Student Resources+FAQs

Helping You Every Step of the Way

We know the financial aspects of college can be confusing. We're here to help.

You have questions. We have answers.

Here are answers to a few of our most frequently asked questions.

  • The majority of Community Foundation scholarship donors have elected to make need one of the considerations during the selection process; however, the Cayvan String Instrument; Englehardt (Lowell), and the Grand Rapids Combined Theatre Scholarships are not based primarily on need.

  • Students/families seeking financial assistance should begin the process by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Through detailed information provided on the application, a Student Aid Report (SAR) is issued. The SAR, in turn, is submitted with college applications.

  • Yes, a helpful tool for estimating financial aid and calculating your estimated EFC and financial need is found at www.finaid.org/calculators. Once you enter your student income, parent income, and estimated school costs, it will calculate an amount based on US Department of Education EFC formulas.

  • Contact Ruth and request an Alternate Financial Form. 

  • Yes. Occasionally a student may be selected to receive a scholarship from more than one Foundation scholarship fund. 

  • Yes, the majority of Grand Rapids Community Foundation scholarships are one-time awards. You may submit a new application each year if you continue to fit the scholarship’s criteria. If you received a renewable scholarship, you will be notified by foundation staff and reminded to re-apply.

  • Send the financial form to a college that you have been accepted to and that has, or will receive, your financial aid (FAFSA) information. If you are still undecided between a public and private institution, have the college with the higher costs complete your financial information form.

  • Yes, an unofficial transcript or Internet printout of your transcript is acceptable as long as it is clearly labeled with your name, current academic year, your cumulative grade point average, and the name of the college/university. For high school seniors, your first semester senior-year grades must be recorded, along with your cumulative grade point average. Grade point average must be reported based on a 4.0 unweighted scale. Include your ACT or SAT score if available.

  • Each essay is read and reviewed as part of the selection process. It is important that the applicant address each point outlined in the Aspirations and Educational Goals section of the application. See below for tips on this part of your application.

  • Most awards range from $500 to $5,000, depending on the income available in each fund. The average award is $1,000. Checks are made payable to and mailed directly to the college once you have accepted the scholarship award. 

  • Follow up with the college to ensure they have returned it to us. If you have completed the online application and successfully submitted it electronically and we have not received the form from your college by April 15, we will send an email to you. You should contact the college to ensure they provide it, in a pinch you can email Jill Tiefenbach for an update, jtiefenbach@grfoundation.org

  • Yes. Most scholarships are for any college or university in the U.S.

  • Since most of the Community Foundation scholarships are need-based, it is necessary to complete the FAFSA. Your college financial aid office will need the information provided by the FAFSA and your Student Aid Report (SAR) to complete the our General Scholarship Financial Information Form. Applications are not considered complete until the Financial Information Form is received.

  • The Foundation supports a formula created by Congress. It is based on the premise that it is a parent's and student's joint responsibility to provide funds for higher education from their income and assets (to the extent that they are able). As a general rule, a student is considered independent when she or he turns 24 years of age, marries, is primary provider for a dependent child, or is a veteran

  • There are other factors that are considered when we determine need such as the number in the family and the cost of the college. As a general rule, if your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) as determined by the FAFSA is more than the cost of attendance at the school, your student will not qualify for any of the Foundation's need based scholarships. Likewise, if the school will be providing a large sum in merit or other aid, your student probably will not qualify for Foundation need based scholarships.

A FEW TIPS

Ideas to Help with your Goals Statement

Our scholarship application asks for a statement of 500 words or less indicating reasons for your choice of college, chosen course of study, career goals and plans for financing your college education. Please also include information regarding your past activities that benefited the community. This is a crucial part of the selection process.

The personal statement may be the hardest part of your application to complete. It is also where you can stand out from the crowd. The key to writing a strong statement is to be personal and specific. Include details you feel comfortable sharing about yourself so the reader can get to know who YOU are and what you stand for. Be truthful and honest.

Scholarship selection committees may have hundreds of statements to review. It is YOUR job to get their attention. Remember to:

  • Think before you write. Brainstorm to generate some good ideas and create an outline to help you get going. Make sure to address specific questions clearly.
  • Be original and be creative in your answers. Show, don’t tell. Use examples to individualize your statement. Demonstrate the point you want to make. Avoid vagueness to make a strong impression.
  • Know your audience. Personal statements are not "one size fits all". Make sure it fits the requirements of that particular scholarship.
  • Proofread. This is very important! You do not want to have any typos on your statement. Check spelling and grammar. Share your statement with a friend, parents or teachers. Another pair of eyes can catch errors you might miss!
  • Create a portrait of a winner. By doing this on paper, you create a vivid portrait that will depict the person behind the grades, activities and awards. If a judge feels like he or she knows you, you have done your job and created a powerful emotional connection that elevates your application, and makes it stand out from others.

For additional guidance and to review sample statements, we recommend visiting College Board.

Check These Out

Other Helpful Resources

Bestcolleges.com streamlines the process of gaining financial aid for college with a comprehensive scholarship database, and step-by-step guide to the FAFSA. 

Campus Pride provides information and a college search for colleges in the U.S. with resources, programs and services to support LGBTQ and ally students.

College Navigator provides an easy resource for you to compare all colleges and their costs in a uniform format.

College Toolkit is a one-stop resource for life after high school.

FAFSA is the U.S. Department of Education FREE Application for Federal Student Aid Web Site.

FastWeb matches students to scholarships, a source of local, national, and college-specific scholarships.

KnowHow2Go helps you understand the steps you need to take to make your college dreams a reality. 

MIStudentAid provides information and related links about financial aid specifically for Michigan students.

Scholarships is a popular, free college scholarship search and financial aid information. When you create a personal profile, they will present you with complete and accurate info on the most relevant, attainable college scholarship awards.

We're here to help every step of the way.