help you work smarter, not harder, throughout the application process by working with you through an activities list to stay on track with deadlines and helping you with essay review.


One place to start is by filling out the Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) scholarship application online, which has more than 450 scholarships in one application! OSAC awards more than $15 million in scholarships annually. Scholarship and award amounts range from $500 to $10,000 or more.


Log on to to start applying today! Your ASPIRE mentor will help answer any questions you have about the application.

Cost of Attendance



Now is the time for seniors to begin identifying the Cost of Attendance (COA) at the colleges of their choice and identifying the sources of funding to cover the COA. I have attached a draft of a workshop that sheds some light on the process. Prior to getting the College Financial Aid Award letter the senior and their family can begin forecasting possible sources of funding. Once the FAFSA is completed the senior should be able to identify the amount of need-based federal and state funding. Most seniors will not have all of their financial need met and will receive encouragement to pursue “external” scholarships. Seniors and their families need to be knowledgeable about how to report external scholarships to their colleges after receiving the College Financial Aid Letters.


The link below identifies some of the issues with external scholarships.

Click here: College Scholarships Aren’t Free Money – DailyFinance


Prior to accepting admission to a college the senior and their family need to discuss with the college how they wish for the external scholarship funds to be used.  If you have three college award letters negotiating before accepting admission may impact your choice of college and you have more leverage in the negotiation.  The family should get some advice on the strategy of what they wish the external scholarships to replace, for example, unsubsidized loans, subsidized loans, work-study, etc.  If there is plenty of external scholarships the family may report to the college only 1/4 of the amount for each year of college. A family should plan for all four years of funding before they negotiate with the colleges.  Attached is an EXCEL spreadsheet that assists in planning for all four years.


George A. Letchworth, Ph.D.
ASPIRE 4 year budget Excel Sheet

ASPIRE Workshop BUDGETING Cheat Sheet

The Basics of Financial Aid and What to Know

What is financial aid? Financial aid is defined as any type of assistance used to pay college costs. The first step in helping students and parents understand financial aid is learning what types are available and the differences between them.


Financial aid can be one of four things:


  1. Grants: These are essentially free money that students apply for and do not need to be repaid. They are available through federal and state governments, state agencies, and individual colleges.
  2. Scholarships: There are many different types, but most scholarships do not need to be paid back. They are awarded based on requirements of the scholarship.
  3. Student Loans: Varying from other types of loans, federal student loans are specifically designed to offer lower interest rates. Private lenders also offer student loans, but these often incur higher interest rates.
  4. Work Study: A federal program, work study offers students part-time employment to help students meet their financial needs while providing work experience on campus or in the community.

Learn more from about financial aid options, here.


The search for financial aid can be a little bit difficult, especially when students are not sure where to look. These are just a few tips to help students find the right financial aid:

  • Talk to the high school counselor or their ASPIRE mentor.
  • Contact colleges of interest and speak with someone in the financial aid office.
  • Use online resources such as those listed in ASPIRE’s Scholarship Database.

After learning and deciding which type of financial aid a student would like to use, the next step is to apply for it by using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This form is used to apply for many of the need-based financial aid programs offered by federal and state governments. To fill out the FASFA, students can go online ( and follow the step-by-step instructions.
To learn more about financial aid and resources to prepare for college costs, visit the ASPIRE online search for financial aid.

For a quick reference, check out the Financial Aid A to Z Glossary.

FAFSA Worksheet

Here is the link to the 2016-17 FAFSA on the Web Worksheet. Some of the ASPIRE sites might not be aware that it is now available. One of the changes is that the old PIN has been replaced by the FSA ID. When you apply for the FSA ID it is checked against your social security account and the process takes 2-3 days. The first page of the Worksheet explains how to get a FSA ID. If a family attends a FAFSA Completion Workshop and does not have FSA IDs they can save the application and go back into the account later when they have the FSA IDs and sign and submit the FAFSA.

Click here:

It is important to get the FAFSA submitted in the first week or two of January since the Oregon Opportunity Grant is “first come” and will probably be out of funds by late January.


George A. Letchworth, Ph.D.