Careers & Education

How to get a college scholarship

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You'll need more than what's in your piggy bank to fund your college education.
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Nab a scholarship to help fund your college education

A college scholarship can bring your goals within reach. With the help of scholarships, some students can fully fund their college fees; others can substantially reduce the burden of their student loans. The price of a college education is no small thing. The "Digest of Education Statistics, 2009," compiled by the U.S. Department of Education, reports that the average cost of tuition, room, and board for one year was $12,283 at public colleges and $31,233 at private colleges during 2008 and 2009.


The cost of this college education is too high for the majority of students or their parents to pay out-of-pocket. According to the Department of Education's report, a staggering 80 percent of undergraduate students use financial aid of some sort. (This financial aid includes not only scholarships and grants but also work-study programs and loans.) If you need financial aid to obtain your college education, take the following steps to search out and apply for a college scholarship.


Narrow Down Your School Choices


If you can narrow your possible institutions to a handful, you will make your search easier. If you haven't yet begun the process, you might consult an educational catalog that can match you up with programs and schools that fit your criteria. You may also wish to check out distance learning and online education options, which can be more convenient if you need to fit school around work or other responsibilities.


Complete Your FAFSA


Your FAFSA results may affect your access to financial aid. You can't receive federal aid without completing your application. Many schools also require you to fill out the FAFSA, even if you already know you aren't eligible for federal aid.



Check with State and Local Organizations


State and community groups may offer a college scholarship that fits your profile. Contact these organizations to ask if they offer one or more scholarships or student awards.


Consult Your State Department of Education


Contact your state higher education agency to ask about any state-level scholarships they know about.


Research Volunteer and Club Opportunities


Certain clubs, extracurricular establishments, and volunteer organizations may offer you a college scholarship if you participate in their activities. If you belong to any clubs or volunteer for an organization, see if they offer any financial aid to college-bound students. Talk with your parents, neighbors and relatives. Rotary and Key Clubs, American Legion chapters and other volunteer organizations offer scholarships.


Look for a School-Specific College Scholarship


Don't neglect a college scholarship offered by your institution of choice. Contact the school's financial aid office to obtain a list of all scholarships the school offers. These tend to be more available for resident students, but if you want to pursue affordable online degrees, you should also check for school-specific scholarships.


Browse offers a free college scholarship search. Aside from a periodic newsletter and any information you may directly request, they do not bombard your inbox with mail.


You fill out your educational history, proposed course of study, extracurricular activities, and affiliations. Based on the information you provide, the site ranks scholarships by how much they fit your profile.


Brush Up on Your Essay Skills


Not every college scholarship demands an essay, but a number of them do. Review the basics of organized writing. After you craft an essay for a college scholarship, ask someone knowledgeable in English to proofread it for you. Call in a favor from your top classmate in English, or ask your English teacher to help you.




U.S. Department of Education, “Digest of Education Statistics, 2009,” Chapter 3. National Center for Education Statistics.

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