One of the hardest aspects of going to college is figuring out how you are going to pay for it. It’s a scary thought, especially when the average cost for a 4-year degree from an in-state college is $110,000 (Collegedata.com). That’s a lot of money. Knowing how to get college scholarships is your answer to reducing the financial burden.
Understanding how to write a scholarship essay is beneficial as you send out applications.
Don’t Take Out Student Loans
I want you to do everything in your power to not take out a student loan. The average student loan debt for a recent college undergrad graduate as of 2020 is $29,000. This jumps to $71,000 for a graduate degree. Student loan debt keeps growing every year, and the cost of a college degree will only go up.
Nationally, more than 62% of graduates in 2019 had student loans. The average monthly student loan payment is estimated at $400.
It takes approximately 21 years to pay off a student loan. Yes, two decades! It’s hard to comprehend how four years of school could cost you two decades of payments. Can you imagine still paying on your student loans when your child may be heading off to college? That’s a reality for many parents.
Unfortunately, most students are buried in debt when they graduate. However, it’s not necessary to go into debt. With a little planning and smart choices, you can pay for college and graduate debt-free. Scholarships are one way to accomplish this.
Knowing, How To Pay For College Without Student Loans, is essential.
How To Find Scholarships
There are so many different kinds of scholarships, some get pretty wild. However, the majority of scholarships will fall into 3 categories: need-based, merit-based, and minority-based. Within these 3 types, there are a lot of subcategories. Here are just a few.
- Local community
- Through your college
It’s important to know what types of scholarships you can apply to, as it will help you refine your search and save you precious time. If you qualify for a scholarship, I encourage you to apply for it.
When I was searching for scholarships, I had it down to a science. I never qualified for need-based so that got rid of a lot of them. I am Native American so I could apply for some of the minority-based scholarships. However, I couldn’t apply for scholarships that were for minorities who were low-income. You will quickly figure out what you are eligible for which will help you dial in what to apply to.
Think Outside The Box
As I mentioned, there are so many different types of scholarships. The two below are perfect examples of how different scholarships can be.
The Vegetarian Resource Group will award, one award of $10,000 and two awards of $5,000 will be given. Entries may only be sent by students graduating from high school in Spring 2023. The deadline is February 20, 2023.
The Tall Clubs International Scholarship will award, one award of $1,000. Entries may only be sent by incoming freshmen who are tall. Men must be at least 6’2 and women must be at least 5’10. The deadline is March 1, 2023.
Who would have thought there were scholarships for vegetarians and tall people? I’m sure if you can think of it there’s a scholarship for it. Do some digging and search around for unique scholarship opportunities because they will have less competition.
I entered an Oral Speech Contest put on by our local Optimist Club. Here is the contest I entered, Optimist International Oratorical Contest. It’s a great contest to enter. I learned a lot about speech writing and public speaking. I believe the experience and what I learned, along with the skills I gained in karate are why I have no problem with public speaking. Unfortunately, I didn’t win the contest, but I did advance on in a few rounds which had a very nice paycheck when I did.
The Top 15 Scholarship Databases and Resources
The best way to find scholarships is online. Here are 15 websites for scholarships or grants. Some of the websites will overlap in their information, but it’s still worth consulting each of them regularly to see if new scholarships are available. These websites are also known to sell your personal data or send you email advertisements. You may want to create an email just for applying for scholarships or go into your setting and restrict what they can send you or you may become inundated.
1. Free Application For Federal Student Aid
All students should fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA is the form that determines your financial aid from the government and most colleges. Almost all federal awards are based on need, not merit.
Scholarships.com has helped students find the money for college and learn about the entire financial aid process. They are among the most widely used and trusted free college scholarship search and financial aid information resources. This resource also breaks down scholarships by type.
GoingMerry is your one-stop shop for scholarships and financial aid. A student can find and apply for scholarships and grants, right from their website.
Fastweb has a database of 1.5 million college scholarships worth over $3.4 billion that our members have access to by creating a free profile. Students can fill out a quick questionnaire that covers things like their contact information, schools of interest, and potential majors.
Bold matches students to scholarships based on the student’s profile. It’s easy to search and find different scholarships you may be eligible for.
Chegg provides digital and physical textbook rentals, textbooks, online tutoring, other student services, and scholarships.
CollegeBoard helps students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success—including the SAT, the Advanced Placement Program, and BigFuture. They also have a section for scholarships.
Niche helps parents and students find the right school. From K‑12 to college to grad school, they make it easy to discover and connect with the best ones for you. In addition, a student can search lists of scholarships by choosing a category or get matched to college scholarships you are eligible for.
Cappex helps students find colleges and search for scholarships and financial aid opportunities.
CareerOneStop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. CareerOneStop aims to give people the resources, assessments, and advice necessary to find jobs. Users can search for scholarships, fellowships, grants, prizes, and loans.
11. Access Scholarships
Access Scholarships is a search tool striving to connect students with scholarship opportunities, helpful information, and resources that they need to be successful in their higher education journeys and beyond.
Unigo has a community of over 3.8 million members. They are the premier network for current and future college students to get to where they’re going. Unigo wants to help you pay for college, and that is why they offer exclusive scholarships to help students of all ages.
BrokeScholar allows students to search for scholarship rewards, exclusive student discounts, and coupon codes from their favorite brands. They partner with popular brands to provide student discounts and promo codes.
ScholarshipOwl is an innovative platform designed to dramatically speed up your scholarship application time. They will match you with the award opportunities that best match your personality, grades, lifestyle, and more. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, they will take the information from your initial application and put it into the appropriate places on the scholarships of your choice.
After you fill out a profile on Scholly, they will search through available scholarships and create a list of eligible awards. Each scholarship will have a Scholly score, which ranks how good of a fit it is for your background and experience.
Ethnicity Specific Scholarships
1. Hispanic Scholarship Fund
Founded in 1975, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) empowers students and parents with the knowledge and resources to successfully complete a higher education, while providing support services and scholarships to as many exceptional students, Scholars, and Alumni as possible. HSF strives to make college education a top priority for every family across the nation, mobilizing communities to proactively advance that goal—each individual, over a lifetime, in every way they can.
2. United Negro College Fund
UNCF, the United Negro College Fund, also known as the United Fund, is an American philanthropic organization that funds scholarships for black students and general scholarship funds for 37 private historically black colleges and universities.
3. The American Indian College Fund
The American Indian College Fund provides financial support for Native American students and tribal colleges and universities and also support programs for institutional growth and sustainability and cultural preservation. I received a scholarship from The American Indian College Fund. which I am so grateful for.
4. Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution
The Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI) Scholarship Program is a collaboration with AANAPISIs and the communities they serve to provide scholarships, expand institutional capacity, and mobilize local resources to help foster economic development.
Scholarship Tips And Tricks
Chances are you will be required to write an essay or two. Most scholarships will require an essay or personal statement. I know writing an essay sounds intimidating but it’s so worth putting in the time and energy. Once you write a few good essays you can simply modify them slightly to fit the scholarship requirements.
Whenever possible, keep a spreadsheet of the essays you applied to. Bookmark scholarships that you may be able to apply to later. Don’t miss application deadlines. There were a few times I got so busy with school, work, and life I missed an opportunity because I forgot about it. Put deadlines on your calendar.
The hard reality is you won’t get most of the scholarships you apply for. Don’t let this get you down. Get used to the rejections. Though hard, it’s a part of life and not a reflection of you as a person or student. When you apply for a scholarship you are up against 100’s possibly 1,000s of other students. The odds are slim. Just let it go and keep applying.
Never Stop Looking For Scholarships
Searching for scholarships was something I did constantly for years. You will get tired of it, trust me. You will write essay after essay and submit application after application trying to convince some mysterious panel of people that you are worthy of a scholarship—worthy of their money. I lost count of how many I applied to, it was probably at least 100. More importantly, I got a few of them, and that’s how I graduated college debt-free. You can do it too!
Additional Resource For Students And Parents
Parents, if you are looking for information on how to support your student, Monica Matthews, at How to Win College Scholarships, has written two ebooks, a parent and student version of, “How to Win College Scholarships”. What I like about her approach is she wants parents and students to come together to form a partnership for the scholarship process. This is the best and most efficient way to search and apply for scholarships. She also has an amazing “Scholarship Toolkit Organizer” that goes far beyond the typical spreadsheet and is an essential must-have tool for all scholarship-searching families.
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