First gen student doesn't know how to apply for scholarships

HS Junior here, planning to start applying for scholarships. I’m a first generation student so my parents aren’t really able to help me in this process. I’m very confused and uncertain- there’s so many different websites that have opportunities for scholarships (Fastweb, Scholarships .com, Bold). Do I create accounts on all of them?

Some of the registration processes ask for things such as what kind of job and what position you’re looking forward to having in that specific job and I don’t know what to answer? I’m not certain of that myself, so is there a way to put not sure, or do I just put any answer? I know I want to major environmental science, but going on from that I’m not sure what kind of job specifically I’m looking forward to.

How do I determine whether the website or the scholarship itself is legit and not a scam?

I’ve also heard that the money goes directly to the college that you’ll attend, but since I’m not in college, where does that money go / how to do they determine where to keep the money until I get accepted into college?

It’s great that you’re looking into scholarships for college! Before you start your search, you should first have some idea of what colleges you’re planning to apply to and whether your family is eligible for financial aid etc. Most of the substantive financial aid is need-based and comes from the universities themselves. Outside scholarships, like the ones ones on Fastweb, are usually much smaller in amount and competitive. Also, they usually cannot be stacked with any aid from the universities.

If you wish to explore scholarship opportunities, I would suggest that you start with the College Board. They have an Opportunity Scholarship:
Also, they have also have a scholarship search site (which you can trust to be a legit site!)

If you post your stats, general family financial picture ,and your state of residency, we can guide you further.

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The best scholarships come from the colleges to which you get accepted…unless you are lucky enough to get Questbridge or something like that.

For Questbridge, you need to be lower income…is your family lower income? If so, apply.

The sites you listed above…you could,applynfor hundreds of scholarships and get some…or none.

You need to research colleges where you would get guaranteed merit aid, or qualify for enough need based aid to cover your costs above what your family can pay.

So…first up…how much can your parents pay annually for college?

What is your home state?

Probable major?

Geographic preference?

What are your GPA and SAT or ACT scores. Some colleges will continue to be test optional.

If you give more info…folks here can at least make some suggestions.

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@thumper1 @momprof9904
I’m in California - I’m only planning on applying to schools in state (UC’s / CSU’s) for financial reasons. Annual income according to my parents is around $90,000 to $100,000.
GPA is 3.7 unweighted and 4.0 weighted. I got a 1370 on my SAT but I believe the UC’s and CSU’s are going test blind.

If you are willing to try U of AZ (not in state but close?) They had automatic merit scholarships for 4.0 gpa last year. There is a chart to look at on their website and subject to change each year. It used to be gpa/SAT or ACT combo to qualify, but last year they only looked at gpa. I believe they look at the gpa for freshman/sophomore/junior years, not senior year. Another tidbit I picked up on this site is to apply early for a better chance for the college’s scholarships.

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Cal states and UC’s are test blind for the 2022 admission cycle. What does the Net Price Calculators indicate when you run them for a Cal state or UC?

How much are your parents willing to pay towards college? Do they have any college savings for you?

Commuting to your local CSU will keep costs under $10K/year so that is one option.

UC’s if full pay are around $35K/year which includes tuition/room/board/books etc…. Again, if you are within commutable range, then the UC’s would be under $20K/year.

If you have no financial need, then UC’s and CSU’s will be close to full pay. They offer little merit aid, so you need to focus on private schools that will give you merit and possible need-based aid.

Some possible CA schools include University of Redlands, University of the Pacific, St. Mary’s College, Chapman University, Occidental University, University of San Francisco and University of San Diego.

Have you spoken with your HS counselor about some local scholarships that can help with costs?

3rd option as a CA resident is community college and transfer as a Junior. Costs savings by attending a CC could then be put towards the last 2 years at a Cal State or UC.


Would you be eligible for Cal Grants?

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I believe $90,000 income is too high for Questbridge but I’m not a Questbridge expert.

QB says 65k for a family of 4 but they claim that it’s flexible. I’ve heard that 75k for a family of 4 is probably the farthest you can stretch it

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As others have said, your time would be best spent developing a college list, working on essays, working, etc. it’s important that your parents provide you with a budget so you know where you stand. Calculate your costs using the links here:

All students can take out a total of $27K for 4 years in Federal student loans which can cover the majority of the Cal state tuition costs.
$5500 Freshman year, $6500 Sophomore year and $7500 Junior/Senior year.

Again, run the Net Price calculators on the Cal States and UC’s and please post again with what kind of cost estimates you receive along with your college budget/year.

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Private scholarships are not easy. My employer was the only scholarship outside of the colleges that my kids won…so if your parents work for a large company you may get $1 or $2k through their program. Good luck.

I’m within commutable range for some of the UC’s but not any of the CSU’s that I’m looking at applying to (SDSU / Cal State San Luis Obispo).
I’ve also looked at some private schools but still the cost range comes to a little higher than the UC’s so I’m not a 100% sure about applying / whether my parents would be able to pay.
I did ask my HS counselor about local scholarships but they didn’t answer back before school ended, so I’ll most likely meet them once school starts back up.

I did see but I am not a 100% sure about whether I would be eligible or not… My parents said we might but again, it wasn’t a definitive answer.

@Southoftheriver Yes, I have definitely been working on all of those. My college lists have already been identified and I’ve been writing essays since summer started. I just figured that the earlier the better for scholarships as well.
@Gumbymom For the UC’s I got around $30k per year with $10k max for financial aid, and another $15k as the family contribution. CSU’s cost is around $27k per year with $3k max for financial aid

You have still not stated how much your parents are willing to pay for college? Is $15K/year for the UC’s affordable?

In general, the CSU’s and UC’s offer good need-based aid for qualified applicants but merit scholarships are few.

You state you can commute to a UC, but I am sure your local Cal state is also within commutable range although not a top choice I am assuming?

Even though this discussion is about financial aid and scholarships, you have solid stats but what about HS course rigor AP/IB or DE courses? EC’s, awards, special talents? Intended major?

What are your UC’s/CSU GPA’s: GPA Calculator for the University of California – RogerHub

UC’s offer little in merit aid such as Regents and you need to be in the top 1-2% of the entering class.
Amount: Awards vary by campus and are not transferable if you transfer to another UC campus.

  • UC Berkley $2,500
  • UC Davis $7,500
  • UC Irvine $5,000
  • UCLA $2,000
  • UC Merced $7,000
  • UC Riverside $10,000
  • UC San Diego $2,000
  • UC Santa Barbara $5,000
  • UC Santa Cruz $5,000

Cal states such as SDSU and Cal Poly SLO do have scholarships that you can apply but they offer merit rarely.

For SDSU, you have to be an admitted student which is not a given due to being a competitive campus.

Cal Poly SLO does consider you for some automatic scholarships upon applying and you can also apply to others listed on this website but nothing is guaranteed: Scholarships | Cal Poly

Best of luck and please find out what your parents are willing to pay for your college education. It looks like you would need to broaden your college search.
Are OOS schools like University of Alabama, University of Utah, University of New Mexico, University of Arizona or Arizona State University even options worth considering?

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You may also consider checking out free college advising which will offer information on scholarships, etc. College Board has some resources on their website, but there are many more.
College Board Virtual College Advising

Ucs and CSUs are going to be very good deal, but compared to usual merit scholarships, you may be better off applying to some meet need universities outside of California.
Have you run the NPC on colleges such as Vassar, Macalester, Grinnell, Whitman?

not your question but with your GPA, most of the UCs and SLO are going to be a reach. SDSU, UCR and UCM are probably a match for most majors.

I heartily encourage you to expand your ap list to include some of the more accessible CSUs. LB, Chico, Sonoma and CPP are all good candidates.

Apply broadly and good luck