Starting College? - Helpful Tips-All text and photos on the Alliance for the Lost Boys web site is copyright protected and cannot be used without written permission.

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Step One: Choosing a College

If you’re living in a large city, you’ll most likely have the choice between a private or public college/university. As a rule, we recommend attending public colleges/universities, as the opportunity for scholarships, grants and financial aide is usually greater and the cost of tuition significantly lower. In many cases, the academic level of public schools is also equal or better than that afforded through private institutions. Of course, you can apply for financial aid, which will enable you to take out a loan and attend the school of your choice, but you WILL be required to repay that loan upon graduation and there are dire consequences for those who don’t, such as a bad credit rating, ineligibility for future government assistance, and costly collection fines/penalties.

Step Two: Full- or Part-Time

Unless you are independently wealthy, living with a host/foster family or have secured a scholarship that provides a generous living allowance, we suggest that you attend school on a part time basis for the first semester. This allows you the opportunity of testing the waters to see if you can balance the demands of school along with that of your job without sacrificing your GPA (Grade Point Average).

Step Three: Make an Appointment With Financial Aid Officer

After determining whether or not you qualify to attend a particular college/university, make an appointment with a financial aide officer from that college/university to inquire about available scholarships, grants or financial assistance. Ask him/her if they have a list of available grants and scholarships listed on their web site. Ask them for the link to that website. If your unfamiliar with computers, ask them to help you with logging in to their website and in creating a password, etc. Always use a password that you’ll remember! (NEVER share your password with anyone else!) Take a pen and paper with you so that you can take notes.

Step Four: Fill Out the FASFA Application

Almost all colleges and universities require that you fill out a FASFA application on a yearly basis. FASFA stands for Federal Application for Financial Student Aid. This application assists colleges and universities in determining your eligibility for financial aide. You will most likely be asked to complete this step before inquiring on available grants/scholarships from all colleges and universities.

**Read FASFA Instructions

Step Five: Search Internet for Available Grants and Scholarships

Popular sites used to locate available grants and scholarships include and

Note: You will be required to register at this site before beginning your search and you will be asked numerous questions in order to narrow your search needs. Please take the time to answer these questions to the best of your ability as it will help in searching for scholarships suited specifically to your needs and will save you the time and aggravation of searching through grants/scholarships that do not pertain to you or suit your individual needs.

You can also find available scholarships and grants in your area through internet search engines. We recommend using Google.

Suggested searches include:

  • College scholarships for San Diego, CA (insert the city/state where you live or the city/state of the college of your choice)
  • College scholarships for Duval County (insert the county where your school is located)
  • College scholarships for students of African descent
  • College scholarships for minorities
  • Government college grants and scholarships
  • Be creative! You never know what might show up!

Step Six: Recommendations

Many colleges require letters of recommendation from at least two people of more before accepting you into their institution. Make sure that the individuals that you ask to write these recommendation letters are someone who knows you well and can write about you in a personal, detailed and easy to understand method. Respected and prominent members of your community are always a good choice, such as teachers, pastors, politicians etc.

Read Recommendation Sample

Step Seven: Essays

Many colleges and organizations that provide grants and scholarships, require that you write an essay. They will often assign the topic for the required essay, or in many cases, they will give you the option of choosing your own topic.

Note: Be sure to adhere to all specifications regarding the amount of words allowed/required, margin settings, pages etc.

There are simple steps that will better insure an effective and compelling essay:

  • A. If you were not assigned a topic, you must think of one on your own. We recommend writing about a topic that you know- a topic in which you feel both knowledgeable and passionate. Your life story or an incident that occurred in your homeland is always a good choice, because it will most likely be unique and very compelling. You want to write a story that stands out among the rest. One that will touch the hearts of those who read it. A story that they will remember after reading hundreds/thousands of other stories!
  • B. Locate Microsoft Word or whatever writing program that’s available on your computer and set the required margins and spacing (check your essay requirements.) Now all you have to do is begin writing! Remember that every good story has a beginning, middle and an end. Make sure that your essay is easy to follow and understand and that it is free of grammatical errors.
  • C. Check your spelling/grammar. Most word programs have a spell check built into the program. You can locate the grammar/spell check on Microsoft Word by clicking on the tool bar (located at the top of the page) and clicking on the spelling and grammar box. When using this tool, it will automatically begin checking for grammar and spelling errors and then give multiple choices regarding a correct answer. Choose the one that you feel is best.
  • D. The spell check tool on your word program is not always reliable. Have your friends, a teacher, or mentor read your essay and check it for grammatical errors and content. Listen to their suggestions and make whatever changes are necessary and then ask them to read it again to make sure you have done it right.
  • E. Make sure that you have followed all guidelines regarding spacing, margins, pages and word count. To number your pages click on the “insert” icon (located at the top of your word page), click “page numbers” and follow the instructions given. To check your total word count click on the “tools” icon (located at the top of your word page) and click “word count.”

Read Essay Sample

Step Eight: Write Thank You Notes!

Be sure to thank those who spent their time and effort to help you to achieve your dreams

Read Thank You Note Samples

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