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How To Find FREE Money for College
Why Look For Free Money?
Did you get accepted into your dream college then do a double take when you calculated just how much you'd be paying for your four years of education? Trust me, been there, done that, got the loan! The only problem was I never did that double take until I graduated and it came time to repay my loans. I'm here to (hopefully) save you some of that pain! Loans are an awesome source of financial assistance - but they definitely can't beat scholarships, grants or other sources of "free" money. Remember, loans need to be paid back at some point but scholarships and grants do not! Now that you know you need a scholarship, the big question is - Where do I start looking?
Most college-bound students know about the FAFSA, or know that colleges (both public and private) offer a variety of merit and need-based scholarships and financial aid. But what happens when the money your school and the government offer just aren’t enough? How do you make up the difference? Loans, hard work, and my favorite scholarships (aka free money)!
Starting Your Scholarship Search
Did you know that in addition to schools and colleges, lots of outside organizations offer scholarships as well? Today, everyone from Bill Gates to Kentucky Fried Chicken offers college scholarships. And the best part is, that today’s scholarships aren’t just for geniuses or students en-route to the Ivy League, they’re for everyone.
Start your scholarship search right in your local community. Consider all of the places you or your parents do business on a regular basis, and see if they offer scholarships. If you've been involved in community service or charitable work, check with local service clubs such as Rotary International, Kiwanis, United Way and the Lions Club. Are you and/or your parents members of a union? Many have scholarships available. There are also scholarships available for veterans and military dependents, students with disabilities, students who were orphaned or raised in foster care, and students with particular career interests. You may also find scholarships based on your racial and ethnic heritage through local or national organizations such as the National Italian American Foundation, Polish-American Clubs, the NAACP, and the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. Scholarships are also frequently offered by various local businesses and community organizations such as: banks, credit unions, PTOs, churches, synagogues, religious dioceses, civic organizations, community foundations, libraries, and even grocery stores!
Did you use the internet to apply for college scholarships?
Five Great Scholarship Search Websites
There are lots of excellent scholarship search sites available across the web. Here are five of my personal favorites to get you started! If you have another favorite, please share.
1.) www.fastweb.com -- In my opinion this website is the holy grail of scholarship search websites. The website is easily navigable and has hundreds of scholarships in its database. You fill out a survey (including things like location, involvement in various organizations, intended major, career etc.) and they come up with a list of scholarships you may be eligible for. Additionally, FastWeb has helpful advice columns, and offers help in finding jobs and internships.
2.) www.studentScholarshipsearch.com – Again, this website is easy to use, and includes a wide variety of scholarships (their current claim is to have nearly 900 scholarships and over $9 billion accessible through the site). One benefit of “student scholarship search” is that it requires no sign-up, you simply use their search engine to find what you want, when you want it.
3.) www.collegeboard.com – In addition to registering for the SATs and searching for colleges, the College Board website now offers more information about Financial Aid and its own scholarship search program. This is a great option for people who are looking for one-stop shopping for their college search.
4.) www.brokescholar.com – Broke Scholar has many similarities to FastWeb. It is easily usable and very extensive, and similar to FastWeb it requires a free registration and uses your responses to a variety of questions to create a personalized list of suggested scholarships. The amount of time it takes to fill out the survey is definitely worth it. There are millions of scholarships available, let the website do the hard part of searching through the masses, provide you with a tailored list, and save your energy for working on the applications.
5.) www.college-scholarships.com – this website is a bit different than the others, and I was initially a bit turned off by its busy appearance. With a little examination however I realized that the website has a lot to offer, especially its “Free Scholarship Searches” page. Instead of offering their own search service this website provides tips and links to nearly 50 other scholarship search websites. The website also has a variety of interest-specific lists such as lists of women’s colleges, historically black colleges (HBCs), and Christian colleges.
Four Important Tips For Your Online Scholarship Search
When you're ready to branch out beyond your local community, the internet is one of the best sources of available scholarships, and with a little research almost everyone can find free money for college. When looking for scholarships online, keep these important tips in mind:
1.) Free money should be free. Remember that searching for scholarships online should not cost you money! There are plenty of free scholarship search websites available online, don't use one that charges you money.
2.) No one can "guarantee" you a scholarship. Don't use any websites that "guarantee" you will receive a scholarship in exchange for paying a user fee.
3.) Small money adds up. You may be tempted not to bother applying for the smaller scholarships which offer chances of earning only a couple hundred dollars. But remember that receiving several small scholarships can really add up! And sometimes the smaller scholarships have less competition.
4.) Hard work now, can pay off later. Yes, applying to scholarships can be difficult work. Applications take time, and can be tedious. But the hard work you put in now, will be worth it if you receive scholarships, and don't have to take out as many loans to pay for school.