College is expensive. And student loans add up to debt many students have a hard time repaying later. So how else can students hoping to attend college afford tuition?
Well, though nothing is really free, college hopefuls can find funding for tuition by utilizing various resources without having to take out loans. Finding these financial resources takes time and work to be sure, but you will not need to repay the money after college like you would with a loan.
The key to getting the most “free” money for college tuition is to start searching early and to exhaust all possible options. Sometimes this means getting creative and brainstorming all the different connections you have in your community and discovering which national organizations offer funding for college.
This article should help get you started as you make your own list of possibilities for financing higher education.
Take advantage of government resources.
Government grants offer solid avenues for student financial aid, other than government-sponsored student loans. Though you might need to fill out a financial aid form for need-based grants, you can still get money that you won’t have to repay.
The government grants tens of billions of dollars in aid each year to college students to help pay for their tuition. The largest federal college grant program for undergraduates is the Pell Grant Program; however, you’ll need to fill out FAFSA, as the program is need-based. In fact, you’ll need to fill out the FAFSA for most federal grants, as they are often need-based.
Take a look at Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
State grants vary depending on your state of residence, but many states have been offering more financial aid for college students.
You can find out how you can gain access to your state’s grants by checking out the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) website.
Search for scholarships in your local area.
One of the best ways to find money for college that doesn’t need to be repaid is to seek out scholarships using your local resources. Often, scholarships are hiding in places you visit or interact with on a regular basis, but you might forget to look there. Start thinking about all the connections you have to help create a list of possibilities!
Either a family member’s employer or your own employer likely offers scholarships for college tuition; all you need to do is ask. Some example employers include Chick Fil A, Burger King, Coca-Cola, and more.
So, having parents, grandparents, and students themselves ask employers about what kinds of education benefits they offer is definitely worth the extra conversation. In fact, a large percentage of employers are known to offer some kind of education benefit, even if that’s tuition reimbursement.
Volunteer organizations also tend to offer some kind of scholarship benefit for members who are applying to college.
If the volunteer organizations you are involved with or if you know of some in your area that might be offering scholarships for prospective college students, take a look at their websites or give them a call to find out what opportunities you can access.
Two groups that definitely offer college tuition help are the Peace Corps and Americorps, for example.
Churches and other religious organizations also often offer scholarship opportunities for members. If you’re a member of a church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious group, you might find an opportunity to apply for scholarships through them as well.
Utilize national resources.
Along with all the local opportunities to find money for college, don’t forget about the organizations available around the nation that seek to help students afford college tuition.
Many Fortune 500 companies have programs for students who need help paying for college. Search the websites of companies you know about or frequent as a customer.
For example, Coca-Cola notoriously offers generous amounts of money to students going to college. In fact, the company selects 150 high-achieving and leadership-minded students each year to receive $20,000 each in scholarships.
Credit unions and banks
Financial institutions also tend to offer some amount of money to students for college. Check bank and credit union websites to find out if they have any kind of program to help with college tuition.
Advocacy groups like the ACLU and Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also sometimes offer scholarship funds for students with certain demographic traits. If you know of advocacy groups of which you are a part or that you admire, consider looking for scholarship opportunities on their websites.
If you are a student who has dealt with specific health problems like diabetes or autoimmune diseases, you might be able to get scholarship money from health organizations affiliated with that disease.
Take note of military affiliations.
Students with affiliations to the military, either directly or through family members, also have opportunities to gain scholarships or grants.
Students can seek scholarships through the ROTC, for example, and active service members have access to funds up to $4,500 to help them pay for higher education.
Meanwhile, veterans get a variety of benefits, and plenty of veteran organizations offer specific scholarships and grants. Organizations like these include Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
If you or a family member is a veteran, take a look at the many different benefits, like the Post 9/11 GI Bill, that provide money and assistance for educational purposes.
Use your talents.
Most students have specific talents that also lead them to specific scholarship opportunities. Think about what activities you are involved with in sports, arts, or academics, and consider finding scholarships related to those activities.
For example, NSHSS offers scholarships like the Student Athlete Scholarships, Film and Production Scholarship, and Research and Academic Paper Scholarship to name a few, for students with specific talents or interests.
Search for online scholarships.
When all else fails, use your Internet resources to search for scholarships to which you can apply online. Take a loa variety of online scholarship search tools to find a scholarship that’s right for you!
As you can see, the opportunities for scholarships are endless. So start brainstorming, making lists, and reaching out! All that work will be worth it when you’re at your dream school with much less debt than you thought you’d have.