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Getting into (AZ) University Guide for Low Income/Minority Students.

Updated: Aug 28, 2022

Phase 0- SAT/ACT Exams

Ideally, complete first attempts junior year; retake any low scores by first semester senior year of high school.

SAT and ACT exams are needed to evaluate academic standing of high school students throughout the state and country. These tests produce comparative results instead of individual scores. It is important to note that both of these tests are designed differently to evaluate a student even though they test the same material.

So what is the difference or which one should I take? There are actually quite a few differences with these tests and the strategies that will help a student perform well on them vary.

Here is a website from Green Test Prep that does a thorough job in explaining the difference in tests and which one will be a good fit depending on the student.

There are many resources to help a student prepare for these tests that high schools may already offer or that third party organizations can provide. Many are not free, but there are a couple that are:

Feel free to search google for additional resources as well as youtube for free test prep videos such as those by Khan Academy.

*** These tests are not free to take. If you are a student who qualifies for free or reduced lunches at your school, you may be eligible for a fee waiver to take these tests. Please reach out to your advisor or school administration directly for more information.

The SAT, or Scholastic Aptitude Test registration:

The ACT, or American College Testing registration:

Phase 0.5- Early College Credit

Can start this at any time during high school and the CLEP option can even be done during undergrad.

Obtaining college credits early on may help students graduate college/university earlier as well as save money they would otherwise be paying during their undergraduate studies.

There are many ways to obtain college credit; here are some:

  1. Universities may offer high school students college credit courses directly. Students must reach out or search on specific university websites.

  2. High school AP courses may also grant students college credit when requirements are met.

  3. CLEP exams are exams students may pay to take to receive college credit. Cheaper and faster way of obtaining credits.

*Always be in touch with the counselor at the university you are interested in to be aware over what credits may transfer and which may not before enrolling in courses or CLEP exams.

Phase 1- College Applications

Ideally, complete before September of high school senior year.

A lot of students use the “Common App” which is an online platform where you make one college application and send that to all the schools you want to apply to instead of applying to everyone separately.

Here is the link → Common App:

Things to know/consider:

  • You are considered an “undergraduate” because you have not graduated college/university yet. *Make sure the programs you will look at are for “undergraduates”.

  • Schools have application fees in AZ. Ask your high school or college advisor(s) for “fee waivers” if they have any for low income students who typically qualify for free or reduced lunches. These fee waivers will take care of the application fees so you do not have to pay. Also, any direct deposits school may require can be “deferred” which means delayed until your financial aid kicks in and pays for that. When you do your application for a school, there should be an option to “defer” this deposit fee.

  • For DACA/Immigrant students: Be aware there is a tuition (cost of attendance) difference for you. For most institutions, students who have DACA or immigrant status only qualify for out of state tuition prices. Meaning, you will be paying for tuition as if you were a resident from another state. Usually out of state student tuition prices are double the amount of money compared to in-state tuition. To avoid this, consider private colleges/universities who have one standard price for in-state and out of state students. Also, private universities are more flexible with who they can grant scholarships and financial need to which may include DACA and immigrant students.

Colleges and schools that make up UofA:

Once accepted you can use this portal for UofA specific scholarships:




*GCU is a private college/university with one standard price for in-state and out of state students.

Phase 2 - Federal Student Aid

Ideally, submit your application by early September of high school senior year.

Federal Deadlines - 2022–23 Academic Year

The FAFSA form opens October 1st, 2022 and must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Central time (CT) on June 30, 2023. Any corrections or updates must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. CT on Sept. 9, 2023.

Cost of attendance at university (COA) − estimated family contribution (EFC) = Financial Aid Awarded

Forms of financial aid: Loans Vs Grants

Loans: two types

  • subsidized (no interest while in school)

  • unsubsidized (interest while in school, not based on financial need)


Federal Pell grant

  • need based, does not need to be repaid.

Things to know/consider:

  • Some schools award a full ride upon acceptance based on academic requirements being met in conjunction with financial need demonstrated through your FAFSA application.

  • You must complete this application every single year to maintain eligibility for federal grants and loans.

  • You can apply to federal grants and loans for up to six years. After you obtain your bachelors degree, you no longer qualify for federal grants or subsidized loans.

  • Aid can be applied during summers (summer courses). Have in mind, the awarded amount will be much less than during a school semester and will deduct from the six year availability. For example, if you take summer courses to improve GPA or replace a grade and you applied for a Federal Grant or Federal Loan to cover the cost of that summer course, instead of being eligible for the six year maximum amount of years for aid allotted, you now reduce it to five. This is important to consider if you are someone who foresees taking longer than the “traditional” four years to complete your bachelors degree. Specific examples include but are not limited to: students who double major, students who switch their major after second year, students with medical/personal emergencies, nontraditional students who have multiple responsibilities and many other students in unique circumstances may also take longer than four years to complete their bachelor degree(s). *I would advise you to apply for federal financial aid for summer courses ONLY if you plan on graduating in four years. Usually, this can be determined by junior (3rd) year academic standing.

- To avoid using your federal financial aid, if you foresee yourself needing it for more than four years, you can consider taking summer courses at a community college where they are more affordable. CLEP exams are exams students may pay to take to receive college credit. Cheaper and faster way of obtaining credits. Be in constant communication with your academic advisor at your university to know which community college courses or CLEP exams can transfer over to your university before you sign up.

  • The FAFSA application you complete yearly requires parent income tax forms/information of the year prior. For example, if you are filling your FAFSA form in October 2022, you will be required to submit tax/income information from the 2021 year.

  • Fill out the FAFSA form EVERY YEAR, regardless of aid amount, for purposes of your school records or continued eligibility of certain school specific aids.

  • There are unique circumstances that make it a little more difficult to provide information such as marital status of parents, independent student status, deceased parent(s), foster student, military student, siblings/providers in households, etc. Seek guidance on the official FAFSA Help Center page, obtain direct guidance from a school counselor, and ask peers in your community.

  • Aside from those circumstances, US citizen children of undocumented parents may still be eligible for Federal Student Aid through specific requirements/steps. Please seek direct guidance from a high school counselor.

  • Unfortunately, Daca students and undocumented students do not qualify for Federal aid. Please focus on SCHOLARSHIPS.

How it is distributed: Upon acceptance, your university will ask you to provide information for direct deposit or check purposes. Once you qualify for Federal Student Aid (whether that is through loans or a grant), the money will first be sent directly to your university/college financial department where it will be used to cover your tuition and fees as well as any other costs you may have like a (deferred) direct deposit, on campus living, meal plans (if those are options you chose). If there is left over aid once those school charges are paid for, the rest of the aid will be sent to the student via direct deposit or a check.

Phase 3 - Scholarships

Money is out there, go collect it!

It is never too early to start looking. You can start searching for scholarships as early as your freshman year of high school. Give yourself time to work on the requirements scholarships have and prepare for when you are ready to apply. Usually, students apply for scholarships their senior year of high school so the funds can get applied the following year they attend college/university.

General requirements for most scholarships: (not all)

  • Personal statement (Essay)

-How to write a personal statement: (look at youtube or google for more examples/tutorials)

  • Volunteer hours

  • Leaderships roles: clubs, organizations, start-ups…etc

  • Good grades (typically 3.0-3.5 minimum unweighted average GPA)

  • Strong test scores

  • Letter of recommendation: Send an email politely asking for a letter of recommendation, tell teacher(s) what the scholarship is and/or links to the website, send them personal statement and let them know when the due date is (ask teacher(s) minimum four weeks in advance before the due date of the scholarship app).

HUGE TIP: Apply even if you may not meet all the requirements! You would be surprised how many scholarships are given to student who do not "qualify" simply because no one else applied.

National scholarships:

Questbridge: Academic based program

Hispanic Scholarship Fund:

Gates Millennium Scholarship:

Arizona Scholarships:

Dorrance scholarship:

Arizona Flinn Scholars:

DACA Scholarships:

SOS Immigrant Student Scholarship:

Immigrant Scholarships: (students who do not qualify for DACA status)

Las Vegas Fulfillment Fund:

Other scholarship search engines:

Additional scholarship resources brought to you by Education Loan Finance (ELFI):

Things to keep in mind:

  • You can also google more scholarships and/or check your high school district for additional scholarships.

  • You can apply to AS MANY AS you want or can. There is no limit.

  • There are scholarships for EVERYONE and EVERY type of situation. Whether you are a non traditional student (returning to school after a break), transfer student, military, special needs or of any other unique circumstance, there is a scholarship somewhere out there for you! Keep looking!

How it is distributed: Scholarships are dispersed in a similar manner as FAFSA. Once you are granted a scholarship, the organization or person will ask for your college/university department of financial aid where they will be sending the check to. The money will first be sent directly to your university/college financial department where it will be used to cover your tuition and fees as well as any other costs you may have like a (deferred) direct deposit, on campus living, meal plans (if those are options you chose). If there is leftover aid once those school charges are paid for, the rest of the aid will be sent to the student via direct deposit or a check.

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