Is the cost of attendance to your College of choice scaring you a bit? Good, it should be! When choosing a school to spend your hard earned money and the next 2, 4 or 8 years of your life, you shouldn’t take this decision lightly. The way you pay for school could affect the next 25 years of your life- or more. Student loan debt has become an epidemic in the United States. With over 1.5 TRILLION dollars of student loan debt (according to newyorkfed.org ) and 2 in 10 borrowers in default (according to federalreserve.gov), it would be silly to not seriously consider your financing options when signing on the dotted line. There is a belief in the academic world that student loans are the only reasonable way to fund school, and it is a norm that we just “must accept.” However, student loan debt (especially if you are obtaining a degree in a less structured or less lucrative field) can be crippling for graduated students trying to start their own lives and families. The weight of student loan debt is a heavy burden to bear and costs and interest can add up faster than you know what to do with.
So knowing that student loan debt is a serious problem, and being the financially-savvy and prudent student that you are, how can you ease the financial burden of school and still get that education that will help propel you forward in life? One option to consider (and take seriously) would be obtaining scholarships for school. We have all heard it, but not as many people take advantage of these programs as you may think. Sure, scholarships take work and research, but so does school. And so does your second job that you get just to help pay back the loans with interest accruing daily.
So where do you even start when looking for scholarships? Thankfully, there are tons of websites and resources for finding scholarships that you may qualify for. The most fruitful places to look include online, but also in person and locally.
Websites & Search Engines
This is the most well known and most used option as far as finding scholarships you may qualify for. Large databases such as fastweb.com, scholarships.com or cappex.com allow you to create an account and search based on criteria unique to you. The more unique and fitted the criteria is to you, the higher chance you have of winning the scholarship. More niche scholarships can take your competition down from thousands of applicants to almost none. Take advantage of the power of the internet and these massive search engines when wading through available scholarships.
Ask local organizations that you are a part of or are local and in your community. Are
you a member of a church? Sports organizations? A local charity or nonprofit? Even an employer you have or your parents might have could be offering a scholarship. There are tons of companies and organizations out there that don’t advertise much or enter their scholarships in major databases. The point of scholarships is to help out students, and they would love to help you. Remember to be polite and realize the gift you are being awarded a gift- so feeling and showing gratitude will go a long way. The in-person impression you can make by going local can make a big difference.
Whatever your strategy or place to search and apply, it is a worthy mission to get out there and apply for scholarships. Graduating from school is great, but graduating debt free (or close to it) is even better.