Believe it or not, free money for college isn’t only awarded to Einsteins and star athletes ‘ or those of you poor people who qualify for financial aid. There are plenty of opportunities for the ‘average’ college-bound student to take advantage of scholarship money. The biggest mistake to make, is to sit and wait, and not do anything about it in the hopes that someone will knock on your door and say, “Need some money?”
I just graduated in May, and now I am starting to pay back student loans. Let me tell you, it sucks. Having received my degree in Journalism from UCLA, I thought I would be in a good position to pay back my loans. Yeeeaaahhh…not so much. So now, after 4 years of tuition, room and board, I owe just over $115,000.
People say it all the time, but I will say it again…if I had it to do all over again…I would try to avoid the $1000 a month loan payment.
Here’s some common sense advice:
1. Get on it
The sooner you get moving, the more assistance you are likely to gain. Start looking as early as the end of your sophomore year of high school. If you are already in college, there is still hope. There are a TON of programs that you can look into, but it is going to take some legwork. Impossible? No, but it might mean spending a couple of weeknights without getting into a Madden Tourny or having a T-down session with some random chick.
2. Use your high school
Many schools also keep a list of many town organizations that give out money; apply to anything that seems relevant. If you are a year or two into college, don’t hesitate to call your high school guidance department. That is part of their job, and don’t feel stupid for doing it. Let me put it this way…would you rather pay thousands less in loan interest or call Mrs. Snaggletooth from the Guidance Department?
3. Utilize your talents
Surely you’re remotely good at something. Google local and national organizations that are affiliated with your interests. Call up the groups and ask if they have scholarships. Some places give out money but just don’t advertise. Temples, churches and religious groups also dole out mucho dinero. Look at those kids who got a national bank to sponsor them through 4 years of school, that is just down right creative. I am not saying that you should sell your soul to a bank, but the point is that there is always an opportunity to utilize your skills – the challenge is to find it.
4. Ask Mom and Pop About Their Secret Lives
Several unions and guilds give scholarships to children of members. Ask your parents if they belong to any groups. Note: the ‘Stonecutters’ is a from Simpsons episode, not a real group.
5. See what your college has to offer
Some universities give financial awards to students if they earn a certain GPA over a certain number of semesters. Ask your school if it has a similar program, at the very least you need to go to the financial aid office and see what they can do. I went to the financial aid office every week and wound up getting an extra $5,ooo out of them to help form a school choir. Some colleges financially help out campus leaders in certain groups ‘ even students who play the mascot! Just ask – you have nothing to lose.