Money Talks, So Should You

Q&A: How can I increase my scholarship potential?

Laura Scharr-Bykowsky
by Laura Scharr-Bykowsky, The Garrett Network  (@LauraScharr )

There are both need-based as well as merit-based scholarships and your chances for being awarded these will depend on your school of choice as well as your family income.

Most needs-based scholarships will be based on your family’s income during your junior year, so your family would ideally not want to accelerate income into that year if they can avoid it. For example, they may want to put off a Roth conversion or sale of a large asset.

In order to determine what your family can expect to contribute to your annual costs of college you can fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

READ: Master the Financial Aid Process

You can also go to the website of the colleges you are interested in and use their calculators. Colleges must now provide a cost estimator on their site. These sites are excellent sources of possible merit awards, which often have specific criterion as well as applications.

Finally, the best tactic you can utilize is to apply to colleges and universities where you are in the top 75th percentile of the applicants based on your credentials and scores. Colleges will place more weight on the tougher courses so challenge yourself where you can. Finally, take the SAT and the ACT and be prepared to take these a few times to improve your score.

Good luck!


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Laura Scharr-Bykowsky is the founder of Ascend Financial, a fee-only financial planning firm located in Columbia, SC. She has been providing fee-only financial planning services since 2008 and is a regular contributor to Columbia, S.C.-CBS affiliate WLTX for their Money Monday segment.