How to Find Free Money–The Scholarship Hunt

According to a 2012 College Board report, the average cost per year for a 4-year degree at a state-sponsored school currently runs $22,261 for in-state students and $35,321 for out-of-state students. While college can be one of the best experiences in your life, it can also be one of the most expensive.

Applying for scholarships is one way to help you reduce your out-of-pocket expenses and ease the financial burden of earning your degree. The more money you can get in scholarships, the less you’ll need to borrow. These resources are popular among students, with 88 percent of freshmen at private universities getting scholarships or grants in 2011.

Scholarships are awarded from universities, nonprofit organizations, corporations, and private individuals. When it comes to scholarships, you should start searching early and be persistent.
Here are some helpful ways to find scholarships:

Do your research
There are various tools for locating available scholarships. Online, you can do a simple keyword search or use free scholarship search services such as Fastweb, a service where you can create a personalized profile. You can also check out scholarship reference books in a library or bookstore. Make sure you locate the most current edition. And remember, there are many different kinds of scholarships. Some are merit-based, while others focus on what a student’s interests are. Take the time to research and apply.

Visit your high school counselor
Counselors can give you directions for what types of scholarships you should apply for. By learning about your talents and interests they can identify scholarships that are well-matched for you.

Visit your college resource center
If you know where you’re going to college, be sure to talk with the financial aid office and see if they can help you with your search. The admission’s office may be able to help you determine if there are any school-specific scholarships.

Be community-minded
Check with your local newspaper, community organizations, and your parents’/guardians’ employer. Religious organizations, banks, or other civic organizations often offer scholarship programs. For example, the Wells Fargo’s CollegeSTEPSSM sweepstakes offers high school and college students the chance to win one of 40 $1,000 cash prizes to pay for college or other expenses, when they enroll in the CollegeSTEPS® program to receive education related resources.

Beware of scholarship scams
Scholarships are “free money,” so you should never have to pay money to get them. Watch out for scholarship scams or companies that require a credit card number just to perform a search. Save the money and do it yourself.

Once you line up some scholarships or grants to apply for, take careful note of the due dates, and work on them accordingly. Give yourself plenty of time to devote to the scholarship hunt and application process. It may seem like a lot of work when you don’t have a lot of time to spare, but in the end, it’s worth it to secure college money that doesn’t need to be repaid.

To learn more about paying for college, visit and for more about financial aid, visit

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2 Responses to How to Find Free Money–The Scholarship Hunt

  1. Annette McDonald says:

    Once you have found the scholarships for which you qualify, submit as many as possible. Do not assume that only the best students or athletes; most scholarship committees are looking for well-rounded students. Streamline your efforts by having multiple copies of letters of reference and transcripts and computer files. Work hard on essays and proof-read carefully. Make sure that you follow instructions carefully because any problems with the application will result in disqualifications. My daughter worked hard on scholarship applications and received $10,000 in independent scholarships.
    Also fill out the FAFSA application even if you do not think you qualify.

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