College can be quite expensive. In fact, it is one of the single largest expenses that millions of Americans will make in their lifetimes. Tuition must be paid, along with rent, books, food, gas, insurance, and countless other expenses.
While college will prove expensive no matter what, one way you can make it much more affordable is through scholarships. Most people think of scholarships as paying for tuition and possibly books, but they can cover much more. Scholarships can cover anything from room and board to food, lab fees, and even spending money.
Some scholarships are very broad and can be used to pay for any area of study; others are very narrow, even limiting applicants to studying a certain subject at a certain college. There are scholarships for racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, as well as for many other groups as well. There are even scholarships for people who have had certain family surnames for a particular number of generations. There are literally thousands of scholarships available; you just have to know where to look.
One of the best ways to begin looking for scholarships is through your school guidance counselor. Many local groups that offer scholarships will do so with input from high school guidance counselor offices, or at least advertise them there. Guidance counselors will also likely have information on state and local scholarships as well. Counselors will also typically be able to offer you advice on which scholarships you may be eligible for, or what you may have to do to become eligible for them. For more information on what you should talk to your guidance counselor about, here is a helpful list of questions.
After you have consulted with your guidance counselor, you should talk with representatives from any school you may be planning to attend or at least consult a website. Many alumni and community groups will offer scholarships to attend a particular college or even a particular program at that college. If you already know which college that you plan to attend, or at least which programs you are considering, you should definitely talk to someone there about scholarships.
Most colleges and universities have lists of scholarships which their students are eligible for, as do many alumni associations. Many schools have employees whose entire job is to help current and prospective students with financial aid and scholarships.
Another great place to find scholarships is from your or your parent’s employers and group memberships. Thousands of American companies offer college scholarships to their employees and their employees’ children. Just as many community, social, professional, and charitable groups offer scholarships for their members and their members’ children, these scholarships can range in value from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars.
While some scholarships are available to all employees and their children, most must be applied for just like any other scholarship. Human resource departments are a good source of information about these scholarships, as are company and group websites.
You can search for scholarships online through sites like http://www.fastweb.com/ that allow you to customize your search to find scholarships that you are qualified to apply for. Before you give any site your personal information, do a little research to make sure that they aren’t a scam site looking to resell your contact information to marketers. Many legit sites will also make money via advertising. However, they will also offer legitimate, useful information. You should not have to fill out multiple “offers” to get access to the information or be sent from website to website filling out forms without getting any real information.
Also be wary of any site that asks you for payment and/or promises that they can get you a certain amount of scholarships. Nobody can guarantee that you’ll receive a scholarship and many of these pay sites don’t offer anything that isn’t available for free. If you have money to spend, it’s better spent on hiring a tutor to help you write and proofread your essays.
Do treat finding scholarships as a job. Schedule time each week to fill out applications and write essays. Even small scholarships will add up! Don’t assume that you won’t be able to win any scholarships because you aren’t a superstar, as different programs are looking for different kinds of students. You’ll never know what’s out there if you don’t try.
Did you receive college scholarships? How did you find out about them?