They say that nothing is ever truly free, but with a little bit of work, you might be able to get yourself some free money for college. College scholarships are an underrated source of paying for college that many people forget about when it comes time to pay the bill. Independent college scholarships can be used to fill the gap between your financial aid award and your total cost of college.
There are a million different types of scholarships out there, from the serious to the wacky. There are scholarships for left-handed students, for people who’ve worked in an ice cream shop, and for students who have overcome specific hardships. Those are just three examples; if you can think of something you enjoy or take part in, there’s probably a scholarship out there related to it.
Scholarships are awarded by hundreds of different organizations, from credit unions to community centers to stores to various foundations. Because of this, there’s no standardization with the process. However, most scholarship applications include an essay and a resume.
The best part about scholarships is that they are gifts. They don’t have to be repaid like loans do; it is free money. With a little bit of effort on your part, you can make some free money to pay for college.
So where do you find this free money? Start here with our free scholarship search. Some other places you can search for scholarships are Fastweb, Scholly, and Chegg. You should also try banks and community centers. A simple Google search with “college scholarships” and the name of your city should give you some leads as well.
Some scholarships are one-time awards and others are recurring, with a guaranteed award over multiple years. These scholarships are rarer and generally more competitive; in most cases, the scholarship is a one-time award that requires you to reapply each year if you want a chance to win again. Do not wait too long to apply for scholarships. There are endless scholarships out there, and you want to apply to as many as you can to increase your chances. Much like the various supplemental essays you wrote for college applications, you may be able to recycle scholarship essays with a few tweaks to the content.
Know your chances: Always stay positive with your outlook on qualifying for scholarship funding, but also figure your odds of actually winning certain scholarships. Some programs receive thousands of application requests but only provide scholarships to a handful of recipients. Other foundations may fly under the radar and receive a limited number of applications, increasing the odds you may qualify. The website will likely list how many awards are available each year.
Apply for many: Since there are no guarantees, it’s probably a good idea to apply for many scholarship opportunities to increase your chances. Since there are many scholarships out there, and many other students applying for them, simply accept that many applications will prove unsuccessful. Don’t be discouraged. Instead, put the odds in your favor by applying for many different scholarships.
Stay organized: Keep an organized calendar for scholarship deadlines to stay on track with application requirements. Don’t get overwhelmed at the last minute. Instead, give enough lead time to complete all the application requirements, like essays, projects and interviews in a reasonable fashion. The biggest problem with applying for many scholarships is being overwhelmed and missing opportunities. When using our free college planning center, you can have auto-generated email reminders and a calendar in place to help plan out the scholarship application process.
Continue to apply: There’s a big focus on scholarships for freshman year, but a tendency to forget about them after that. Don’t follow that practice. Continue to place an emphasis on applying for scholarships throughout college. If you’ve been awarded a scholarship and are eligible to win it again, continue to apply for it each year of eligibility.
If you make the time to apply for scholarships, you’ll be glad you did once those checks come to your door. It does take a bit of time, but if you spend 90 minutes writing an essay that earns you $2,000 for college, it’s worth it. When applying, think of the return on investment: your loan amount will be reduced and your life will likely be made easier. You have little to lose and a lot to gain.