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The road to a college degree is paved with countless detours for the average student but if you're the first in your family to choose that path, you should expect a road with even more twists and turns. There are scholarship designated to help first-in-family students in their academic pursuits.

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Start locally yet be willing to look larger. National offers might be the best bet for a majority of major-specific scholarships. Consider professional organizations in the field of study, like a psychiatrist's organization, a teachers union or an actor's guild. If there are not independent websites or organizations you like, consider that many businesses themselves offer scholarships for the students rising-up in the industry. Don't be afraid to look at commercial interests for possibilities.


Scholarships for undocumented or non-citizen students

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For the 2009-2010 academic year, had listed the colleges that distribute the most non-need-based merit aid. The rankings do not include athletic scholarships or tuition benefits. Topping the list is Louisiana College, in which 88% of students had received merit grants and scholarships, followed by Cooper Union, Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Free Will Baptist Bible College, University of Central Oklahoma, and Hawaii Pacific University. Some of the awards are based on academic merits alone, whereas others include college-generated scholarships for qualified students who could not afford the cost of attendance.


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As previously mentioned, the Pell Grant is one student grant that is based on financial need. Other examples of need-based grants include the Penn Grant from the University of Pennsylvania, the University of North Carolina Need Based Grant, the Guaranteed Access Grant open to Maryland residents, and the Winston-Salem Foundation’s various grant and scholarship programs for area students.

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Some grants are need-based, which means that individual awards are distributed based on financial need and are intended to send students to college who might not otherwise have the opportunity. Grants can also be merit-based, which means that students must qualify through academic performance, proposal submission, project completion, or other criteria. Some grants require only a simple application, while others demand weeks of preparation. Some grants are dedicated to public schools, some to private schools, and some to any accredited college, university, or vocational school. While the majority of grants are intended for undergraduates, graduate student grants are plentiful.

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The deadline for filing the FAFSA is June 30 for each academic year, but students are encouraged to apply early for access to the most aid. FAFSA processing can take up to six weeks, so apply well before any federal, state, or college deadlines. For the best financial aid opportunities, students should complete the FAFSA with estimated or actual income tax return numbers each January before the next academic year starts in July. Most grant programs require the FAFSA to be completed annually for renewal purposes.

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8. Write essays and documents in formal language with proper spelling and grammar that adheres to the grant guidelines. Avoid jargon and slang. Be concise, specific, and descriptive. If handwritten documents are a requirement, use black ink and print legibly. Otherwise, submit typewritten copy. Focus your statements on the grant agency’s priorities and how you can benefit them in those areas. If requested, discuss your personal story and the impact that a student grant would have on your future.