If you are already attending college or are about to start in the fall, you no doubt realize just how expensive getting a higher education really is. Even if you choose a more frugal option such as attending your local community college and living at home with mom and dad, there are all sorts of little expenses that really pile up. The average cost of text books is $1,000 per year, for example. And college fees aren’t cheap either.
One of the best ways to ensure that you graduate college without having to charge your way through is to apply for as many scholarships as possible. Whether you need an extra $2,000 or $20,000, the more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances of winning enough to cover your bills. Not sure where to find out about scholarships you might be qualified for? Here are five great ways to look:
1. Take advantage of free scholarship search engines.
Google scholarship search and you will end up with tens of thousands of links. How do you know which one to click on? The key is that these engines should be free. There is no such thing as a secret cache of scholarships, so don’t get sucked in by a website (or worse, a person cold calling you on the phone) promising access for a “low, low fee”. You should be able to search whenever you want, as often as you want, for free. For more on the most reputable search engines, check out our article on the top 5 Free Scholarship Search Engines.
2. Visit your college financial aid office.
Your college or university’s office of financial aid should have binders — or computer files — of scholarships, including private scholarships just for your school. Often endowed by alumni or university relations boards, these scholarships may target students from particular areas of the state or country, students majoring is specific subjects, or students of a certain ethnic, national or religious background. Set up an appointment early in the spring with a financial aid counselor and visit the office regularly for updated information.
3. Call you local community service organizations, religious groups, etc.
Open up the yellow pages and start making some phone calls to your local Kiwanis clubs, Chamber of Commerce, church, synagogue or mosque, and any other relevant community service group you can think of. These scholarships may not be big dollar, but your chances of winning them are much higher than with national scholarships. And five local scholarships worth $500 each still add up to $2,500 for school next year. Another tip: ask your boss or the company your parents work for if they sponsors any scholarships — and if they don’t, ask them if they would like to sponsor one now!
4. Meet with your academic advisor or department chair.
Just like your university may have special scholarships exclusively for enrolled students, your academic department may also have a limited number of opportunities for its students. While these gigs are fewer and farther between than the offerings on a free scholarship search engine, your odds of being ideally qualified for them are much better. You can learn more about student scholarships by college majors at the Financial Aid Finder’s newly expanded scholarship section. In the last week alone, we have added scholarships for biology majors, business major scholarships, scholarships for history majors, English major scholarships and more.
5. Read the Financial Aid Finder’s Friday Scholarship Announcement Post
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know about Scholarship Friday. That’s when I post about three scholarship opportunities with upcoming deadlines. I do my best to find national scholarships — so whether you are reading in Maine or California, you will still be eligible to apply. You should still be doing steps 1-4, but our Scholarship Friday is one very easy way to learn about great scholarship opportunities.
Have you found a great source for college scholarships? Tell us about it in the comments section!