Don’t know where to start on college scholarships? We’ve got you covered! Read on…

As you’ve been planning, dreaming and preparing for college, we know that a lot of different and exciting things have been on your mind. You wonder what it will be like, what kind of classes you’ll start with, the friends you’ll make, and ultimately, how your college experience will unfold to set you up for a meaningful career.

In the midst of all the excitement though, maybe there is a worry in the back of your mind… how will I pay for all of this? No matter your family or income situation, everyone has to think about the financial side of college. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be discussing the scholarship options out there for you as well as where you should be in the process based on your graduation year.

Let’s start with the most basic type of scholarships: State Government Aid

As we discuss State Government Aid, we’ll be using the State of Georgia as our example. If you don’t live in the state of Georgia, you can learn more about the types of aid your state offers college students here.

In the state of Georgia, for example, there are a few different types of state scholarships – The Hope Scholarship, The Zell Scholarship, and the Hope Grant Program, which is specifically for students attending 2 year or technical schools. We’ll mainly be looking at the Hope and Zell scholarships here. Each of these requires a specific ACT / SAT score as well as GPA.

HOPE Scholarship


Zell Miller Scholarship

3.7 or better GPA

ACT 26+

SAT 1200+

Time table: Taking your ACT / SAT earlier is beneficial to know if you’ll qualify for one of these or to give yourself enough time to raise your score. Remember, when it comes to college planning – the earlier the better is our motto. Taking your ACT / SAT earlier and determining what your score will be will help you determine early if one of these scholarship options will be available to you and how it will affect your overall financial situation. Also, it’s important to note that your graduating GPA and the score received on any ACT / SAT taken prior to the day you walk will be considered to qualify for these scholarships.

Next up: College and University Aid

There are 3 main types: Merit-Based, Need-Based, and Tuition Reduction

Merit-based is just that, based on one of these merits: academic, athletic, performing arts, leadership, and community service that the college or university recognizes you for or that you can even apply for in some cases.

Need-based will be determined by a few factors such as your EFC (Expected Family Contribution) as determined by FAFSA or CSS Profile. While the formulas for determining your EFC is similar, it’s important to note that they are some differences between formulas. Other factors include the difference between a school’s Cost of Attendance (COA) and EFC, which is your “Determined or Demonstrated Need” for that school. Basically, since every school’s COA is different, it’s pretty typical to have a unique “Need Basis” at each school. Also, remember that every school meets “need” differently.

Tuition Reduction could be based on many things, but one common use is giving out-of-state students, in-state tuition as a draw to that college or university. This is where competitive leverage comes in as well. You can learn more about here.

Time table: This point in the process is mainly directed at seniors. As you receive acceptance letters, you’ll want to begin to determine what types of aid the school is willing to offer you as well as what other opportunities there may be for you to earn additional aid. But, once again, the earlier you can start with these things, the greater your competitive leverage can be.

We highly recommend beginning to look at both public and private organizations that extend scholarship opportunities as soon as possible.

Public organizations include things like:

Chamber of Commerce

Local Business Associations

Junior Leagues


Private organizations can vary based on your area, but look at options like:

Religious Organizations

Boy Scouts

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

National Merit Scholarship Corporation

Woodmen of the World

You can explore their options online many times, but don’t be afraid to give the organization a call or even visit in person to find out what kind of opportunities they may have!

Time table: Working through these options over the course of your senior year is a great time, but make sure to also check into any opportunities over the course of your freshman, sophomore and junior years, if eligible. Even if you don’t receive it earlier in your high school career, you went through the process and are even further prepared to try again. It’s always better to arrive late than early!

Corporate Aid is up next! This could be from a parent’s employer (depending on their career), but there are also plenty of companies that give significant scholarships each year. A few to look into:








Time table: Once again, looking throughout your senior year is great, but it would be helpful to start searching your junior year as well.

After all of this…you want to do some external scholarship searching. We have some specific tips and best practices for this so stay tuned for part 2 next week on Best Practices for Scholarship Searches!