Community Foundation offers free online scholarship and FAFSA assistance for local students

With nearly $500,000 to award via the hundred or so scholarships they have planned for 2021, the Bay Area Community Foundation has some work ahead of it.

That’s perhaps even more true for the students and parents throughout the region who are vying for those scholarships, students and parents who might not even know they’re eligible. The Community Foundation scholarships are a varied group, each with its own distinct set of requirements.

There are scholarships for students with higher GPAs and there are scholarships for students with lower GPAs. There are scholarships specific to local institutions such as Delta College and Saginaw Valley State University and there are scholarships more wide ranging.

A student could qualify for a scholarship and not even know about it. That’s why the Bay Area Community Foundation has ramped up its online presence, virtually assisting students through both the scholarship application process and the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application process, too.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the Foundation's outreach efforts that much more important.

“It’s been a crappy situation for our seniors. They lost half their junior year and now their senior years. We’re trying to help them where we can,” says Aaron Faist, program officer for the Community Foundation.

“Most years we would go into the high schools to talk about FAFSA and the scholarships.”

In the past, the Community Foundation visited schools to explain how to apply for scholarships. This year, the Foundation is reaching out to offer virtual help to students and their families.Of course, 2020 and now 2021 are not like most years. Because representatives from the Community Foundation can’t visit students at school, the organization has launched the Virtual Scholarship Forum.

Each Wednesday and Thursday through the first week of February, from noon to 3 p.m., the Community Foundation is offering free one-on-one assistance in the scholarship and FAFSA application processes.

A link to the Virtual Scholarship Forum can be found on the Community Foundation website. From there, students can access an open Zoom conference, where they can then split off for one-on-one assistance.

The website also has a database of available scholarships. The deadline for Community Foundation scholarships was extended to Feb. 8.

“This is a new program that we’re doing but I can foresee us doing this every year for our students,” Faist says.

“Some of these new programs we had to develop out of necessity but we hope to carry them on, year after year.”

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