Scholarships are a great way to help pay for college as costs continue to rise. Essentially free money for college that doesn’t have to be paid back after graduation, scholarship funds can be used toward tuition, fees, living expenses, textbooks, school supplies, and other school-related expenses.
Many people mistakenly assume that scholarships are only awarded for good grades. There are actually many types of scholarships out there, including:
While it’s advisable to start applying for scholarships as soon as possible, it’s never too late to start looking. Some scholarships have much later deadlines than others; don’t leave potential money for school on the table by assuming it’s too late and you missed your chance. Here are eight suggestions for finding scholarships for the upcoming school year:
1. Ask your guidance counselor. If you’re still in high school, set up an appointment with your guidance counselor. He or she may have literature about scholarships that you don’t know about and suggestions on how to apply. Find out about scholarships given by organizations in your area as well as national scholarships.
2. Contact your college(s). If you’re already in college, visit the financial aid office. A counselor may know about scholarships that the school awards or even outside programs you may be eligible for. If your grades have improved dramatically over the past semester or year, perhaps you might meet eligibility standards that you didn’t meet last year. If you’ll be graduating from high school this spring but are still deciding which college you’ll be attending this fall, let them know you’re still undecided. Ask about any scholarship programs that might help “seal the deal.”
3. Think outside the box. Do you have an unusual hobby or talent? Other people might think it’s silly or weird, but there just might be a scholarship out there! NPR News reports that two cheese shops in Minnesota are raising money to fund a “cheesemonger education” scholarship. (A “cheesemonger,” also known as a “cheese steward,” is a merchant who specializes in selling speciality cheeses.) It may not be a college major, but various training and apprenticeships can be expensive.
4. Find out if your parents’ employer offers scholarships for the children of employees. Many large companies offer tuition reimbursement programs to employees, and scholarships for employees’ children are nearly as common. Ask your mom or dad to find out if their workplace offers any type of programs. You don’t want to miss out on money that you might be eligible for!
5. Check with your employer. If you’ve worked a part-time job at the same company for the past few years, you might qualify for tuition reimbursement if your college major is relevant to your job or could help you advance at the company. (Even lowly supermarket cashiers and baggers just might work their way up to store or even district managers!) Inquire with your supervisor or consult the employee handbook.
6. Take advantage of the Internet. Put that laptop or tablet to use and look for scholarships online, but make sure you only use websites that you trust. StateUniversity.com’s Financial Aid Guide is home to scholarship information, and the scholarships search at bigfuture by The College Board is another good place to get started.
7. Keep your eyes peeled for scams. Unfortunately, scholarship scams are out there and students and their parents sometimes become victims. If you’re scrambling to pay for college and looking for scholarships at the last minute, it’s tempting to believe things that would otherwise sound too good to be true. Never apply for scholarships that have application fees, and never “give money to get money.” Always remember that scholarships are awarded to eligible students who are looking to better themselves through education. While they may have academic or merit requirements that must be met and maintained in order to receive the funds each semester, they should never have financial requirements for the recipients.
8. Ask! Do you know anyone who might be willing and able to help you pay for college, such as a relative who doesn’t have children or a family friend with a comfortable income and lifestyle? Coming right out and asking might make you feel nervous or awkward, so if that’s the case you might not want to do it, but you never know! They just might say yes.
The fall semester—and its accompanying bills—will be here before you know it. If there’s any chance of locating even a bit of extra money to help you pay for college, why not take advantage?
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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