College isn’t cheap, but you can make it cheaper if you take advantage of these tips.
Also, e sure to check out our “Winning College Scholarships for High Schoolers” video course. It’s got over 5 hours of video content and bonuses for you to dig up thousands of dollars in free scholarship money.b
1) Apply for fee waivers if you qualify
Did you know you can apply for waivers to eliminate SAT and ACT test fees, as well as college application fees? Do your research, find out if you qualify, and take advantage of them if you do. Less money spent on fees means more money toward your college education.
2) Apply for school-specific scholarships
Most colleges and universities have scholarships for which you aren’t automatically considered. You have to apply for these separately, so conduct a thorough investigation of your options. I got a writing scholarship and a theatre scholarship from my college, both of which I had to seek out and apply for separately. Check department web sites and see what each department offers!
3) Search for and apply for local scholarships
Not only are these less competitive, but they can add up! Whether it’s the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the VFW, or the Daughters of the American Revolution, there’s more local money for the winning than you think. Get in touch with your counselor—or better yet, find a directory of local organizations and contact them.
4) Search for and apply for state and national scholarships
The College Board Scholarship Search and FastWeb are the two key databases to visit here. You can create profiles on each that allow you to customize your scholarship search. You may have to search for a while before you find scholarships that make sense for you, but when you do, you’ll thank yourself. State and national scholarships are more competitive in theory, but not everyone does the hard work of seeking them out and applying for them. Be in that small minority. It just might pay off big. Whether it’s a hundred dollar scholarship or a full ride independent scholarship (they do exist), the fruits of your labor will come if you put in the legwork upfront.
Don’t forget our “Winning College Scholarships” video course as a source of further information about scholarships and alternative financial aid ideas.
5) Have plenty of copies of your résumé and transcript
You never know when you’ll need to provide these documents, so make sure they’re optimized and readily accessible.
6) Find out whether you need to fill out the FAFSA or the CSS Profile and do so early
These are the two main financial aid applications, and you may need to fill out one or both of them. Make sure you get a head start by finding out which ones you’ll be required to complete, gathering all the necessary information ahead of time, and submitting them as early as is possible.
7) Negotiate on your financial aid package
When you’re offered a financial aid package, don’t consider it a final offer. Consider it an opening bid. Don’t be afraid to call the financial aid office of each school and ask for more grant money. Sell yourself as an asset to their school. Explain your situation to them. With most colleges and universities, there’s wiggle room. A few phone calls could save you thousands of dollars. Make them.
8) Understand the terms of the loans you take, if any
It would be nice if we could all take Polonius’s advice and “Neither a borrower nor a lender be,” but let’s face it: most of us will end up taking loans at some point. It’s crucial, therefore, that we understand the terms of those loans—how interest is accrued, how payment works, and so on. Don’t fall prey to predatory lending!
9) Apply for grants and fellowships during college
They do exist! Check FastWeb and find out all the offerings of your departments in college. Maybe you’ll win a literary criticism prize or a physics prize!
Even during college, you can make plenty of use of our Winning College Scholarships video course.
10) Become an RA (or do work-study)
Becoming an RA (resident advisor) is a wise choice for students looking to save on college. Most RAs get free room and board and get to live in single dorms. Saving thousands of dollars and gaining more privacy is worth the added responsibilities. If you can’t get an RA position, definitely get a job on campus through the work-study program.
* * *
Additional Resources: “Winning College Scholarships for High Schoolers” Video Course