Student Aid shares how to accept financial aid (free, earned, borrowed) when preparing paying for college. Read the three tips and the descriptions below.
First, accept free money (merit aid, scholarships, grants).
The best way to pay for college is with merit aid! Merit aid is distributed by each college based on your academic performance in high school (GPA) and on your standardized tests (SAT, ACT). Improve your scores to qualify for more merit aid using test prep and tutoring! What are you waiting for?
The Domestic Undergraduate Need-Based Aid and Merit Aid chart by Jennie Kent and Jeff Levy from EducateAbroad (2017) shows you how each college distributes merit aid. Public schools offer around $5,000 in merit aid while private schools offer around $15,000. Actual aid is determined by the individual college based on the students GPA, test scores, and other factors (in some cases).
Don't fall in the "guaranteed trap!" Authentic scholarship search websites will not guarantee a scholarship since the winners could be selected at random, be 1 of 14,542 entries, or by popular vote of students with curly hair. They will not charge you an entry fee for a scholarship search. They do not have exclusive rights or secret money left by your ancestors in a cave.
So finding and applying for scholarships is your responsibility. Through your junior year, bookmark and save the scholarships you want to apply to as a senior. Then you can work toward meeting the recommendations. Christopher Penn, Chief Media Officer of Edvisors, recommends that you "set your expectations by the rule of 10 - for every scholarship you are awarded, you have to apply for 10. For every scholarship you qualify and apply for, you'll need to research 10 opportunities." So starting in August of your senior year, apply for 3-5 scholarships a week. Consider this a part-time job. When you are awarded a $500 that you spent a few hours applying for, you just saved 50 hours of real work! So don't overlook or dismiss the small dollar offers.
With so many scholarship search engines available, start with CareerOneStop, Scholar Snapp, Scholly, Student Scholarship Search, Chegg, Cappex, Fastweb, and FinAid. You'll need to create a profile but the search is free (Scholly has a small fee). Some will offer scholarships that may not be listed on another site. Some will sell your personal information, so read the fine print.
You can also search for scholarship opportunities on a general search engine (Yahoo, Bing, Google) and social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest).
You can search using many scholarship categories: academic, athletic, institutional, private, local, and regional. For more ideas, read my blog about finding obscure scholarships.
While some colleges have grants, there are typically two types of federal grants: the Pell Grant and the TEACH Grant. Similar to scholarships, grants are one-time offers that must be renewed.
Some students qualify for Pell Grants. Federal Pell Grants usually are awarded only to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have not earned a bachelor's, graduate, or professional degree.
A Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is different from other federal student grants because it requires you to take certain kinds of classes in order to get the grant, and then do a certain kind of job to keep the grant from turning into a loan.
Next, accept earned money (work study).
Some students are given the opportunity to participate in work study through the college. This allows you to work on campus for a designated amount of money. If you marked work study on your FAFSA, it should be a part of your award package. When you register for college, visit your school’s financial aid office and sign up. Don’t procrastinate. The best jobs fill up quickly. Some jobs give you the opportunity to work in your field of study; many are in service areas such as at the library, in the cafeteria, or admission office.
BONUS EARNED MONEY TIP: Learn how to become a Resident Assistant (RA). Colleges will compensate you (including free room costs!) to live and work on campus.
Last, accept borrowed money (loans).
Loans are a part of financial aid. Loans help you fill in the gap of your need-based aid and merit-based aid. There are many loan sources: institutional, federal student, federal parent, state, and private educational loans. Federal Loans include: Federal Perkins Loan (<$5,500), Direct Subsidized Stafford Loan ($3,500-5,500 - no charged interest while in school), Direct Unsubsidized Stafford Loan ($6,000-20,500 - interest charged while in school, begin payments immediately), Direct PLUS Loan for parents (up to yearly cost of attendance - begin payments immediately). You should also use this loan calculator to estimate your potential repayment schedule.
Consider federal loans first before selecting state loans, institutional (college) loans or private loans. And read the fine print!
Two companies that provide information about private financial aid loans are Edvisors and College Raptor.
One more tip, with all of the free, earned, and borrowed money, learn how to set up (and use) a budget.
You may not have considered budgeting for college yet. Some families work with a financial adviser, local banker, or software to create a budget. Here are a few tools that will help you think through the college budgeting process.
Preparing yourself to pay for college is an essential step towards your higher calling.
College planning philosophies will differ from high school guidance counselors to independent educational consultants. However, the goal remains the same. It’s not about graduating high school. It’s not about being accepted to college. It’s about coaching students through the college planning process to find a college or university where they can graduate with a bachelor’s degree in four years. This will result in a lifetime of opportunities including saved time and money (4 vs 6 year graduation), increased earning potential (2xs more than a high school diploma), and establishing a healthier lifestyle regardless of age, income, or demographics.
With that goal in mind, mastering Internet technology for college counseling is important. You should log every podcast, virtual tour, college search engine, scholarship search database, and more so you can guide your students with confidence. Here are some tips to become their digital filter.
Podcasts give you a way to listen to relevant career and college planning content on your time schedule. Listen to a few before recommending them to others. Don’t be afraid of social media, it doesn’t bite. As a college planner, take the time to teach students how to interact and behave with adults using various social media platforms. Videocasts and videos are great ways to learn more about a specific career or topic.
The career search is missing from so many plans and usually limited to what major a student is interested in studying. Help students use personality, learning style, and career assessments to understand who they are and what they like. Look for a college search engine that does not focus on the best marketing campaign, but one that shares the best matches for your student. Before taking campus tours, virtual tours will give students insight, spark excitement, and generate questions to ask on their actual tour.
Since paying for college is at the front of everyone’s mind,helping students find and use quality financial aid, scholarship, tutoring and test prep companies is important. Financial aid sites will include federal and state aid. While students shouldn’t pay for scholarship options, they may find more value in paying for the personal interaction for tutoring and test prep.
Read. Take notes. Read. This is great advice for a student entering college. It’s also great advice for every career and college consultant. Books share planning tips and great stories. Blogs share ongoing, relevant information based on every subject mentioned above. And don’t be afraid to share your own personal experiences either. Write a blog for your local audience.
Once you’ve become your student’s digital filter, you’ve reached your destination. Success!
When thinking about where to find scholarships, consider where you work, play, eat, or volunteer. There may be a scholarship from your favorite place waiting for you. Some of these are for high school seniors, some are for students in college. With short application windows, you need to be prepared to apply when the application opens. Bookmark these sites and prepare to win. Have fun!
What Do You Drink?
Once you are in college, connect with Dr Pepper on Facebook, update your profile, and authorize the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway application. Create your goal by answering “What is your one of a kind goal and how do you plan to make an impact on the world?” Then get 50 people to vote for your goal so you can be eligible to submit a video. Finalists compete for up to $100,000 in tuition. Sounds refreshing!
Before you go to college, you can apply for the Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship. The CCSPS is an achievement-based scholarship awarded to high school seniors based on leadership and service that opens every August. This $20,000 scholarship it is awarded to 150 students. Winning Coca-Cola Scholars share a passion for social justice and many have overcome tremendous challenges to pursue their dreams. Coca-Cola also supports students in community college with two different types of scholarships. Have a coke and a scholarship!
What Do You Eat?
Asparagus Club Scholarship
If you are at least a college junior and are pursuing a career in the grocery industry, then put down those fries and apply for the Asparagus Club Scholarship. The winner wins $2,000 per semester for two years. And all the asparagus you can eat.
The KFC scholarship is not about eating chicken, but about serving chicken in a chicken restaurant. “The REACH Educational Grant Program™ helps KFC restaurant hourly Team Members and Shift Supervisors pursue their educational dreams. These $2,000 grants help Team Member recipients attend accredited four-year and two-year colleges, as well as trade/vocational schools.”
And for high school students who do not eat meat, fish, or fowl, you can apply for a vegetarian scholarship of $5,000 or $10,000. They are awarding students for promoting vegetarianism in their schools and/or communities. And many colleges offer vegetarian and vegan options on campus.
National Restaurant Association Scholarship
Do you love to eat? Do you want to work in the food industry? Are you a hungry college student? Do you have entrepreneurial ideas for a restaurant or grocery store? If you are hungry for something green ($3,500 - $7,500), then check the website for application details.
What Do You Wear?
Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program
Middle school and high school students who volunteer in their community can be nominated by an adult. Volunteer efforts must have occurred in the last year and must have benefited people not related to the student. Local winners will each receive a $50 Kohl’s Gift Card. Regional winners will each receive a $1,000 scholarship for higher education. National winners will receive a $10,000 scholarship, plus Kohl’s will donate $1,000 to a nonprofit of the student’s choice.
What Do You Use?
Duck Tape “Stuck at Prom”
High school juniors and seniors who want to creatively express themselves by making a prom dress and tux, can win up to $10,000 each and $5,000 for their high school. They also have honorable mentions for best purse, shoes, corsage, tie, jewelry and prop.
What is your GPA (Grit - Potential - Ambition)? Sometimes life circumstances prevent students from their dream of attending college. For those dealing with personal responsibilities at home or in their communities, the Dell Scholars program, an initiative of the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, recognizes students who have overcome significant obstacles to pursue their educations. Not only will you get a $20,000 college scholarship, laptop, and textbook credits, they will work with you throughout your college experience to help you succeed.
What Do You Drive?
Toyota Teen Drive 365 Video Challenge
Grab your phone or video camera and create a 60-90 second video that makes teen drivers think carefully above driving safely. The grand prize winner will get a chance to reshoot their video with a Discovery Film Crew. High school students (9-12g) can work alone or with up to 4 students for awards of $15,000, $10,000, and $7,500. That is serious cash! Just don’t film this if you are driving. Kinda defeats the purpose.
Where Do You Bank?
Regions Riding Forward Scholarship Essay Contest
Hopefully you have opened a bank account and are learning how to manage your money. For this scholarship, you’ll write a 500-word essay about a famous or local African-American that has inspired and motivated you. Regions will award a $5,000 scholarship to 16 high school seniors who live in states with Regions branches and will attend college in the fall. Regions will award a $3,500 scholarship to 16 freshmen, sophomores or juniors who currently attend college in or permanently reside in states with Regions branches. Make it count. You could earn $10 per word!
Now it's your turn to hunt for scholarships where you work, play, eat, or volunteer.
Need money for college? I think I know your answer. Even though the best way to earn money for college is through merit aid – earned with high grades and high test scores – some students won’t qualify. That’s okay!
Another way to earn money for college is with scholarships - a form of financial aid. There are scholarships for average students, vegetarians, tuba players, making duct tape prom accessories, drawing waterfoul, and thousands upon thousands of other options. Some have nothing to do with grades, and everything to do with you. People want to support your commitment to earn a college degree. So let’s start earning!
As a high school senior, Christopher realized that he could not afford to pay for college, even though he had excellent grades and test scores. On his own, he started searching for scholarships. As a result, he amassed $1.3 million dollars in aid including the Bill Gates scholarship. While attending Drexel University, he and two classmates created Scholly, a scholarship database to help other college-bound students find scholarships.
So since you need money for college, here are a few steps to start earning money searching for scholarships.
Search for and favorite 2 or 3 scholarship databases. Using multiple sites is important because some may have 2,000, 20,000, or 2 million scholarships, and not all of them will apply to you. Consider using bigfuture (College Board), Scholarships.com, MeritAid.com, FinAid, Supercollege, and other state and local websites.
Create your profile. A general profile would generate lots of leads but would be time consuming to search through. A specific profile allows the database to match scholarships with key words.
Hustle. Don’t wait for scholarships to come to you, because they won’t. Unless your dad is bringing you scholarship applications from the school office. But who uses paper anymore!
Organize your search results. Maintain a spreadsheet or journal of the scholarships to manage deadlines, expectations, offers, and more.
Leverage your time. Now that you have some favorite sites, are organized, and ready to hustle, divide your work into “chunks.” You won’t complete your search in one weekend, so leverage your time. As an example, spend 30 minutes every other day to search and apply for 10 scholarship offers. Now this is where you “get paid” to search for scholarships. If you spend 10 hours searching and win one $500 award, you just earned $50 per hour! So work in chunks to manage your time wisely. After each search session, reward yourself with a chunky chocolate cookie!
Apply for more. If you are hustling like Christopher, use the power of ten. Search for 100 scholarships. Apply for 10. Win 1. Now apply for more.
Remember, there are NO scholarship guarantees. Even if you pay $100 for scholarship results, you will be disappointed. If you’ve started late, you’ll become desperate and may not make good decisions. No one can guarantee anything for anybody at anytime. If you pay for access like Scholly, know that matches don’t equate to money. You have to apply, be competitive, and wait months to know if you won the $500 prize.
Following these steps will make you a scholarship SCHOLAR. (See what I did there?)
Next week, I’ll share how you can search for scholarships based on what you drink, what you eat, and what you wear.
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.