How to find $cholarships and help ease the financial cost of higher education

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College is insanely expensive, but if you’re avoiding going to school because of the price tag, don’t stress! Paying for college is often daunting, but there are ways to get creative and ease the cost of attending. Which brings us to today’s topic, scholarships! To help you, here are some guidelines, tips, and tricks you can follow when looking for any applying to scholarship programs.

Where do I find scholarships?

Honestly, everywhere.There are thousands of scholarships out there—in fact there are so many that the U.S. Department of Labor made a search engineto help you peruse them. That tool will let you search based on location, desired degree level, and will give you a quick idea of what the scholarship is looking for. While doing my research, I even found a scholarship for cat lovers. Scholarships are not just for straight-A students either ─ your hobbies are a great place to start looking. Really into Star Trek? Do you have a weird thing for potatoes? These scholarships have got your back. Your school’s guidance counselor or career specialist will also be a great source of information. I promise you, if you look hard enough, there is a scholarship out there for you. 

 How do I apply? So you have narrowed it down to a handful of scholarships, and you’re ready to start. Great! Now, before you dive in, take a few moments and look up the scholarships you want to apply to. There will usually be a website or information listing where you can find this information, but before you dive in headlong, make sure you take note of some of the following detail:

When is the scholarship’s deadline? Is it soon? Make note of when the scholarship application is due and put it in your calendar now. 

Are there any special requirements? Some scholarships might be limited to specific locations, or require specific things of the applicants. In the case of my cat  scholarship example, the applicant must have a background volunteering at an animal rescue organization.

What other documents are required? Do you need a letter of recommendation? If so, you should start thinking of who you’ll ask to write it. Does it require an essay? How many words, and in what format? This one has you submit your plan to survive a zombie apocalypse

How should the application be submitted? Is there an email address you can send it to, or does it need to be mailed? If it needs to be mailed, consider sending it via certified mailto make sure it gets there on time. 

What else should I know?

Don’t skip over the small scholarships. Every penny you get is one you don’t have to pay out of pocket. You also might even be able to re-use your scholarship essays for multiple applications, so long as you check the details. So don’t fall for the idea that the smaller scholarships are not worth your time. Also, make sure you avoid what might be a scam! You should not need to pay to apply to a scholarship, so if the application is asking for some kind of payment, you should steer clear. 

You should also know the difference between a scholarship and a grant. The two terms tend to be used interchangeably, but actually mean two different things. Most scholarships are merit-based in some way, be it academic, athletic, or something else entirely. Grants, on the other hand, are awarded based on financial need. Most grants will require you to fill out the FASFA. It’s a free online application financial aid, and is used by schools when putting together your financial aid package. Submit is as soon as possible, and re-submit it annually. Regardless of which one you get, though, you do not need to pay either back in any way, shape, or form. 

If all of this sounds easy, that’s because it actually is! The hardest part of the process is making yourself start. Set a goal for yourself and start as soon as you can. Work on something every day, or try to complete one scholarship application a week. After a while, you’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish!