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College Planning

Scholarships are an essential element of trimming the price of college. There are a myriad of scholarships and each one is different. Scholarships are awarded from colleges and universities, big corporations, small organizations, and more.

With millions of scholarships available it is important to make use of resources like and

Here are some main types of scholarships you’ll run into:


These offer a certain amount of money each year(e.g. $1,000) for a certain amount of time (e.g. 4 years). If a scholarship does not say it is renewable, then it is not and you will have to reapply for that money year after year.

Click here to learn the 10 Things Students Need to Know about Cal Grants.

Merit Based

These scholarships are based on academic performance. Applications must be filled out and handed in on time after that

Need Based

These are simply based on the financial need of the family. Scholarships are awarded through FAFSA, Cal Grant, colleges and universities, and other foundations. There are even scholarships for middle income families in California.

Local Scholarships

There are many businesses and organizations that want to give back to their community and do so by offering scholarships. 10,000 Degrees is an organization give residents of Sonoma County the opportunity to compete for scholarship money that is only available to students in this county. Do a google search for “Scholarships for ________ county residents” and see if that leads you to a couple other scholarships you are able to compete.

Student Specific Scholarships

These are based on the student’s skills (e.g. athletics), ethnic background (e.g. Asian Pacific Islander), or traits (e.g. first in family to attend college or foster child). Often times essays, videos, or recommendation letters must be submitted. For more specific types of scholarships, look at the left hand column here.

No matter the scholarship, expect to apply, do some convincing that you deserve the money, and wait to hear if you’ve been selected. Before you put the effort into applying make sure you are eligible. If you have to be a US citizen and you are not then look for another scholarship that does not have that limitation.

It is important to keep track of scholarship deadlines. Have a calendar or computer file designated to keep track of all the scholarships you are applying for. Set realistic goals (e.g. find and apply for one scholarship each week). Then set aside a scheduled, consistent time to do something- anything-towards your goals. Graduating from college with little or no debt is well worth the advanced effort!

Applying for College

Before you apply to college know where you want to go and do the research to make sure you are eligible. Is there a gpa minimum? When are the applications available and due? Talk to an enrollment officer  Have a list of the top 5 or 10 schools of your choice.

It is also important to research the kind of standardized test the college you are interested in attending requires. Rio is an official test site for the ACT, SAT, and TOEFL tests. Please consult the school calendar for test dates and last dates to register. To sign up for a test, click on one of the links below. Rio’s library has many test preparation textbooks to prepare you for the test day.





On January 1 each year, the FAFSA form is available at The FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is your student’s responsibility to fill out the FAFSA to get the scholarships and, if needed, loans for college.
The FAFSA application is long and may take a while to fill out. Parental information will be reported in the FAFSA. Here are two big ways to be prepared for the questions your teen poses.

  1. Keep copies of your yearend payroll stubs.
  2. File your taxes early.

It is required to report this information on the FAFSA.

Please Note: For California residents, the FAFSA form needs to be completed and submitted by March 2.

Notice the word free in FAFSA’s title? Beware of scamming companies that charge to assist you in filling out the FAFSA. Do not fall for these scams! There is a comprehensive help section on FAFSA’s website. You can ask your question directly by calling FAFSA’s help desk at 1-800-4FED-AID, by emailing them at, or you can chat with them by here or by following the Live Chat link on the help page. The seniors applied for a pin already in Bible class first quarter. If they forgot their pin, there are steps for retrieving it on the help page.
Take caution because scholarships and grants are awarded on not just a need basis but a first come first serve basis. There will be less federal money available in July than in April. The earlier your student submits their application the higher chance at receiving scholarship money rather than just loan money.