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Wouldn’t it be a dream to not pay a dime for college? Tuition can be well over six figures if you attend a prestigious university, but even state colleges typically cost between $20,000 to $50,000 for a bachelor’s degree. With so much economic uncertainty and job anxiety, it’s understandable that students are looking for ways to avoid student debt as much as possible. 

That’s where scholarships come in.

The right scholarships can help you cover nearly all of your education and room expenses. It is really important to get a full ride scholarship, which will also cover the room, as it is a real struggle to find an apartment to live in, if the tuition does not cover it. Students can always find and share a home, but they must be sure it’s safe and secure. It is important to search for the best reviews and recommendations before moving in.

There are also many awards based on non-academic performance such as art, athletics and personal heritage. This guide will cover everything you need to know including how to find scholarships and tips for writing the best application letters.

Finding Scholarships

The internet is your best resource for finding scholarships. The College Board has a directory that allows you to search thousands of different award options. Internships, work-study programs, research grants and financial need scholarships are all available to help students around the country get funding for their degrees. You can also talk to your school counselor or current academic advisor for different opportunities. 

Different programs become available throughout the year, and it’s a good idea to reevaluate your opportunities as you progress throughout your degree. High school students should be looking at potential scholarship options as juniors and get ready for a new college year. This gives them plenty of time to come up with good application letters and establish some financial security before they even start college.

How to Choose the Right Scholarship for You

Look closely at every award option and decide whether you can maintain it. The goals of a scholarship should match your own, so it’s advisable to look for ones that are tied to your discipline and ideal professional field. For example, looking for math scholarships as an English major wouldn’t be the wisest decision.

Instead, writing-based programs or literature scholarships would not only be easier to apply to but also have a greater chance of awarding you funding. Make sure that you also identify any requirements on your behalf; some scholarships are not simply awarded for free. You have to maintain a certain GPA or perform some type of action in order to fulfill your end of the award agreement.

How to Write a Good Scholarship Application

Writing application letters can be nerve-wracking, but there’s a formula that can help you improve your chances of getting an award letter. First and foremost, always follow the guidelines outlined by the organization. Never cut and paste the same application to multiple scholarships; this not only looks lazy, but it doesn’t demonstrate the commitment to academic advancement and growth that organizations look for in candidates.

You should research a little about the group offering each scholarship and incorporate some details into your letter. Make it personal and unique, linking the organization’s mission with your own goals. Show them why you are a student who makes a good ambassador for their cause. Make sure you also have someone proofread your letter before turning it in. This could be a teacher, advisor or a close friend who can provide some useful feedback as well.

Get Recommendation Letters

Not all scholarships require recommendation letters, but some do. In either case, you should get at least two from those who can vouch for your worth ethic and commitment to academic achievement. A good recommendation letter doesn’t just state how intelligent you are; beyond measurable achievements, recommendation letters attest to your character, work ethic, passion and other qualities that make you a worthy recipient of financial awards.

Always Have a Backup Plan

While many students do save thousands of dollars on tuition through awarded scholarships, you should always consider various financial options. In addition to FAFSA, there are also private student loan lenders who can help you pay for your degree. Private lenders can offer greater variety when it comes to principal amounts (how much you borrow) and interest rates, which drastically influence how much you’ll ultimately have to pay back in student debt. For the best outcome, it’s a good idea to combine scholarships with personal income, savings and/or loans. This will ensure you always have a way to pay for your education no matter what happens. At the least, a few good scholarships can help you cut back debt and graduate with less.


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