Early planning critical for students seeking financial aid, scholarships

Courtesy Photo / Michelle Rhodes
Michelle Rhodes

Courtesy photo

Courtesy Photo / Michelle Rhodes Michelle Rhodes

Anya Zentmeyer

Face it – no matter who you are or where you come from, money can be a tricky thing. It’s hard to find, and when you do, there’s rarely ever enough of it. And for a college student on a tight budget? Forget about it.

That’s why Michelle Rhodes, director of Financial Aid at Grand Valley State University, said planning ahead is essential to being able to not only fund your college tuition, but to being able to sustain yourself while you’re here.

Some of the consequences of procrastination? Missed scholarship deadlines, missing out on grant assistance, not having enough extra money to pay for groceries, housing and other living expenses.

“I think it’s important for students to plan ahead when thinking about their financial aid and scholarships,” Rhodes said.

First and foremost, make sure your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is filed by March 1 – the earlier your FAFSA is turned in, the more money you’ll get in gift aid and scholarships from the university. Visit www.fafsa.ed.gov/ to fill out your FAFSA online.

Scholarships are one of the easiest ways for students to get free money to help cut tuition costs. With scholarship deadlines approaching fast, Rhodes said it’s critical to look ahead and know what scholarships you could be eligible for, as well as how you’re going to get them.

“Many deadlines to get scholarships for next academic year are coming up very quickly (in February and March),” Rhodes said. “So start looking now, get organized, and know when each deadline is.”

Rhodes added that the GVSU scholarship database, which can be found online at www.gvsu.edu/scholarships, is a good place to start.

The Financial Aid office also has a web site loaded with general information about scholarships, as well as a list of scholarship tips at www.gvsu.edu/financialaid/scholarships-2.htm.

“If any student has any questions about financial aid or scholarships, have them come to our office or call,” Rhodes said. “We do send emails to communicate as well, so those are always important to read and call us if you have a question about them.”

Though there are many online resources readily available, Rhodes said one of the best ways to make sure you’re planning ahead, applying for the right scholarships and getting the maximum amount of financial aid is to connect with faculty members and each individual’s academic department.

For more information on scholarships, FAFSA and financial aid, visit the website at www.gvsu.edu/financialaid.

[email protected]