Who would be crazy enough to pass up free money for college?
But that’s what you might be doing if you’re not taking advantage of scholarships and grants. This type of aid covers about 30 percent of college costs for the average student, according to How America Pays for College 2015, a report published by Sallie Mae, the nation’s saving, planning, and paying for college company.
But, in the rush of school, test prep, applications, sports, and all the other things you are doing, it’s hard to make time to search for those opportunities. So November - National Scholarship Month - is the perfect time to explore ways to make the hunt easier.
How to start? First, let go of your assumptions. Not all scholarships are geared toward students with perfect GPAs or a string of soccer goals. And not all are aimed at college freshmen. There are millions of opportunities for all kinds and levels of students. You could be eligible for a scholarship because of your ethnic background or your father’s college fraternity or because you have a specific interest such as politics, film, or the local food movement. Employers, religious organizations, civic groups, even local drama clubs offer students a chance to apply for money.
Next, search for a scholarship that matches your interests and skills. But how do you navigate all those opportunities?
Tell everyone you know that you’re looking, keep an eye on local newspapers and websites, and explore the most accessible options, such as your parents’ employer. Then, check out Scholarship Search by Sallie Mae, a free tool that gives you easy access to more than 5 million scholarships worth $24 billion.
Create your personal profile and automatically receive your scholarship matches with deadlines and requirements. You can register to get an email alert whenever a new match is posted. And, by registering in November, you can enter the $5,000 Plan for College Sweepstakes for a chance to win a large chunk of change to get a start on college costs.
Sallie Mae also has free financial calculators, planning and budget tools, and other resources to help you create a step-by-step strategy to save or pay for college.
So, don’t wait. This is the month to get a financial jump on your college future. And who knows, you might be the one who gets a $5,000 head start!
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