How Do I Find Scholarships?

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Scholarships have become more important than ever before to afford the rising sticker price of college education. According to the College Board, the average yearly undergraduate tuition for 2015-16 was $9,410 at public in-state and $32,405 at private universities. Residential students also have to factor in over $10,000 on average for room and board! Covering these expenses entirely out-of-pocket isn’t feasible for most students. Fortunately, scholarships provide free monetary gifts ranging from $100 to full tuition. Scholarships are typically awarded based on academic merit, special talents, or financial need. There are scholarships available for virtually every student demographic if you know where to look. In this article, we’ll review the best places for finding legitimate scholarship bucks.

Federal/State Government Agencies

The federal government doesn’t only sponsor loans that accumulate interest and today’s $1.2 trillion student loan debt. Students can also turn to federal agencies for scholarships and grants. After filing a FAFSA form, undergraduates are automatically considered for the Federal Pell Grant. This program awards up to $5,815 based on full-time or part-time students’ Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Other federal financial aid options include the FSEOG Grant, TEACH Grant, and Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. Many government-funded agencies reserve money for scholarship opportunities. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers the Nurse Corps Scholarship Program to pay tuition and a $1,330 monthly stipend to nursing majors.

Where you live could unlock more money-saving scholarship options. Government agencies in all 50 states offer scholarships to reduce tuition burden. For instance, the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation awards the HOPE Scholarship for $2,250 per semester to in-state students achieving a minimum ACT score of 21 or SAT score of 980. The New York State Higher Education Services Corporation grants the STEM Incentive Scholarship for full tuition at SUNY schools to residents studying science, technology, engineering, or math majors. The California Student Aid Commission gifts the Middle Class Scholarship to cover 40 percent of in-state tuition for students whose families make under $150,000. Check with your state’s commission for financial help.

Local Community Organizations

Scholarship money could be growing in your own backyard. Many local community foundations raise endowments to send their young neighbors to college. Let’s look at some examples. Located in Oahu, the Hawaii Community Foundation awards 215 scholarships, such as the Esther Kanagawa Memorial Art Scholarship, for Islanders who fulfill certain criteria. The Austin Community Foundation funds over $500,000 in scholarships for Texans, including the Michael Scott Malone Memorial Scholarship. The Community Foundation of Southern Indiana also distributes 99 scholarships like the John C. Gatz Memorial Scholarship for youth residing in Clark and Floyd counties. Ask your guidance counselor about community foundations in your region to benefit.

When looking for local scholarships, don’t forget to evaluate your unique hobbies and activities. It’s common for community groups to reward their members with scholarships. For instance, the Habitat for Humanity of Ohio provides a $2,500 Building Our Future Scholarship to altruistic volunteers pursuing a bachelor’s. American Red Cross initiatives nationwide qualify for the Leaders Save Lives Scholarship Program, which grants $1,000 to $2,500. Religious organizations even offer free college money to their congregations. The Presbyterian Church USA provides the need-based Student Opportunity Scholarship for $2,000. Followers of the Torah can access several scholarships from the Jewish Community Federation, including the $5,000 Marvin Anmuth Scholarship Fund.

Professional Industry Associations

What are your career plans? Professional associations grant scholarships for students declaring virtually every major. Getting industry-related funding can help lower tuition bills and add prestige to your resume. For example, the American Institute of CPAs offers the John L. Carey Scholarship Award for $5,000 annually to students earning a master’s degree in accounting. The Foundation for IT Education gifts the Betty Stevens-Frecknall Scholarship to full-time information technology or computer science majors with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Through the American Psychological Association, psychology majors can access various lucrative scholarships, including the $50,000 Esther Katz Rosen Fund. Research professional associations in your chosen field, and apply for student membership if required.

Current college students who belong to their industry’s honor societies can tap into another big scholarship resource. Take for instance the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, which offers 11 scholarships for $1,000 to $2,000 for pledged members majoring in social sciences. Pi Lambda Theta, the honor society for educators, gifts awards like the $1,000 Tobin Sorenson Physical Education Scholarship. The Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society grants the $2,000 Howard Penniman Scholarships for graduate study in political science. Sigma Alpha Iota also awards three $2,000 undergraduate scholarships for initiated members studying music. Keeping your grades up and getting involved with academic honor societies really pays off here.

College Financial Aid Offices

Once you’re accepted into a college or university, make an appointment at the financial aid office to discuss scholarships with an advisor. Most colleges have large endowed scholarships to reduce their tuition costs. MONEY magazine found that private colleges award scholarships to 89 percent of freshmen on average. For example, MacMurray College in Illinois provides $10,000 Tartan Leadership Scholarships each year. Texas’ Trinity University offers big merit-based scholarships, such as the $23,000 Murchison Scholarship. In Tennessee, Rhodes College celebrates new freshmen with profitable scholarships like the $33,500 Morse Scholarship. Students could also select from the nation’s few tuition-free colleges, including Berea College, College of the Ozarks, and Webb Institute.

Still have unmet financial need? The Internet is an exceptional resource for finding more scholarships based on what makes you unique. Some scholarships are downright weird, such as the $2,000 Asparagus Club Scholarship and $1,000 Tall Clubs International Scholarship. Take advantage of online college scholarship searches where you can find programs that perfectly suit your qualifications. Perhaps one of the largest online databases is Scholarships.com where approximately $19 billion is up for grabs. Remember to always remain cautious by looking out for scholarship scams asking for personal information or money upfront. Earning scholarships shouldn’t cost you a dime, but they will provide plenty of dollars.