Do Your Homework
We're not talking about school assignments, although those are also important. Before applying for financial aid, it's a good idea to do some research. There are dozens of scholarships and grants available to students. Each has its own set of requirements and rewards. Some aren't affiliated with any particular college or university -- anyone can apply. Many institutions have specific programs available only to that school's students. There are plenty of resources on the Web, such as Scholarship.com, that can point you in the right direction.
It's important to pay attention to the requirements of each scholarship or grant. In some cases, the money from the program may be used for any cost a student might encounter. Others have strict guidelines on how the student can spend the money. Some scholarships or grants only go to students based on financial need. Others go to students who demonstrate qualities like leadership or community service.
Students don't have to repay money from scholarships or grants. That makes them an attractive alternative to student loans, which must be repaid with interest later on. That also means that it can be competitive to land certain scholarships. But don't let that discourage you. Keep researching, because sometimes you may find a scholarship perfect for your needs that others have overlooked.