Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the process to apply for scholarships and loans?
A: Students must complete the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts’ online application available January 1 through March 31 each year. A copy of their Student Aid Report (SAR) for the upcoming academic year and their most recent academic transcript must be uploaded with the application.

Graduating high school seniors can obtain a transcript through their high school guidance offices. Students who currently attend college can request a transcript through the college’s Registrar or Academic Records Office or through their student portal.

Q: What if a student does not have internet access or a computer at home to submit the online application?
A: We recommend students contact a local library, community center, employment agency or senior center to determine if they are eligible to use the free or minimal cost public use computer terminals. If a student is unable to access a computer with internet service please contact us at  scholar@communityfoundation.org or at (413) 732-2858 at least one week prior to the close of the application.

Q: Can students reapply each year?
A: Yes, students are strongly encouraged to reapply each year. The online application must be completed every year in which a student wishes to be considered. Receipt of an award for one academic year does not guarantee an award will be granted in a subsequent year. Conversely, students who did not receive an award in a previous year should not be discouraged from reapplying another year.

Q: What is a FAFSA and where is it available?
A: FAFSA is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is the first step in determining a student’s eligibility for federal, state and sometimes college financial assistance. There is no charge to complete this document. Go to http://www.fafsa.gov to begin the process.

Q: What is a Student Aid Report (SAR)?
A: Upon completion of the FAFSA, the student will receive a Student Aid Report (SAR). The SAR is a document providing basic information about a student’s eligibility for federal student aid as well as the answers to other questions on the FAFSA. A student usually receives this document electronically. The SAR is several pages long. Be sure to provide CFWM with the entire document (approximately six pages) and not just the confirmation page.

Q: Do students have to send an official copy of their transcript?
A: A student must upload their academic transcript with their application. Therefore, a copy of an original is an acceptable document. To be considered an acceptable document, the transcript must show the following:
1) the student’s name
2) the college’s name
3) the URL (if it is retrieved from a student portal)
4) all coursework for which a student is enrolled, and all grades received in courses to date.
5) A cumulative GPA and not just the GPA earned in a given semester.

In all cases, CFWM reserves the right to request that an official copy be submitted.

Q: Is there a required essay on the application?
A: Yes. All applicants are required to complete at least one and one longer essay. Take care in writing the essay, as it is very important to selection committees. Its purpose is to ensure that a student stands out and compels reviewers.

Q: Are only those students who live in the Pioneer Valley eligible for scholarships and interest-free loans?
A: Most of CFWM’s scholarships and interest-free loans are limited to residents of the three counties in the Pioneer Valley (Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin). There are a few scholarships for which students residing outside of the Pioneer Valley are eligible. A student’s residency is determined from the address listed on their FAFSA. The interest-free Colgan Loan is limited to residents of Massachusetts who have resided in the state for a minimum of five years.

Q: Are part-time students eligible?
A: Yes. Unless otherwise noted in the scholarship or interest-free loan descriptions, full-time and part-time students pursuing higher education at an accredited institution in the U.S. are eligible for scholarships and/or loans.

Q: Are scholarships and loans available to graduate students?
A: Yes. Both undergraduate and graduate students are elibible scholarships and interest-free loans unless otherwise noted in the description.

Q: Must a student attend a college or university in Massachusetts?
A: No. Scholarships and interest-free loans are awarded to eligible students enrolled in accredited colleges and universities anywhere in the U.S., unless otherwise noted in the description for the scholarship or interest-free loan.

Q: How are recipients selected?
A: A committee of community volunteers selects recipients based on the specific criteria of the scholarship or interest-free loan. With the exception of a few awards, a student’s financial need is strongly taken into consideration. A student’s academic history is also considered, as are the essays submitted with the application.

Q: When are decisions made?
A: Generally, decisions are made by the end of May and recipients are notified by the end of June.

Q: What is the maximum amount of scholarships and interest-free loans a student can receive from the Community Foundation of Western MA?
A: Students attending a four-year school can receive up to $8,000 in scholarships in any one award year. Community college students and those attending other two-year schools can receive up to $4,000 in scholarships in any one award. Students attending two and four year colleges are also eligible to receive one, $3,000 interest-free loan in a given award year.

Q: What expenses can scholarships cover?
A: Scholarships may be used to offset tuition, fees, room and board, and other items included as part of the cost for attending the institution. Some part and/or all of the award could be considered taxable income. It is advisable students check with the college or tax accountant regarding this matter.

For students enrolled in less than six credits, scholarships are payable for tuition and fees only.

Scholarships are only applied to tuition for students enrolled in for-profit institutions.

Q: Will a Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts scholarship affect a student’s financial aid package?
A: Financial aid packages may be adjusted to reflect scholarships other than those granted by the college. Usually a college or university will first use an outside scholarship to replace unmet need, or reduce the amount of loans or work study before adjusting grants or scholarships. However, policies vary at each college and students should check with the Financial Aid Office at their school.

Q: How does a student receive their scholarship and/or interest-free loan award?
A: Scholarships are paid directly to the student’s college. Payments are sent after a student’s enrollment is verified for the semester. The full amount of  scholarships awarded to a student is generally paid in the fall semester. There may be an exception to this, and if this were to occur, CFWM will notify the student.

Interest-free loans are paid directly to the student once CFWM receives all the completed documents sent to the students upon notification a loan has been awarded.

Q: What if a student withdraws or attends only one semester in an academic year?
A: This situation will be addressed on a case by case basis.