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School is expensive. We’re not going to sugarcoat the cost of an education in America. That’s why applying for scholarships and college grants are so essential.

Let’s start by demystifying scholarships a little bit. After all, the more you know about scholarships and grants, the less scary applying for them will be!

1. Free College Is Available

Currently, 15 states offer tuition-free programs to community college students. Unlike state universities and private universities that provide waivers and full tuition coverage, these education waivers have slightly easier applications.

When looking for these programs, look for something called a “promise program.” If you apply for your state’s promise program and get accepted for a tuition waiver, then congratulations!

2. College Grants and Scholarships Stack with Federal Aid

Federal student loans, or the FAFSA, don’t take scholarship money into account when determining your eligibility. So, you should apply for the FAFSA in addition to applying for your scholarships. That way, if you don’t get the scholarships you want, you can fill in the gaps with FAFSA money.

Additionally, filling out the FAFSA automatically makes you eligible for other federal aid like government scholarships. Some of which can help you with housing costs.

Fill out the FAFSA to give yourself a safety net.

3. Scholarships and Grants are Different

Yes, scholarships and grants are both “free” money that you won’t ever need to pay back. However, the way that you acquire each type of aid is different.

Scholarships

What is a scholarship for college?

Scholarships are merit-based forms of funding. There’s typically an application process that asks for accomplishments, GPA, test scores, and ambitions.

So, if you have good academic standing and many accomplishments focused on a single area, look for scholarships.

Grants

What is a grant for college?

Grants are often need-based forms of funding. That means that instead of “earning” grants, you require them to proceed. The person who needs the funding the most—as determined by the grant’s board—receives the available aid.

If you’ve needed to work extra hard to support yourself during your high school education, or if you’re going to struggle to pay for college, then look into applying for grants.

4. There Are Specific Ways To Impress Scholarship Boards

We’re guessing that having a checklist will help many of you make a scholarship plan. Start checking some of these items off in a sincere way to hedge your scholarship bets.

  • Civic work is important: Clocking volunteer hours unprompted and helping out in your community is held in high regard by many scholarship boards.
  • Global skills help your odds: Traveling, studying abroad, and becoming fluent in other languages will set you apart from your competition.
  • Champion their values: Scholarships often state their values on their website with a mission statement of some kind. Reflect the values that each organization advocates to up your chances of receiving funding.
  • Academics: We’re sure that this isn’t new, but the better your grades are, the closer you are to funding. Improve your GPA, AP class participation, and test scores to improve your chances.
  • Give back: Scholarships often want to fund individuals who desire to improve the lives of those around them in addition to their personal lives. If you can show that you give back—or that you plan to give back—then you’ll be at an advantage.
  • Lead others: The more you can show that you can lead, the more likely you will receive support. Head up clubs, spearhead community projects, and more to demonstrate your worthiness.
  • Enthusiasm is rewarded: Energy is contagious. The more enthusiastic you are about the scholarship, the more likely you will receive an organization’s good graces.
  • Devote yourself with a cause: If you have clear-cut values and convictions, it will be easier for scholarships to figure out who you are. The easiest way to demonstrate your value is to ally yourself with an organization or a cause.

5. Less Common Scholarship Eligibility Factors

Some scholarship items are less like checkboxes and more like fortunate coincidences. For example, STEM fields often receive more funding than the humanities.

Additionally, scholarships and grants for college students focus more densely on four-year colleges than two-year institutions.

6. Scholarships Open Doors

Scholarships and grants for college don’t just fund your schooling; they also demonstrate your worth. The more funding you can win, the easier it will be to show that you’re worth their money.

Consequently, scholarships open up job opportunities and more chances for advancement in your chosen major.

7. Scholarships Are Hard to Find

You can’t find 42% of scholarships with a google search. (I.e., you can’t search “how to get grants for college” and end up with good results.) Instead, you commonly have to visit the colleges you want to attend and inquire about funding directly.

You might also have to search on scholarship databases and charity websites.

Unfortunately, many charitable organizations are awful at SEO. Luckily, that means that if you find a more obscure scholarship, your chances of winning are higher.

8. Many Scholarships Go Unclaimed

Close to $100,000,000 in funding goes unclaimed every year. So, if you find a scholarship that’s poorly advertised, apply immediately! (You might be the only one who applies.)

As we said earlier, people help those who help themselves. So, apply for college grants and scholarships whenever you can.

9. The Total Amount of Available Funding is Enormous

Chances are, you still need convincing that applying to scholarships is worthwhile. Well, consider this. Close to $6.1 billion is available.

So, there’s a piece of that scholarship pie ready and waiting for you if you can find the right organization to apply to.

10. Applying for Scholarships and College Grants is Cool

Nearly 85% of students receive some aid. If you don’t apply for financial assistance of some kind, you’re the outlier.

Don’t be the outlier. Take charge, and start applying today.

What Are You Waiting For!?

The best time to start applying for financial aid is right now.

However, we understand if you’re still intimidated or overwhelmed. That’s why our website is full of useful information like this guide to aid and college grants.