So, you’re familiar with how to search for colleges, what to look for in schools, scheduling visits, how to choose a school and how to prepare for college academics, but have you thought about how you’re going to pay for college? Many parents may not be able to pay for their child’s tuition completely or at all. You may receive merit- or need-based financial aid, but some of that may also be in the form of loans. If you don’t want to graduate with a hefty amount of student loan debt, you may want to begin searching for scholarships. Scholarships are awarded to students to help defray the cost of tuition or other school-related expenses. Most scholarships will simply help with part of your tuition, but some may cover your costs completely. Unlike student loans, scholarships are free money that you do not have to pay back.
How do scholarships work? Typically scholarships will require a little extra work to receive – and they are in no way guaranteed to you simply because you apply for one. Most scholarships will ask you to submit an application. The application could be simple, or it could be more complex and ask for references or an essay to review. You will want to start searching for and applying for scholarships as early as possible since some may have lengthy review and waiting periods.
Where can you find scholarships? There are a countless number of scholarships out there that you could apply for. How do you find them and decide which ones to try and apply for?
- Your future school. The first place you should check is your future college. The financial aid office will typically have a list of scholarships students can apply for. You can also usually schedule a time to talk with one of your school’s financial aid counselors and they may be able to suggest specific scholarships for you or let you know about other aid opportunities you may not know about.
- Your current school. If you are still in high school, you should tae advantage of your guidance counselor. Schedule a time to talk with him or her and ask about any grant or scholarship opportunities that may be available to you. Often times you may be able to find local organizations that are interested in awarding money to local students.
- Online. Searching online can be a quick way to find an endless number of scholarships you may be available for. Just be careful and make sure any of the scholarships you apply for are from legitimate organizations. Keep in mind, you should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship. Try a web site like www.FastWeb.com, which will help you search for aid specific to your intended career, college and other factors.
There are also several other ways you can search for financial aid. Ask your parents if their workplace ever offers scholarships to children of employees, visit your local library and ask the reference librarian for information on scholarships, search the web site for your state’s education department to try and find scholarships for residents in your state, research organizations related to your intended field of interest and look for scholarships offered to students, and so on.
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