Know Your Dates: Freshmen

Of all 365 days in the year, there are some that tend to carry more weight. You’ve got your birthday (that’s a big one), the first day of summer (can’t forget that), and of course 7/11’s Free Slurpee Day (we know that’s really important).

At PSU, we can think of a few more. The college application process can be confusing—so many dates and deadlines swirling around. But we will make it easy.

We’ve compiled a list of all the dates you should have on your calendar. Save them in your phone now (or on paper, if you’re old school).


AUGUST 1

The PSU Admissions Application is available! This is where it all begins. We start accepting applications early so you can have as much time as possible to complete yours. Even though the deadline seems far away now, it will sneak up on you. You should get a head start on your application, so you can focus on connecting with an advisor, deciding where you’ll live and figuring out how you’ll pay for college.

OCTOBER 1

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available. This is the form that lets you know what financial aid options you are eligible for—you’ll also need to fill out a FAFSA in order to submit a scholarship application at PSU. This is a crucial step in getting the money you need to pay for college. When you fill out a FAFSA, remember to add PSU as one of your colleges.

The PSU Scholarship Application. If you haven’t already started your Scholarship Application, now is the time. The scholarships have different requirements, like essays and references, so you won’t be able to wait until the last minute to complete it. Apply early so you can be sure you get the most money possible to help pay for college.

DECEMBER 1

Your Honors College Application. This is a priority deadline for freshmen. Students who apply by the priority deadline will get an Honors College admission decision by March 1. Though this is not a hard deadline, applying after December 1 makes students far less likely to get Honors scholarships.

FEBRUARY 1

Your PSU Scholarship Application, essays and references. This is a hard deadline, so you must get all your documents in by February 1. Get started early!

The FAFSA. We have a rolling deadline for FAFSA, but like all parts of the application process, it’s best to do this early. February 1 is also the deadline to submit the FAFSA to be eligible for Four Years Free (Oregon residents only).

Last day to apply to PSU to be eligible for the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). Luckily, there is no separate application required—you will automatically be considered for WUE when you turn in your PSU Admissions Application.

Admitted Student Reception sign ups open!

The hard part’s done, but once you get an admission decision, there are a few important dates you’ll need to know!

APRIL 1

New Student Orientation sign ups open. We recommend signing up for Orientation as early as possible. To gain access to sign ups, you’ll have to confirm your enrollment.

MAY 1

Last day to apply to PSU to be considered for Four Years Free (Oregon residents only). There’s no separate application—you will be automatically considered when you submit your Admissions Application.

Confirm your enrollment to PSU. May 1 is National College Decision Day, so students all around the country are making the big decision about where they will attend college. Apply early so you have enough time to weigh your options and make the choice that’s right for you. As soon as you confirm your enrollment, you can sign up for New Student Orientation and start preparing for your first term as a PSU Viking!

Apply for on-campus housing during your first year. This is the final deadline.

AUGUST 1

Final high school transcripts are due.

YOU’RE DONE!

Now you can sit back, relax and take a big sigh of relief. As long as you start early, completing your PSU application is painless. Applying to PSU is quick and easy because we do not require an essay or letters of recommendation!

Review PSU’s freshman admissions requirements.

Know Your Dates: Transfer

Alright, you’ve made up your mind. You’re going to transfer to PSU and finish your degree. It’s time to start getting your application together. We know at times the process can be confusing, so we’ll go through each important date and deadline to explain what is needed from you.

Let’s get started!


AUGUST 1

The PSU Admissions Application is available! We begin accepting applications early because we want you to have the most time to submit your application. We get it—life happens, but remember, if you can get your application submitted early, then you can focus on connecting with an advisor, deciding where you’ll live and figuring out how you’ll pay for college.

OCTOBER 1

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available. This is the form that lets you know what financial aid options you are eligible for—you’ll also need to fill out a FAFSA in order to submit a scholarship application at PSU. This is a crucial step in getting the money you need to pay for college. When you fill out a FAFSA, remember to add PSU as one of your colleges.  

The PSU Scholarship Application. If you haven’t already started your Scholarship Application, now is the time. The scholarships have different requirements, like essays and references, so you won’t be able to wait until the last minute to complete it. Apply early so you can be sure you get the most money possible to help pay for college.

FEBRUARY 1

Your PSU Scholarship Application, essays and references. This is a hard deadline, so you must get all your documents in.

Your Honors College Application. This is a priority deadline for transfers. However, after February 1 students are far less likely to get honors scholarships.

The FAFSA. We have a rolling deadline for FAFSA, but like all parts of the application process, it’s best to do this early.

Last day to apply to PSU to be eligible for the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). Luckily, there is no separate application required—you will automatically be considered for WUE when you turn in your PSU Admissions Application.

Admitted Student Reception sign ups open!

The hard part’s done, but once you get an admission decision there are a few important dates you’ll need to know!

APRIL 1

New Student Orientation sign ups open. We recommend signing up for Orientation as early as possible. To gain access to sign ups, you’ll have to confirm your enrollment.

MAY 1

Confirm your enrollment to PSU. May 1 is National College Decision Day, so students all around the country are making the big decision about where they will attend college. Apply early so you have enough time to weigh your options and make the choice that’s right for you. As soon as you confirm your enrollment, you can sign up for New Student Orientation and start preparing for your first term as a PSU Viking!

Apply for on-campus housing. This is the final deadline.

JUNE 1

Last day to apply to PSU to be considered for Transfers Finish Free. There’s no separate application—you will be automatically considered when you submit your Admissions Application.

AUGUST 1

Final high school transcripts are due.

YOU’RE DONE!

Whew. We know, it’s a lot, but if you start early it’s a breeze. Applying to PSU is quick and easy because we do not require an essay or letters of recommendation!

Review PSU’s transfer admissions requirements.

Pell Grant Review

Three students thinking about their future.

Figuring out how you will pay for college is stressful and exhausting. There are many funding opportunities, and it’s difficult to determine what you qualify for and how to apply. The Pell Grant, a federally-funded grant, is an excellent source of money for students with high financial need. In order to get the Pell Grant you must fill out and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). We recommend completing the FAFSA ASAP so you don’t have to worry about it later.

Over 8,500 students attending PSU received the Pell Grant in 2016-17 academic year.

So, what is a grant? Unlike loans, grants are not expected to be paid back. That’s free money to help you achieve your education goals! And unlike other federal student aid, the Pell Grant can be used to cover more than just tuition and fees, like books, transportation, housing and other living expenses.

How to Apply

First, complete the FAFSA! Remember to add PSU as one of your colleges when you fill out the FAFSA (if you’ve already submitted it, you can go back in and add us).

The amount you can receive with the Pell Grant is based on financial need, cost of enrollment, and the length of time you will be in college. The maximum Pell Grant award for the 2018-19 academic year is $6,095 (this amount changes each year). If you’re not ready to complete the FAFSA, you can still estimate your Pell Grant award with the FAFSA4caster.

Check out our blog post dedicated to demystifying the FAFSA.

Eligibility

The Pell Grant provides funding for students to get their education. Here are the eligibility factors:

  • Financial need: Financial need is calculated based on cost of attendance and Expected Family Contribution (EFC). This is not a number you have to come up with on your own—it’s calculated when you fill out the FAFSA. Once you complete the FAFSA, it will tell you (and PSU, if you add PSU as one of your schools) if you are eligible.
  • Enrollment: You must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment at a participating institution—PSU is one!
  • Student status: You must have earned a high school diploma, completed an approved home-school education through the high school level or earned a GED. You must also be an undergraduate student who has not yet earned a bachelor’s, associate or professional degree.
  • Citizenship: You must be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.

* Undocumented students cannot receive federal grants, but they can receive state grants by filling out the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA).

Other Ways PSU Is Making College Affordable

Pell Grant eligible students may be able to defer their application fee, meaning they can apply to PSU and pay the fee on their first tuition bill. Students who are Pell Grant eligible are often eligible for other funding programs through PSU, including:  

  • Four Years Free: PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for the first four years for income-eligible Oregon freshmen.
  • Transfers Finish Free: PSU will cover standard tuition and mandatory fees for income-eligible Oregon transfers.

Our goal is to have students graduate on time with as little debt as possible. So if you qualify for the Pell Grant, don’t forget to check out other scholarships we offer.

You can always contact us for more information about the Pell Grant and other sources of funding.

Understanding Financial Aid

Why sugarcoat it? College is expensive and financial aid can be confusing. But rather than thinking of it as an expense, it may more be more useful to think about it as an investment in your future. 

But investments still need funding.

And while PSU is Oregon’s most affordable public university, 60% of PSU students receive some kind of financial aid during their undergrad.

Now is the perfect time to start thinking about financial aid because PSU’s scholarship applications and FAFSA have just opened for the 2019-20 academic year.

So what is financial aid? To put it simply, financial aid is any money not provided by you or your family that helps you pay for college. This money can cover anything from tuition and student fees to housing, food, books and transportation. If you need it to succeed in school, financial aid can cover it.

There are multiple ways to receive financial aid ranging from university scholarships to federal loans, but it all starts with filling out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is your key to making college more affordable. Check out our special blog post dedicated to deciphering the FAFSA for all the details.

Let’s take a closer look at the financial aid offered at Portland State, and what they mean for you.


Scholarships

PSU offers nearly 450 scholarships every year to students from all backgrounds! These scholarships range from awards based on academics to athletics to activism, and they can be used to pay tuition, student fees, housing and much more. Scholarships are not loans, and thus never need to be paid back to the university. It’s essentially free money. You heard that right. Free. Money.

PSU’s General Scholarship Application is due by February 1, so check out our detailed list of all university scholarships. Every scholarship is different, and some require letters of recommendation, writing samples and other supplemental materials, so start the application process early to ensure you will get yours in on time.

There are also a lot of national scholarships not specific to Portland State. For more information on these scholarships, visit the PSU scholarships home page.

Federal Grants

Many universities (PSU included) receive grants from the Federal Government that they can use to help students pay for college. These grants are split up into two categories: need-based and merit-based. Like scholarships, federal grants do not require to be repaid. More. Free. Money.

The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. Pell Grants are need-based financial awards that are distributed to students based on the information provided in their FAFSA. To be considered for federal grants, you only need to fill out your FAFSA. When your FAFSA information is processed, you will be notified if you are eligible for federal grants. Learn more about federal grants and see the list of awards available.  

Student Loans

Unlike federal grants or scholarships, student loans (from either the federal government or private companies) are expected to be repaid. The amount of student loans you are eligible to receive is based, like all things financial, on the information you provide in your FAFSA.

It is important to only take out loans for what you think you will need, and no more. If you have questions about applying for or accepting student loans, feel free to reach out to the Financial Wellness Center and learn more about their services in our Resource Breakdown. Prospective students and their families are welcome.

You do not pay back student loans while you are a student. Instead, you begin paying for them roughly about six months after the final term you are in school.


Finding out how you are going to pay for college can be a complicated process, but there is a network of support at PSU. Through the Office of Financial Aid and Financial Wellness Center, there are always professionals excited to help you navigate the cost of college.

So feel free to drop by and introduce yourself or shoot us an email. No question is too small, and we want you to succeed.

Browse the PSU Scholarship Database!

“The grass was literally greener”

“I wanted something completely different, to embrace change rather than run from it.”

Jasmin Landa, a senior Business and Management Leadership major from Reno, Nevada, saw in Portland State something exotic.

“It was just so different than anything I had ever experienced. The people are nice, the perspectives more diverse, and, I mean, the grass was literally greener. I can’t see myself living anywhere else anymore.”

Jasmin hit the ground running, spending almost her entire freshman year exploring campus and getting involved.

“I spent so little time in my dorm room. I wanted to see everything, to really get close to the community here. I spent a lot of time at Campus Rec and at the Smith Student Union just talking to people and finding out everything campus had to offer.”

She found quite a lot. Jasmin seems to have a part of almost every aspect of campus life. She plays club-level volleyball for PSU, works for both Portland State University Communications and PSU’s Center Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), is a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority, and sits on the student-run Organization Budget Council, which helps facilitate student clubs and events.   

Jasmin is also the recipient of a Diversity Scholarship and other financial aid. “I knew that my mom couldn’t support me, and that I would be on my own as far as paying for college.” Nearly 70% of PSU students are using some sort of financial aid.

“At first I was hesitant to apply for a Diversity Scholarship, but eventually I decided that I needed to own my story, to be true to myself and my experiences. I’m very self-motivated in that way.”

That motivation has allowed her to expand her learning outside of the classroom. Her work with SHAC has helped her gain skills that can extend far beyond graduation.

“I do a lot of work with the food security initiatives on campus, things like Harvest Share and the Food Pantry, two amazing resources for students who may not have good access to healthy, fresh food.”

“I also help advocate for SHAC, and how it’s not just a wellness center. We have specialists, everyone from dentists to doctors to therapists. Our goal is healthy students, however that is achieved.”

As someone who wants to one day start her own business, the interpersonal and organizational skills she has gained from all of her campus activities are preparing her for life after graduation.

“I am making really good connections through all of the things I’m involved with, and people are able to turn me on to a lot of amazing potential opportunities, especially since I want to stay in Portland.”

Jasmin’s advice to students coming to campus for the first time this Fall?

“I think it’s all about exploring campus. Go into every building, read every flyer, talk to everyone you meet. There are so many things to get involved in that I promise you will find something to be passionate about as long as you get out and discover it.”

Learn more about SHAC!

Learn more about Diversity Scholarships!

Jasmin Landa

We’re Here to Help You Create Your Scholarship Strategy

scholarship blog post

We know you’ve got a lot going on. With homework, after school jobs, extracurriculars, friends and family, (maybe a Netflix binge or two) it can be hard to imagine that you’ll have time to apply for college.

In an effort to make life easier for you, we put together some tools and tips to help you get started on your Portland State University admission and scholarship applications with as little stress as possible, leaving you with plenty of time to watch televis-, uh, get caught up on school work.

What do I need to know?

The deadline to apply for PSU Scholarships is December 1.

  • Scholarships are opportunities for free money you can use to pay for college. Scholarships can come from many different sources. 
  • There are many different scholarship types. Some scholarships are merit or skill-based, while some depend on how you are involved with your community, and some are based solely off financial need. It’s important to search for scholarships that most closely match your strengths and interests.
  • It’s a good idea to apply early. Many scholarships have early application deadlines, with most opening in the fall and closing quickly for next school year. This means that scholarship applications need to be submitted nearly a year in advance of when you plan to start school. The earlier you apply the more likely you are to get more money, and who doesn’t want more money?

What do I need to submit?

For most scholarships you will likely need to complete three to four components:

  1. Scholarship Application – This form is for your personal information, things like classes you are taking, grades, where you’re from, etc.
  2. Responses to Essay Questions – This is your chance to introduce yourself and highlight your experiences and achievements.
  3. Letters of Recommendation  Most students submit at least two from key influential professionals in your life that can speak to your character and accomplishments and want you to succeed. Got questions about asking for Letters? We can help!
  4. Interview – Some scholarships request an interviews with students. Check out our tips below on how to prepare for your scholarship interview and impress the committee. Remember to smile big!

How do I find scholarships?

map
Search for them! There are TONS of people and organizations just waiting to give you free money, you just have to find them first. To help, we have a great tool to
search for scholarships. You can narrow your search using:

  • Categories – Scholarships are often assigned category. This option allows you to identify and search the categories that you feel are most relevant to you.
  • Keyword(s) – Your school may assign a keyword to a scholarship (things like your major or test scores). This option allows you to search that keyword field.
  • Description and Scholarship Name – You can simply search the description or name of scholarships to see if they contain words that you might deem suitable (e.g. Biology).

Tips for Searching for Scholarships


Get Search, Application or Essay Help

PSU Scholarship Workshops 

Open to all students, the Office of Financial Aid holds Scholarship Workshops every Fall term to help students create effective scholarship applications.

Check out their presentation from the most recent set of workshops.

All workshops are held on campus at the Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 238

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops

PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center

The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. Also, if you are working on an assignment for class, bringing a copy of that assignment is preferable. Visit the PSU Writing Center website for more information and to schedule an appointment.

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor

Scholarship Interview Tips

  • Practice in as realistic a setting as possible.
  • Arrive on time, dressed appropriately.
  • Answer questions truthfully, decisively, positively, and with relevant information. Don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know” when you need to, and try to be ready for unusual questions that may be designed to see how you react.

How to Write a Request for a Letter of Reference

reference

Some scholarships require letters of reference, which means you will have to reach out to some people in your life who know about your work ethic and personal achievements. If you’ve never done this before then it can be a daunting task.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on getting that perfect letter:

  1. Identify influential professionals in your life that challenge and inspire you.
  2. Ask them if they would be willing to write you a letter of reference for your scholarship application. (See example email message below. Use this reference request draft to reach out to them.These people may be high school counselors, mentors, academic advisors, coaches, teachers or college professors, leaders in a faith community or staff in a community or volunteer organization. These people should NOT be family members or personal friends of yours.
  3. If the scholarship you are applying for has specific requirements, ask your reference to highlight how you meet those requirements. Remember, the people writing your letter want you to succeed, and would love nothing more than to rave about your accomplishments.

Take a deep breath, and let’s write an email. It’s not scary, we promise.

Email Subject: A request for a letter of recommendation  

Email Body:

Dear [Name],

I am applying for the [scholarship name] scholarship and I am contacting you to request a letter of recommendation in support of my application.

I have included an updated resume that will give you a better idea of the classes and activities that I have been involved with.

I am hoping that you could focus on different aspects of my background, character, academics, and activities so the scholarship committee will get a broad sense of my life, skills and achievements.

Thank you for considering my request for a letter of recommendation. Please let me know if I can provide you with any other information about my recent activities or this request. Your support means a lot!

This letter is due on [date]

[Tell them how to submit the reference letter]

Thank you again!

Sincerely,

[Your name]

Don’t forget to attach your resume! Including your resume allows your reference to write specifically about you and how great a fit you would be for the scholarship. There is no such thing as too much detail.

How to Write a Scholarship Essay

PSU_Spring2015-12

Starting an essay for a scholarship application can be difficult. We’ve created a strategy to help make it easier and move along faster! Let’s get started:

Write Your Profile: Write a short description about you. Explain why you’re great. Include your strengths, accomplishments, goals and unique characteristics. This may seem obvious but it can be one of the toughest parts to put into writing. It’s incredibly important for you to talk about yourself using a clear story. This will shine through in your essay and help you find relevant scholarships unique to your strengths.

Develop an Outline: This is the foundation of your essay. Preparing your outline before you get into the meat of your story will help you visualize your story from start to finish before putting too much time into writing the specifics. This will help the writing move forward with purpose!

Fill In Your Outline: This is the hard part. If you have a good outline, it will move along much faster. Use the outline below and fill in the gaps. Elaborate on your story, provide examples of your achievements and experience that are fluid and concise. A great writing resource is the Purdue OWL Writing Guide

Beginning | Hello!

Begin your essay by addressing the scholarship committee directly. Don’t go generic here! Be as specific to the scholarship name or agency as you can. A direct address with a specific scholarship or agency name will personalize your essay and level up your application!

Dear [Scholarship name or agency] committee,

Thank you for taking the time to read my application. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself and present my accomplishments.

Remember, your essay is your chance to introduce yourself and make a first impression so make sure that your essay is clear, concise and quickly gets into your story. Read your essay out loud. If you’re not past your greeting and introduction within a few seconds, circle back to edit.

Middle | The body of your essay: Your story

Take a 1-2-3 approach to crafting your story:

  1. Past: What experiences, challenges, influences, passions, goals brought you to this point in your academic and life journey?
  2. Present: You are here! But why? Why PSU/Your Major/This School/Community etc.
  3. Future: Put it all together: Where are you headed? With your past experiences informing your current goals, where are you headed? What’s the next big step?

End | That’s a wrap!

Close your essay by explaining how this scholarship will help you achieve your goals. Don’t go generic here, list specific goals that will help you get to where you’re trying to go.

You only need to craft one solid, core essay. Once you build your core essay, you can use it for multiple scholarship applications with simple updates.


Get Search, Application or Essay Help

Sign Up for a PSU Scholarship Workshop

  • Thursday, October 20, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Friday, October 28, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Monday, November 07, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Tuesday, November 15, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238
  • Wednesday, November 30, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM – Location SMSU 238

PSU Advising & Career Services Workshops

PSU’s Advising and Career Services offers a selection of workshops aimed toward helping you choose a major and career, answering your questions about internships, preparing you for interviewing, perfecting your resume and cover letter, and more. No need to sign up in advance, just arrive in their office prior to the time the workshop is scheduled to begin.

Visit the PSU Writing Center

The Writing Center aims to help writers at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming to the final draft. When preparing for a session, reflect on what you want to focus on the most. It is helpful to bring two drafts, one for you and one for the consultant. Also, if you are working on an assignment for class, bringing a copy of that assignment is preferable. For more information, review our tips for a successful session. Schedule an appointment.

Schedule an Appointment with a PSU Financial Aid Counselor

Understanding Your Financial Aid Award

You’ve been admitted, you’ve filled out your FAFSA, you’ve received your financial aid award letter. Here are a few tips to help you understand your financial aid award.

Start by Looking at the Total Cost of Attendance

We encourage you to hit the books, do your research! Even though schools will typically only bill you for direct costs (tuition bill), it’s important to estimate your additional expenses such as housing, food, books and transportation in order to budget accurately.

Next, learn about the types of financial aid that you are eligible for

Your Financial Aid is based on many factors unique to you. (Don’t worry,  it’s all calculated  for you) here are the major ones:

Your academic record, family and finances:

  • Your financial strength (Estimated Family Contribution or EFC from FAFSA)
  • Your high school or college transfer GPA

Your college program and enrollment

  • Your admission level (undergraduate, graduate etc)
  • Your academic level (freshman, sophomore, junior etc)
  • Your enrollment level (full time, part time etc)

Your state of residence

  • In state Oregon resident
  • Out of state (not an Oregon resident)

Your financial aid package will help you make clear comparisons among the other financial aid offers you may have received.

Then, map out your degree path. Save time and money!

We are committed to helping you graduate in four years, saving you thousands of dollars in tuition and college costs. Check out this snapshot of how PSU compares to other universities in the area:

psucostcomparison

Kick the tires, crunch the numbers and get an estimate of what you’ll pay while at PSU. The bottom line is that you should know the value of your investment and shouldn’t feel like you’re throwing your money away.

Money-out-the-window

College is an investment and we want you to be successful which is why we’ve worked to ease the cost of college by offering more financial aid opportunities.

Fill in the Gaps

For some students, the financial aid programs may not cover all their costs, which means students need to find alternative options to decrease bills and increase financial aid. For other options, check out the Financial Aid Resources page at www.pdx.edu/finaid/resources

If your parents plan on helping you out, make sure you talk to them and know the difference between borrowing money in their name and your name. Paying for college can seem overwhelming but know there are lots of options so be smart, plan ahead, and only borrow what you really need so you can set yourself up for success down the road.

As always, contact the Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships for assistance with award letters or to answer any questions regarding financial aid.