It’s fat envelope season. Whether you’re heading to the dorms for the first time or returning to college, this list of college scholarships can help pay for your education.
As high school grads prepare to walk across the stage and receive those hard-earned diplomas, the excitement of heading off to college might be displaced by a bigger anxiety: paying for college.
Average college tuition and fees for the 2014 academic year ranged from $9,139 for public colleges to $31,231 for private schools, The College Board reported. Then add on books. And activities for that well-rounded resume. And maybe eating food that isn’t from the student union convenience store.
Then, after college: average debt for students graduating in 2014? $33,000. Yikes.
You get it — college is expensive. That’s why we’re loving The Penny Hoarder’s list of 100 college scholarships.
College scholarship application tips
The Penny Hoarder team scoured the web for the best scholarships for students at all levels: from vocational school to graduate school. You’ll even see a few options for nontraditional students — maybe you started your associate’s degree several years ago and only now have the chance to return.
If you’re preparing for your first trip to college or are waiting to get your dorm assignment for next year, here are a few key tips to remember while you’re poring over eligibility requirements and essay word counts.
- Deadlines are all-year round: Spring is the main season for scholarships, but an organization can give a scholarship whenever it wants. If you missed many of the April deadlines for fall 2015 awards, stay tuned for deadlines in May, September, and December.
- It’s worth entering sweepstakes: It’s in your best interest to enter every scholarship sweepstakes that you find. For example, take the Wells Fargo CollegeSTEPS Sweepstakes: All you need to do is sign up for emails about financial prep for college. They choose 40 random names every year to receive $1,000 scholarships. Sweepstakes entries are too easy to pass up!
- You don’t need perfect grades: There’s a scholarship for everyone — even if your grades are lackluster. One scholarship considers GPAs as low as 2.0 (although, you’ll need to have experienced a sleep disorder to apply for this particular one). If essay writing isn’t your strength, there are scholarship contests based on video or audio entries, or that consider works of art.
- Some scholarships have better odds of winning: Many scholarships offer multiple awards, either in the same amount or a range of prizes for the chosen applicants. The odds are certainly in your favor if there are five awards at stake rather than just one — especially if you’re applying for a scholarship with a niche or local organization.
- Save your essays: Applying for scholarships can be stressful and time consuming. Make it easier for yourself by keeping copies of each and every piece of written text you submit. Some required essays are brief and ask the same general questions about your educational goals. By saving your application materials, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time you do a new application — you just have to consult and tweak previous essays. Even if an application invites you to type your responses directly into an online field, it’s wise to gather your thoughts in Word or a Google Doc before submitting them online. And save early and often!
Combine this list with resources from your school
The Penny Hoarder’s list is vast, and it proves there are more scholarships available than any one person could ever keep track of. (Click here to tweet this list.) Be sure to stop into your counseling or financial aid office to ask about available scholarships. Beyond the sweepstakes and the national awards, those professionals are most likely to know what’s available at your school or from your local community.
And by building these relationships now, your financial aid staff will be more likely to think of you when future opportunities arise that fit your needs.
What are you waiting for? Start applying!
Alexis Grant is managing editor of Brazen Life. She also runs a blog-management company, Socialexis.com, and blogs at AlexisGrant.com.