The average college tuition these days for private schools is about $31,000 per year. But that’s not the only thing you need to worry about. There’s room and board, books, school supplies, and entertainment expenses to consider as well. This explains why a lot of students need financial aid if they want to go to college.
Your best bet is to apply for grants and scholarships, as these are usually less costly than student loans. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1. Start early and never stop until you graduate. Some people start thinking about grants and scholarships only when they’re high school seniors, and generally speaking that may be too late. Parents and students should start looking for scholarships and grants as early as grade school. The available grants may influence what type of subjects a child focuses on in high school.
And once you’re in college, don’t stop looking. Some grants and scholarships are offered even to college seniors.
2. Do your research. At least these days it’s easy to find info on grants and scholarships by simply going online. You can try the Sallie Mae scholarship search tool for free and find millions of available scholarships. Other online tools you can try are Federal Student Aid and Scholarships.com.
You can check the website of the school you plan to attend to see what kind of scholarships you can get, and you may check around your community to see if some organizations or church groups are offering grants.
3. Be diligent. You need to reserve some of your time to finding scholarships, writing essays, and filling out applications. It can be tedious, but you need to suck it up. Even an hour or two a day can help a lot.
4. Meet the deadlines. Institutions that offer grants and scholarships are often deluged with applications. Missing a deadline is an easy way for them to disqualify applicants. It’s a simple way of ascertaining that you don’t really want (or you don’t deserve) the scholarship.
5. Edit your applications. Think of them as job applications. A typo or a grammatical error can really derail your chances of being granted financial assistance. These are signs that you’re either ignorant about basic spelling or grammar or you’re too lazy to double check your application.
6. Ignore scholarship scams. You’ll recognize them easily enough because they’ll require a fee for each application. Legitimate scholarships will never require a fee upfront.
Remember, the financial aid you can get from scholarships and grants can really help you a lot although they may come with certain conditions. For example, a scholarship may require you to work for a certain company afterwards, while a community grant may require you to do community service. You need to understand just what your obligations are and what you can do with the money they give you.
The larger the amount of money you get, the more obligations you may have to shoulder. For example, college athletes may be offered free college education, but there may be moral clauses. There may also be limitations on the types of gifts you can receive and the types of college student jobs you can accept or apply for.