Getting the Most Out of Scholarships

Besides savings, the best way to finance college is through scholarships.

Scholarships don’t have to be repaid and are essentially free money, minus the time you spend to fill out the application. With scholarships, you can avoid becoming a slave to students loans or pursing questionable activities like selling drugs. I’m not judging though.

But as with all things in life where money is concerned, scholarships aren’t always straight forward and scams are definitely a possibility. Check out the following tips to receive as much money as possible without being conned.

1. You should not have to pay any sort of fee to apply for a scholarship. If a website or organization wants your money before you even get an application, run away.

2. Your first stop should be your high school’s guidance office. There they should have applications and information on a ton of opportunities. If your guidance office isn’t quite up to par, don’t be afraid to hit up other nearby schools. If that idea scares you, remember that every dollar you earn before college is one less dollar you have pay back…with interest.

3. Don’t count yourself out if you aren’t the world’s greatest student. Some scholarships actually exclude those with high grade point averages. There are people and organizations out there who want to help the “average” student succeed too.

4. Along the same lines as the previous tip, don’t worry if you’re just average when it comes to things like family situation, family income, and diversity. I’m a white male with middle class divorced parents so I’m not exactly the poster child for uniqueness, but there are plenty of scholarships that don’t require you to be Hispanic or in poverty.

5. Stop thinking scholarship and start thinking scholarships. I’ve heard classmates say “Yeah, I need to apply for a scholarship to pay for college.” No, you need to apply for many, many scholarships. And then you need to apply for a few more. The majority of aid is $500 here, $2000 there so just one is not going to put much of a dent in how much you owe.

6. Fill out the FAFSA. This isn’t really a specific scholarship tip, but the Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a must. You can’t possibly know what assistance you may or may not get if you don’t complete the application.

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