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College Goal Sunday coming to Olympic College

Most people like "free money." Properly filling out forms is one way some are able to receive it to pay for higher education.

But, filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid — commonly known as FAFSA — to potentially receive financial aid, can be a daunting task for some.

That's where College Goal Sunday comes into play.

College Goal Sunday is a statewide volunteer program that is free for students and their parents to gain assistance in applying for financial aid for post-secondary education.

Olympic College will host a College Goal Sunday event at its Bremerton campus from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 in the science and technology building. The event is free and open to all students and families and registration is not necessary.

Chris Swanson, career and college counselor at Bremerton High School, encourages all his students to attend the event to receive some extra help.

"My hope is that families will look at this as a way to wrap up the process," Swanson said. "We know there are kids and families that are in the beginning of the process, and [the event] is still a great resource."

The event will have financial aid professionals as well as other volunteers in attendance to help answer specific questions to FAFSA to broad questions on how to search for scholarships.

In addition to the computer lab being available for use — FAFSA is commonly filled out online rather than a paper format — there will be several workshops available, said Alyson Rotter, event organizer.

The workshops will include "financial aid 101" to get an overview on financial aid and student loans, "scholarships 101" to learn tips on applying, where to find them and when to apply and "the money game" where employees from Kitsap Credit Union will provide information on financial literacy and money management based on earning level and education. The workshops will repeat throughout the day and end at 3 p.m.

The goal is not only for students to get help with FAFSA but anything else related to financing for college whether that be through scholarships or other methods.

"We want to make sure people are planning ahead," said Rotter adding that the event is not only geared for graduating high school seniors but all students.

Bremerton High School does not have information available on the number of graduates who receive financial aid for post-secondary education, but do have scholarship numbers available, said Swanson. In the 2011 graduating class, 53 students received one or more scholarships and a total of 167 scholarships were awarded, he said.

Sam Lim, founder of Scholarship Junkies, will be at Saturday's event to provide help to students in applying to college scholarships. Lim, a 2010 graduate of the University of Washington, started Scholarship Junkies when he was in high school as a way to give his peers tips because he had been successful in applying and receiving scholarships to pay for his college education.

Lim applied to 75 scholarships throughout high school and won 18, with which he financed four years of college as well as study abroad.

"I took advantage of all the resources I had," Lim said. "I went to the career counselor at my high school every day. It was my intent desire to go to college with as little debt as possible."

Now, Lim continues to share what he learned from the process with others. Scholarship Junkies has a website and provides free essay feedback available for any student.

"A lot of my classmates didn't apply, or they didn't feel like they had a shot at it," he said. "I thought I could share what I learned with these students."

Washboard.org is a tool designed for Washington state students to get matched up with scholarships and students can then decide if they want to apply to them. Mary Beth Lambert, spokeswoman for washboard.org, agreed that there are many students who do not bother applying — or even searching — for scholarships because they don't think they have a chance in receiving one.

"That's why College Goal Sunday is so important," Lambert said. "There are lots of misconceptions out there, about how to pay for college and resources out there to support students."

Lambert said there are more than $30 million worth of scholarships listed on www.thewashboard.org and they are not just for the "smart kids" or the ones who are "really good at sports." There are ones for students who like to fly fish, or bake bread or have multiple sclerosis or a family member who does, she added.

"There is a scholarship out there for everyone," Lambert said. "The challenge of course is finding it."

Joshua Fisher, who is in the technical design program at Olympic College, has his tuition partially paid through a scholarship from the Sons of Norway. Last year the 25-year-old completed the 9-month Sustainable Building Advisor Certificate Course at OC on a full scholarship through the Cascadia Green Building Council.

"If I didn't have that scholarship, I wouldn't have been able to do it," Fisher said.

Fisher plans to finish the technical design program by the end of the winter and to then get a degree in architecture. He learned about the scholarships from bulletin boards on campus at OC and said that asking around for help — especially school counselors — is the best option to get started for someone in the dark.

"No one's going to offer you anything," he said. "You're going to have to look for it."

 

 

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