Scholarships, Where Art Thou?

Surprisingly, many people do not think they can afford to go to college. One would think that, in this day and age, people would be aware of the vast amounts of financial assistance out there, but many do not. For many people, the word scholarship applies only to someone that excels at a sport or has a GPA over 3.5. To be honest, someone that has a 4.0 GPA and is the star quarterback for their school’s championship football team will probably have a much better chance, but those are only a of couple reasons why a scholarship could be given out. Many of them are based on very specific aspects of a person, such as their ethnicity, gender, religion, interests, abilities, financial situation, etc. The key is not only to find out which ones are available, but which ones apply specifically to you.

There are several institutions that help students cover the cost of college by providing financial assistance. The government, schools, and private organizations offer financial aid in several forms. The two most ideal forms are grants and scholarships, which are monetary gifts that do not need to be paid back. Grants are often need-based, while the latter are often merit-based. Student loans are another option, although they must be repaid. In keeping the cost of higher education down, it’s also important to understand that public, in-state schools are much less expensive than private, out-of-state schools.

So…the next question is: Where can you find a scholarship?

Firstly, most states have financial incentives for residents, in which the aid is usually limited to students who will attend school in that same state. You might want to consider the option of attending school in-state and look into applying for such aid. Also, if you are in high school or a recent high school graduate, you should ask your school counselor if they offer any awards to their graduating students. Colleges and universities also offer such awards, either on a university-wide basis or within a particular college or major. It may actually prove to be fairly easy to get a major-specific award since most students coming into college haven’t decided on a major yet. You should contact the financial aid department of the schools you may be interested in to find more detailed information.

Employers are another possible solution to affording the cost of college. If your parents work, especially for a large company, they may want to consider asking their employers if they offer a college scholarship to the children of employees. If they don’t offer one, they might consider the idea of starting one. Alongside employers, many other private organizations offer financial assistance, especially to their members. Community and religious organizations are a couple of the more common, yet often overlooked, places to find aid. Although the amount may seem small, every bit helps.

On a final note, there are thousands of scams out there trying to charge for information that is easily available on the Internet for free. Stay away from any company that guarantees results or says they will do all the work for you. You should never have to pay for scholarship information.

by William Ian Arbuthnott