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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 2021 was $10,740 at pub­lic in-state and $38,070 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 $1.7 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 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 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.


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