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Tips for Students: Hunting for College Money

Free Cash, Anyone?
"Start searching for scholarships during your junior year in high school and continue the search right up through your junior year in college. That way, you are prepared and will know what scholarships you are eligible for in advance."

– Financial Aid Advisor, SUNY-Cortland

You should apply for as many scholarships as humanly possible if you're serious about getting through college without a load of debt. Chances are you will have to take out some loans, but the more scholarships you have, the less debt will weigh you down after you graduate. Scholarships are the best kind of financial aid you can get because you don't need to pay them back.

Billions of dollars are given out in the form of scholarships each year to undergraduate students. That's a lot of money. You can earn a scholarship for all sorts of things – if you do well in school, write a certain essay, play a certain sport, speak a certain language, come from a certain racial or ethnic background, have a family member in the armed forces, plan to go into a certain field after college, or possess any number of other qualifications. Each year, many national foundations and corporations give away thousands of dollars in scholarship money that could be yours.

"I applied for LOTS of scholarships. The problem was, I applied for the general ones, the ones that are for "high school seniors and juniors" and "women under 35 with leadership potential." Everyone has something unique about him or her, be it an interest in community service, religion, sports, ethnicity, or another characteristic. Look it up-there is probably a scholarship for it!"

– Freshman, Emory University

We won't even attempt to list scholarships here because there are great resources where you can easily search for them. Our favorite-and the biggest and most popular-is FastWeb (www.fastweb.com). You can search based on your background and profile and find scholarships best suited for you. For a more detailed list of some good places to search for scholarships, check the Helpful Resources section at the end of this book. The local businesses and organizations in your town will also give out many types of scholarships. Talk to your guidance counselor or financial aid officer about where you can find applications for these scholarships and go after them.

Go after any scholarship that you even remotely qualify for, regardless of how small the amount. Every little bit helps, and often, there's less competition for smaller scholarships. And remember to continue to apply for scholarships even after you begin attending college. Often we're motivated during the application process and don't keep at it later on. It's worth your time.

Remember that you have to report every scholarship that you receive to the colleges and universities where you apply and to the school that you decide to attend. They will likely lower the amount of your loans as a result, and the fewer loans you have, the better off you are.


From Getting through College without Going Broke by Students Helping Students®. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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