If people put just a fraction of the time they put into looking for sources of free money for college as they do to the jobs they’re using to pay for tuition, books and other expenses, they’d wind up paying much less of their actual school costs. More than a few students who have earned their bachelor’s online at Strayer have paid for their entire education with money from grants and scholarships that they didn’t pay back. A much better strategy than racking up student loans if you can make it work, right? If you’re going back to school, take advantage of the many scholarships and grants out there that you qualify for. Even if you spend a few hours filling out a single application and writing an essay, it’s worth the couple hundred or thousand dollars that you’ll gain in awards. In short, it’s time well spent.
Things You Should Know about Scholarships
My best advice is to apply for as many scholarships as you can, as soon as you can to ensure that you get as much free money for college as possible. You can find possible scholarships in a lot of places (Just beware of websites that require you to pay to view or apply for scholarships; a lot of them are scams.), but here are some good websites to start from:
- The US Department of Labor’s free scholarship search service will help you search for scholarships by the state you live in, what type of education you’re seeking, your ethnic background and other factors.
- You can also access scholarships for military service members and other education benefits available to active service members and veterans.
Start identifying scholarships that you qualify for (Be sure to read the requirements carefully!), and find out what you need to do to apply. Some have simple applications that you can fill out quickly. Others will require that you document your economic status, supply a high school or college transcript and maybe even write an essay. If you don’t find a lot that you qualify for right away, keep searching. There’s money out there, no matter what your background, not matter your age, your economic status or even if you already have a degree. You’ll find something, and the financial aid is worth your time.
Finding and Applying for College Grants
Grants are similar to scholarships in that you don’t have to pay them back. There are a lot of grants out there from federal and state agencies, as well as from schools and private groups dedicated to helping students. Here are a few places to look:
- The US Department of Health and Human Services partners with Grants.gov to help people find and apply for school grants.
- Federal Pell Grants are usually awarded to undergrads, who don’t yet have a degree and meet certain qualifications. You’ll usually apply through the financial aid office of the college you’re attending.
- States have their own agencies that offer education grants, and you can search them at this grant agency directory from the Department of Education.
- Your company may have grants or tuition reimbursement, so check with your HR department.
For some government grants, you’ll need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which helps you apply for grants, loans and work-study programs. Don’t pay to fill out the FAFSA; it’s free, but there are some websites that will try to charge you for it!
Tips for Applying
When you’re applying for a lot of scholarships and grants, it’s easy to get burned out. But if you start early and keep doing a few applications a week, you can apply for a lot of them in a short amount of time. And if the award is particularly large, take your time with the application and essay. Some grants and scholarships are attached to projects you submit or competitions. Take your time on the really valuable ones, and the payoff could be significant. And once you’re in school, keep applying; there’s always next semester’s tuition and books. If you didn’t receive a lot of grants this time, you might qualify for a lot more once you’ve taken some courses and proven you can succeed in a college environment. How are you planning to pay for school? Have you already found some good scholarships to apply for?