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Navigating scholarships and financial aid: Advice from a Platinum Partner

Guy Hatch is a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions at Kenyon College and a member of Chicago Scholars’ College Partnerships Advisory Council. Below, you’ll find Guy’s tips for navigating the financial aid process and looking for scholarships once you’ve decided where you’re attending college.


Paying for college and understanding financial aid can be overwhelming. To help create a list of schools that are need-sensitive, you might consider Googling or talking with your guidance counselor or college counselor about institutions who are prepared to meet 100% of students’ demonstrated need. There are dozens throughout the country. In addition, you might also consider looking at scholarships that are need-based, merit-based, and talent-based. Each institution might offer these types of scholarships, but there may also be external scholarships from your parents’ employers, church community, community based organizations, national organizations, and more.


You do not need to be a straight “A” student with the highest test scores. While some scholarships are based on grades and test scores, many are not, so there is no “perfect student.” There are unique scholarship opportunities that were created for unique students like yourself.


Pay attention to institutional and external scholarships, as well as federal and state aid. For example, some states offer additional aid to students separate from the aid offered by the federal government. Some companies might also offer aid through your parents’ jobs or even your own job. Don’t miss out on those opportunities.


I highly recommend building a relationship with your financial aid office/officer. Just like you have an admissions officer, you’ve been assigned a financial aid officer. You should introduce yourself and inform the financial aid office of your interest in the institution and what your financial needs are. Ask what other options besides student loans are available to you. It doesn’t hurt to ask!


You should inquire with each institution that you’re considering. Different institutions have different financial aid processes. These different methods can range from need-based, merit, work study, and federal/institutional loans.


The most important thing for students and families to remember as they work on scholarships and financial aid applications is that you will be asked to provide a lot of personal financial information, but the financial aid office is there to answer questions and provide guidance throughout this process. College is intended to be an experience of a lifetime, but it is also an investment of a lifetime.