With college costs soaring and students headed back to campus this month, paying for college is a real concern for many people. As a result, more and more families are narrowing college choices because of financial limits. Whether you are a parent or a student, there are many options to consider when funding a college education including grants and financial aid, federal and private education loans, 529 college savings plans, and more.
Also, let’s not forget about scholarships. Scholarships are a great option for help paying for college because they do not have to be repaid and there are thousands offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, and professional and social organizations. In fact, according to How America Saves for College, a study by Sallie Mae and Ispos, 44 percent of families used scholarships to cover an average amount of $8,025 in college costs in 2013. No matter the size of the scholarship, any extra money will help you avoid reaching in your pocket and going into credit card debt to pay for text books, room and board, or even a meal plan.
There are all kinds of scholarships out there. There are merit-based scholarships, which you can earn by meeting or exceeding certain standards by the scholarship-giver. It could be based on academic achievement or a special talent or interest.
Some scholarships are based on financial need. After you complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), make sure to fill out the College Scholarship Service Profile. It allows you to apply for nonfederal financial aid from almost 400 college and scholarship programs. For information and questions about FAFSA or the College Scholarship Service profile, visit ACCC’s Financial Aid 101 center.
There are also many scholarships dedicated to certain groups of people. For example, some scholarships might be specific to high school seniors, students of military families, women, or certain ethnic groups.
There are tons of resources out there to find and learn about scholarships. Offline resources include:
- your college’s financial aid office
- a high school counselor
- federal agencies and your state grant agency
- the public library
- your employer or your parents’ employers
- foundations, local businesses, religious and community groups, and ethnicity-based organizations
- professional associations related to your field of study
You can also search for scholarships using these free online resources:
- College Board’s FUND FINDER – features scholarships and other financial aid programs totaling nearly $6 billion
- FastWeb Scholarship Search – features 1.5 million scholarships worth over $3.4 billion and email notifications of scholarships relevant to you
- Sallie Mae’s Scholarship Search – updated daily and contains over 3 million scholarships worth over $16 billion
For tips on how to apply for scholarships and a free College and Scholarship Application Tracker worksheet, download ACCC’s Financial Workbook for Pre-College and College Students.
Participate in this month’s poll question: Were Your Student Loans Worth It?