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Financial Aid & Scholarships

What is financial aid?

Financial aid is simply money to help students pay for college.  Financial aid can be categorized as Gift Aid (free money that you don't have to pay back) or Self Help.

Types of Financial Aid

Gift Aid ("free money" that you don't have to pay back)

  • Grants

  • Scholarships

Self Help 

  • Work-study

  • Loans

  • Savings

How do you apply for financial aid?
  • To qualify for grants, work-study, loans and certain institutional scholarships, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (aka FAFSA). 

    • FAFSA is the main financial aid application that you'll use to qualify for financial aid offered by colleges.

    • FAFSA opens October 1st every year. Students should wait until their 12th grade year to complete the FAFSA.

  • If you're undocumented, DACA or a "DREAMer" student, you will NOT complete FAFSA. Instead you'll do a colleges institutional financial application. If you plan to apply to colleges in Colorad, you can now apply for CASFA, Colorado's version of FAFSA for undocumented students to receive financial aid from colleges in Colorado. 

  • As for how you apply to scholarships, check out the next section!​


To learn more about how financial aid works, visit



Types of Scholarships
Scholarships can fall into two main categories--college scholarships and private scholarships.
College or Institutional Scholarships
  • Some colleges offer merit-based or admission scholarships. When you apply to a college, you're automatically considered for these scholarships and they use your GPA and sometimes your test scores to determine if you're eligible.
  • Some colleges also have a separate scholarship application that allows you to apply to multiple scholarships offered at their college via one application. 
Private Scholarships
  • All other scholarships can be defined as "private" scholarships and can come from businesses, organizations, churches or anywhere. 

  • Scholarships can be based any criteria that the scholarship provider sets.  Common categories include academic/merit-based, interests, hobies, ethnicity, athletics and much more! There's a scholarship for almost anything that you can imagine!

How do you research  and apply for scholarships?

There are thousands of scholarships available to students. Each scholarship has its own application process and requirements.  Use resources to research scholarships at:

Use MaiaLearning and one of the other scholarship search tools to start researching scholarships!

Other Scholarship Opportunities:

  • Raise.Me -Matches you to "micro scholarships" offered at various colleges.  It's based on you putting your grades, activities, and achievements and you 'll automatically be awarded scholarships.  

  • CollegeBoard Opportunity Scholarships

As for applying to these scholarships, you'll need to follow the process outlined by the scholarship.  There are different processes dependeing on the scholarships. 

Tips for getting a scholarship

  1. Focus on small and large scholarships.  Many students only focus on the full-ride scholarships, which isn't good.  You can apply to the large, full-ride scholarships, but most students have a better chance of receiving smaller scholarships and if you earn enough smaller scholarships, it can be equivalent to a full-ride scholarships!

  2. Look for local and state scholarships. You have a better chance of receiving these!

  3. Make time in your weekly schedule to research and apply!

  4. Start early (you can start researching and applying for scholarships in the 9th, 10th and 11th grade (even in middle school)!

  5. Earn good grades throughout high school. Many of the full-ride or merit-based scholarships require good academics from students. So, do your best to earn good grades throughout high school. Also, challenge yourself to take rigorous classes.

  6. Get involved and do meaningful community service.  Many merit-based scholarships look for significant community service.  So start early (e.g. 9th/10th grade). Find something you're passionate about or enjoy doing. Make time to do it once a month or every other month so that by the time you're a 12th grader applying for the large scholarships, you'll have several hours of a service activity to put down.  

    • Keep in mind that scholarships prefer quality or quantity. So, they'd rather you participate in three activities over the course of 3-4 years than to see you with 20 activities that you only spent 1 week doing or a few months doing each activity. So, create QUALITY involvement. ​

  7. Don't say discouraged. The key to getting a scholarship is to constantly apply. Even if you don't hear from a scholarship or get rejected, push past those negative emotions and continue to apply!

  8. Pay attention to deadlines!

  9. Don't procrastinate! Get started on your application early, especially if it requires letters of recommendation, essays, etc. 

Video Library

Types of Federal Student Aid-Obtained via the FAFSA.
Overview of the Financial Aid Process
Financial Aid Verification
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