Many college students end their first year of college with a significant amount of loans and out-of-pocket cost, forcing them to make the decision of either finding another school for the subsequent year or pausing their college education altogether. However, a mistake that can be made by students receiving loans or that have out-of-pocket costs is believing that undergraduate scholarships are not available for those already in college.
What all college students should know is that there are a plethora of scholarships and financial aid available exclusively to undergraduate students. These funds can be awarded based on many things, including community service done in high school in college, family income, the amount of loans used for college, and your academic record while in college. The places you should start looking for scholarships are the financial aid office at your college, where most schools post flyers or have a simple handout that list scholarships that are available for students at the school. The next step is to go directly to your financial aid advisor and ask if he/she knows of any financial aid sources that are available for you.
If you are unsuccessful in finding any opportunities via flyers, handouts, or asking your financial aid advisor, you should schedule a meeting with the director of financial aid at your school and ask them about ways of lowering your loan amounts and out-of-pocket costs. During this meeting you must remember that many students come into the office every day in need of aid so you must stress how important it is for you to receive additional aid if you are going to continue your education. The director may be able to tell you about grants and scholarships that are available to you. The reason you should tap into your school's resources for financial aid first is because most of the money your school has in its budget for financial aid will be available at the beginning of the school year. The longer you wait to investigate, the smaller your chances of receiving additional funds. The key thing to remember is the earlier you inquire, the better.
After you have tapped into all of your school's resources, you should then start your personal search for scholarships. The best place to start this search is of course Scholarships.com. When using the Scholarships.com database you should narrow your search to scholarships and grants available to undergraduate students. After you have done this you should find all of the scholarships you meet the requirements for and you should start your scholarship list. Almost all of these scholarships or grants will require you to write personal statements and obtain one or more recommendations from professors. If you want more information about writing personal statements and essays or getting your recommendations for scholarship applications take a look at my previous entries, "So You Want To Set Yourself Apart Huh?" (personal statements) and "A Strong Foundation Means a Strong Application" (recommendations). These entries will go into deeper detail about how to get great recommendations and how to write personal statements that will set you apart from other applicants.
Besides personal statements and recommendations, any scholarship you apply for as an undergrad will rely heavily on your academic record. This means that doing well in your classes and having a strong GPA will greatly increase your chances of being awarded most scholarships and grants. Your search for financial aid while in college may be a rough one, but it is definitely a search worth making. If you utilize the information listed above you too will soon realize that scholarships are not just for high school students.
And don't forget, you should pay for your college education with as much free money as possible! Find as many scholarships and grants as you can before turning to student loans. Visit the Scholarships.com free college scholarship search today where you'll get matched with countless scholarships and grants for which you qualify, then apply and win! It’s that easy!