Although the school year just started, many students are already thinking ahead to college and post-graduation plans. It pays to start planning early, and sometimes that includes figuring out how to secure funding for college.

November is National Scholarship Month, which was initiated to increase awareness of the need for scholarship support for post-secondary education. Let’s face it–the cost of a college education can be daunting for many. So much so that it may deter some students from pursuing their higher education dreams. Fortunately, there are numerous scholarship and financial aid opportunities to help students pursue their post-secondary goals.

Perhaps the most well-known forms of college tuition support are federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. Federal aid requires students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and it can sometimes be a lengthy and confusing process. On November 1, Hudson Senior High School held its annual “FAFSA Night.” The computer lab was packed with parents and future college freshmen receiving guidance on how to navigate the application process.

Unlike federal student aid, scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid. In New York State, students can benefit from substantial, wide-reaching scholarships such as the newly established Excelsior Scholarship. Announced this past spring, the Excelsior Scholarship program offers tuition-free college at New York’s public colleges and universities to eligible students and families.

For students interested in non-public colleges or out-of-state schools, there are numerous scholarship opportunities, particularly at the local level. In Hudson, we are grateful for the tens of thousands of dollars worth of scholarships awarded to our students every year by close to 100 community organizations. One example is Hudson Dollars for Scholars, which has provided more than $150,000 in scholarship funds to more than 200 students in the Hudson City School District since the program began in 2009. Similar to HDFS, the I Have a Dream scholarship sponsored by Operation Unite helps students who would be the first people in their families to attend college.

While outstanding grades are often an advantage when applying for scholarships, an exemplary academic record is not always required. There are local scholarships that are awarded based on factors other than grades, such as involvement in extracurricular activities, essay writing or community service. Hudson graduate Rashad Barksdale’s “It’s Okay to Dream Scholarship,” for example, is awarded to graduating Bluehawks based on satisfactory grades and participation in interscholastic sports.

We are grateful for the continued generosity and dedication of our alumni, HDFS, Operation Unite and all our community partners who help Hudson Bluehawks realize their college dreams. This list is not exhaustive, but it illustrates the wide range of scholarships that were awarded to our students just last year:

Albany City Lodge Knights of Pythias, Daniel P. Barrett Memorial Scholarship, Alfred L. Bartolotta, Jr. Memorial Scholarship, Columbia County Deputy Sheriffs’ Benevolent Association Scholarship, “Moe” Crank Scholarship, Philip Paul Glick Memorial Fund Award, Neil Howard Scholarship, Hudson High School Alumni Association Scholarship, Hudson Rotary Club/ J. Warren VanDeusen Scholarship, Hudson Teachers’ Association Scholarship, Paul Jorgensen Scholarship, Joe Maben Memorial Scholarship, George W. Oliver, Jr. Scholarship, Virginia A. Osterwald Memorial Scholarship, Brett P. Pelesz Scholarship, Dorothy E. Simon Scholarship, Spicer Family Scholarship, Student Council Scholarship, Frank J. Sullivan Memorial Scholarship, Taconic Biosciences, Inc. Scholarship, Michael Terwilliger Memorial Scholarship, Women’s Progressive Club Daisy Alstork Scholarship, William B. Wrigley Memorial Scholarship, and various scholarships from alumni and classes.

As mentioned previously, federal student aid is another useful resource to help cover the cost of a college education in addition to numerous scholarship and grant opportunities. High school students and families can learn more about financial aid and the application process at a SUNY Financial Aid Day, happening on Saturday, November 18 at 9 a.m. at Columbia-Greene Community College (register at