The cost of attending college continues to rise. Unfortunately, income increases aren’t keeping up with the cost of education. Many parents and their high school students are trying to figure out how they’ll afford the expense.
Before you resort to student loans to pay for college, exhaust your options for college scholarships. They can be difficult to find, but you can’t necessarily expect free money to simply land in your lap.
Here are some of the best places to look for college scholarships.
1. Your College
Colleges always have a certain amount of money to give away in scholarships. You often won’t be granted a college-specific scholarship unless you’ve been admitted to that school, so fill out your application early to learn your scholarship options.
Colleges offer a few different types of scholarships. Athletic scholarships are for those who come to the college to play a sport. Academic scholarships are based on your grades at school and your scores on college entrance tests like the SAT and the ACT. Depending on the major you select, you may be able to receive a department-specific scholarship. To find out what scholarships are available through your college of choice, contact the school’s financial aid department.
2. The Internet
With nearly all scholarship information being posted online these days, perhaps your best tool for finding college scholarships is the internet. For example, a Google search for “college scholarships” returns more than 11 million results. Of course, you don’t have the the time to go through each of those pages, so here are four of the top online scholarship databases:
- Fast Web helps you find scholarships that you qualify for based on information you enter. FinAid.org calls FastWeb the most accurate and most frequently updated scholarship database on the web.
- Education for Careers is an extremely career-oriented scholarship and school directory, focusing on advancing your career. This free service lets you find both the best schools as well as learn more about financial assistance.
- Monster Learning is another great resource that allows you to get connected with colleges, online universities and other institutions of higher learning.
- College Board includes scholarships from public and private sources at the national and state level. The database is updated annually so some of the information included may be outdated.
The internet is chock-full of information that can save you thousands while allowing you to earn even thousands more. Just keep searching and stay open minded.
3. Charities and Foundations
Many charities, foundations, and other organizations have a certain amount of money set aside for college scholarships. Though the amount of funds available has decreased during the economic recession, many organizations still have scholarships available.
ScholarshipAmerica.org is one website that lists private scholarships available through charities and other organizations. Check with your church or religious organization and those around you
Companies, both large and small, are another great source of scholarship money. Start by having your parents check with their employer to find out if there are scholarships available through their company. If you’re a working, independent student, you might check with your employer to find out about available scholarships.
Also, check with businesses in your region to find out whether they offer scholarships. Your local chamber of commerce will be able to tell you some companies in your area that offer college scholarships.
5. Your High School Counselor
You may not use your high school counselor for much, but she has a wealth of information about scholarships that are available. Since your counselor has first-hand knowledge of your achievements and your abilities, she’ll probably be able to help you find scholarships that you’ll qualify for.
If you’ve already graduated college, give a call to a high school counselor in your area to find out if she knows about any scholarships for non-traditional students.
6. The Military
One of many rewards offered to military personnel are scholarships that help cover college expenses. Nearly all military branches offer some type of assistance with education expenses.The Online Education Database has a list of scholarships that are offered by various branches of the military. Even military children have scholarship options. America Supports You in includes an extensive list of links to scholarships available for military children.
The Montgomery G.I. Bill is one of the most well known scholarship programs offered to members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guards, and National Guards. Currently, you could receive nearly $40,000 in education benefits for one tour of active service in the military.
You can find out more information about the military scholarships from each of the military branches:
- www.usmma.edu (U.S. Merchant Marine)
- www.ang.af.mil (Air National Guard)
- www.1800goguard.com (Army National Guard)
7. The Library or Bookstore
Each year, several publishers put together scholarship guides that function similarly to the websites I listed above. The scholarships listed in these guides may be duplicates of those listed somewhere on the internet, but having them listed between book covers can make it much easier to find the right scholarship. Some of the most popular annual scholarship guides include:
- The College Board Scholarship Handbook
- Kaplan Scholarship Books
- The National Research Service’s Guide to Private-Sector Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Loans for the Undergraduate
- Free $ for College For Dummies
You can find these books and more on college scholarships at your local library, bookstore, or at an online bookseller like Amazon.com.
Exhaust Your Options
Don’t stop looking for scholarships just because you’ve already started college. You can often find additional scholarships that are available only to students who’ve completed some college.
Looking for a college scholarship can be time consuming. When you find enough scholarships to cover all or part of your college expenses, the time is well worth it. Start looking early and exhaust all your options.