College is expensive with an average cost of a four-year private school being $34,740 in 2017-2018. Unless you want to spend a big portion of your adult life paying back your student loan you’d better find another way to get some (or all) money to invest in your future education. How does free money for college sound? Are you ready to figure out the system to find enough money for college to avoid student loans completely? The fact is that practically everyone is eligible for some kind of scholarship or grant, you just need to put in some effort and scratch below the surface and find the right one for you and your needs. Keep on reading and find out various options on how to get free money for college.
Basic Advice to Get Free Money for College
- Have a talk with your high school counselor. It is their job to inform you and provide services regarding finding a right option for you.
- Search the Internet, join the forums, talk to people. Simply put, engage in finding the right scholarship or grant so you won’t have to work full time during your studies (and miss a party or two)
- FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is required for most of scholarships and grants. Experts say the best time to fill it out is as early as January as it works according to first-come, first-serve principle. Fill it out carefully, honestly and on time.
- Apply for many scholarships and do it every year.
Grants and Scholarships
As much as these two terms are frequently confused, there is a distinctive difference between them and understanding it might help you decide which option is better for you. What both will do is offer you financial aid which you don’t need to repay (unlike student loans).
A scholarship helps you according to your merits (academic performance, athletic ability, etc.) or some traits (background, etc.) and it can come from different sources while a grant is based on your needs (financial, etc.) and it comes from federal or state financial aid.
Make sure you start on time and do your research well as there are always requirements you need to meet (certain GPA, etc.)
Students with financial difficulties are most likely to receive a federal grant. A federal grant is literally free money for college. These grants are competitive so the advice about having to research and apply on time really needs to be taken seriously. You are required to fulfill FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and supply the information about your finances. One of the biggest and most popular federal Grants is Pell Grant but there is a variety of Federal Student Grant Programs. While grants generally don’t need to be repaid, make sure you meet all the requirements so you don’t get yourself in an unpleasant situation of repaying a grant.
Believe it or not your state wants you to stay there and to study locally so they will offer you free money for college if you do stay local. They also use FAFSA information to work out if and how much financial assistance you need. State grants can be based on merits or needs.
Student athletes face even more challenges when figuring out how to find resources for college. Working is practically out of the question because between lectures, sports and studying, there is just not enough time. It is not impossible to find the right scholarship but, like every scholarship, you need to know where to look. You should consult your coach or try to go to colleges that offer financial aid for athletes. Any other organization you can think of that might offer you money based on the sport you play might do the trick. There are national and local scholarships for athletes. The usual requirement is to play any sport at your school but sometimes you are required to play a specific one. In some cases it is not even necessary to be on your college sports team. You can apply for additional sports scholarship even if you have applied for another one.
Academic and Merit-Based Scholarships
Some of the most competitive scholarships are academic or merit based scholarships. Strong grades are a must as well as high ranking in your class. Academic scholarships are merit-based but merit scholarships don’t have to be academic-based as they can be awarded according to artistic or even athletic achievement.
Race and Nationality Scholarships
Health, Disability, Relation to a Cancer Victim
If you have a health problem or disability you might be eligible for some of the scholarships from organizations aiming to inform the public about the condition or just help you pursue your higher education while you fight the illness. As far as cancer is concerned the same opportunity goes if you are a child of a cancer victim. Contact your healthcare provider or related organizations as they can help you out finding the right scholarship for you.
Some of the United States Armed Forces programs can offer to cover most or all of your college courses expenses. And not only that, but they will pay you a stipend while studying. In addition, if you serve your country for three years, your veteran benefits will cover tuition for every public college. Air Force, Army, or Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps offer highly popular ROTC scholarships.
A scholarship that rewards you for helping others? Try volunteering and double the benefit. AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Learn and Serve America pay out awards to those who have completed service (for example during your gap year). Volunteering provides you with precious experience in helping others and you will get certain amount of money to help out your college budget. Not to mention something to show off on your applications. The areas you can choose to volunteer at range from disaster relief and children in need to crisis support. Green Volunteers offer you the opportunity to care about the environment in exchange for a scholarship while websites like VolunteerMatch match prospective volunteers with their area of interest.
There are so many non-conventional scholarships that reward free money for college based on certain talents or just traits. There are even scholarships for those who consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or non-religious, scholarships for tall people, those who research potatoes, etc. We cannot stress enough: almost everybody can get some kind of scholarship! Do the research or find more here.
We even have our own $2,000 annual scholarship program, don’t forget to apply!
Other Ways to Get Free Money for College
Community groups, churches, and other various local groups often offer smaller awards for college but they are easier to win. They offer scholarships only to those who are active members of their organizations, so just knock on their door and see what they offer.
By registering on some of the crowdfunding sites you can collect (strangers’) donations for studying. Check out sites like GoFundMe or ScholarMatch and you can raise money to help pay for your studies. You can even use it for studying abroad, books, accommodation, etc. Just be honest and tell your story, your plans, and ambitions, share it on social media and let’s see what will happen. Don’t forget to share it with all your friends and family.
Many employers are willing to provide financial aid to their workers who attend college or even their workers’ children and grandchildren. The obvious requirement is to study in the field of your work.
More Tips to Cut down Your College Costs
- Try a local community college. If money is an issue why not consider taking general education courses at much lower price (about a half) and only then move on to finish your degree at a four-year institution?
- Find a part-time job while in college. Of course you can work and study. Most students usually work only part-time as they are spending most of their time studying or at lectures, but it doesn’t have to be a typical job (like pizza delivery, etc.). You have so many other options (office worker, fancy restaurant server, etc.) if you get everything organized and, of course, online jobs are always a great idea. Another possibility is to attend a work college where you work for about 20 hours a week in exchange for lowering your college costs. Whatever job you decide on, remember: school is a priority!
- Live at home. Living on campus is a one-of-a-kind experience but it can cost you quite a lot. If you want to cut down on your total college expenses move back home if your parents live nearby. Another idea is to rent an apartment and share the costs with your roommates.
- Take a year off and save up money. It will give you some extra time to rethink about your future education and allow you to find a job and save up a decent amount of money for college. Be smart and don’t waste your gap year but make the most of it by working and gaining necessary experience.
Unless you want to become a part of a student loan debt statistics take advantage of all types of financial resources and finding as much free money for college as you can will help you. Do the research, start early (as early as junior year) and take your time in finding what works for you. Be careful not to become a victim of scam sites while searching, you should never have to pay to apply or be aligible for a scholarship.