If you’re considering college, you are only too aware that costs are stratospheric and rising. Those who graduated in 2015 did so with an average student loan debt of $35,000.
But you can avoid that fate. There are lots of ways to graduate debt free. More and more people are getting savvy when it comes to using scholarships to pay all of their college expenses though so you need to get the jump on them. Here are some scholarship search secrets that will help put you ahead of the game.
Too many students don’t start thinking about scholarships until their senior year of high school. Not only can that make you too late to qualify for scholarships that have requirements like taking specific courses or doing a certain amount of volunteering hours, but it makes the whole process rushed.
You don’t want to spend all of your free time your final year of high school chasing scholarships. By starting at least the research process much earlier, as early as your sophomore year, you will have time to fulfill requirements and meet deadlines.
By applying early, you can also get feedback. If you’re rejected, ask what the reason was. You can then make adjustments when applying for subsequent scholarships and increase your odds of being rewarded.
Everyone is competing for the nationally well-known scholarships, you won’t have as much competition for the scholarship awarded by your local chamber of commerce. For some really small, local scholarships, you might be the only applicant. Thousands of dollars in scholarship money goes unrewarded each year simply because no one applied.
Think of your search as concentric circles, start in the area immediately around you and work your way out; your hometown, your county, your state. These scholarships might not pay for an entire semester but when they start adding up, well, they start adding up! Even a few hundred dollars helps when things like text books are so expensive.
Grades Aren’t the Only Criteria
Grades aren’t always a reflection of a person’s abilities and there are scholarships that recognize that. Who knows, maybe the people behind them were high school slackers who became millionaires and they want to reward their brethren!
There is the Gen and Kelly Tanabe Scholarship for Low GPA. Gen and Kelly were awarded more than $100,000 in merit based scholarships and graduated from Harvard debt free. The scholarship is based on your personal statement, not your GPA.
The $1,000 Cappex Easy College Money Scholarship awards one $1000 scholarship a month and is another that isn’t based on grades. There isn’t even an essay! If you don’t like writing essays, here is another list of scholarships that don’t require one.
Do you have a Google Alert set up for your own name? That’s okay, we all do. Set up alerts for scholarships too so you have a steady stream of them to research. Don’t make your search general, like “college scholarships.” Be really specific like “Detroit music scholarships” or “New Orleans music scholarships.” This can help you find things tailored to your criteria.
You can be a debt free college grad, anyone can but it does take some work and some organization but not being burdened by tens of thousands of dollars in debt will make it all worthwhile.