College is incredibly expensive, and tuition seems to increase constantly. Did you know (according to the College Board), that the average yearly cost of attending a four-year public school is about $8,000? If you’re an out of state student, we’re talking roughly $21,000, and if you have your heart set on a private school, you’re looking at almost $30,000 in tuition. Multiply each of those by four, in most cases five now, and you’re facing a big expense.
Unfortunately, tuition isn’t the only college expense burdening families. There’s also housing and other expenses associated with sending your kid to school.
But, what’s the alternative? For some, a four-year university is the only option. In this case, you’re either looking at paying out of pocket, applying for a student loan, and/or applying for scholarships. This post focuses on the last point: winning scholarship money. There’s so much money out there to help students continue their academic journey. Why not tap into it?
The following tips will help you get one step closer to finding scholarships applicable to you:
Scholarship Databases & Financial Aid
The College Board actually has a wide range of various scholarship programs, internships, and other financial aid sources totaling over $5 billion. You should check out the following websites, which are in no way comprehensive:
You may also consider contacting various schools’ financial aid departments. Some only offer scholarships for their own students, but many offer programs for any student seeking funding for school.
This might be extremely intuitive, but never pay for a scholarship search, or pay any fee associated with obtaining scholarships. More than likely, you’ll fall into a scam trap.
You would be so surprised by what you can get a scholarship for these days. There are many non-academic programs that require you to be of a certain heritage or national origin, height, religious background, etc. There are even scholarships intended for “average students” who do not carry an A average. You might want to check out the following:
There are more, just Google “non-academic scholarships” and you’ll get a whole list!
Apply and Re-Use
You’ll realize quickly that a lot of the scholarships you’ll be applying for will ask you similar questions in their essay prompts. In a nutshell, they want to know your background, and why you think you qualify to win the prize money. Write a killer essay and re-use your work. Yes, you’re copying yourself, but that’s not illegal. You may need to make slight modifications to each essay so you answer everything asked of you, but the core of it can be re-used over and over for each scholarship. Save yourself some time and get creative with this aspect of applying.
While looking for scholarships online is important, check your high school’s counseling office. Your counselor and principal will be privy to scholarships out there that may not be easy to search for on the Internet. Develop a solid relationship with both of them and ask if they are aware of any academic or non-academic scholarships that are applicable to you.
You may want to also develop relationships with local community leaders. Local businesses sometimes offer scholarships for students with certain characteristics; ask around and see what you can find. Some of the best places to look are your local YMCA, YWCA, Rotary club, Kiwanis club, etc.
Fill out the FAFSA
FAFSA = a word that you will be glad to rid from your vocabulary when you graduate. The bad news is that your very first time doing it will be time-consuming. The good news is that it is helpful in determining your financial need, and once you fill out this tedious document, each year all you will need to do is update it. Each time you update, make sure you make clear that you’re interested in grants (free money) and other financial aid. The best time to do it is spring-the earlier the better. Grants typically go fast, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
There is so much free money out there, but it won’t come easy. Remember that you can apply for scholarships every semester, so constantly be on the lookout. Also an important note-what you weren’t eligible for last semester or year, you may be this year or the following. For instance, some scholarships are meant for certain majors, year in school, college GPA, etc. Sign up for newsletters that send out alerts when new scholarships arise, and think about setting up a Google Alert for specific scholarship search terms that are applicable to you.
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