Have you saved enough for your child to go to college debt free? If yes, I applaud you. If not, maybe you’re just like me, hoping to find scholarships to help offset the cost and future debt for your kiddo.
I hear and have read lots of stories of how people pay for 100% of college with grants and scholarships. I am in the midst of trying to figure out this process with my daughter who is a college freshman. Paying for college is ridiculously expensive. For the amount it costs today, I could have gone to college 5 times over. It really isn’t fair to our kids but, unfortunately, it is the reality.
So, here’s my story. My husband and I have some money saved for college but, we are hoping we don’t have to dip into it too much until we have to. We’ve asked our daughter to pay for her books and any extras. She does have a part-time job. My daughter enrolled in community college last fall, and we did pay for that out of her fund.
I knew in my gut, we had to try and look for scholarships or we would burn through our savings pretty quickly. So, I started digging around the internet. My daughter is an average student, so merit aid will not be an option. My guess is that this is the case for most American families. Not everyone is cut out for AP classes in high school, and not all kids are skilled at taking standardized tests. So, the game is on, and I’m here to tell you what I’ve discovered. Hopefully, this will help you and your child!
First, let me say that finding scholarships is HARD WORK. It’s tedious, so be ready and be patient. There are a lot of scams out there, but there are also a lot of people trying to help by telling their stories of how they’ve found money. There are some common threads among “the experts”. Here are my 2 cents from my research. Note: There are affiliate links included in this post.
There’s a ton of information out there. Some good and some not so good. There is no doubt, the more organized you and your child can be and work TOGETHER– you can be successful. I think this is really important. You and your child need to work as a team because the responsibility can’t be on them entirely. They are busy with school. Besides, we are smarter than they are, right? Ha! I do think our kids need to have some “skin” in the game and understand how this all works. So, have that money conversation! Here’s Mel’s blog post about how she did it.
How to get organized? You need a tracker of course! Simple, but useful. Below is what I am using right now to track the scholarships I find for my daughter for which she qualifies. Pretty straightforward. I’m sure by now that you are probably pretty organized after surviving elementary and middle school. But, I would suggest a separate binder/notebook or folder to keep your scholarship information. (Click image to download.)
You may have heard – the best place to start is LOCAL. Have your student visit their guidance office for local scholarships. Check with your employer, too. I just applied to mine and they will be having a drawing in the spring. If your employer doesn’t have a scholarship, ask!
Also, research your child’s future or current college. Check their financial aid website. Most likely they have scholarships ready for you to apply for now and have other resources/suggestions. My daughter applied for one at her community college last fall. She received $1,000 for this spring semester! Boom, she only had to pay $200, plus her books, which she paid for with her own money!
Here are some other places to look:
Chamber of Commerce
Library- they have scholarship books to check out
Local businesses- Call your favorite business and ask or visit their website
Local Community groups or clubs (Rotary, Kiwanis, church)
WEBSITES I USE
DIY Road 2 College– Debbie Schwartz does a lot of the groundwork for you. I signed up for her newsletters and they are chalk full of info on colleges, tuition costs, what to look for in colleges, FAFSA, college prep etc. She used to work at a financial institution and now helps parents figure this college thing out.
How 2 Win Scholarships
Monica Matthews is a former teacher and a stay-at-home mom of three boys. She’s another mom who worked with her son to earn enough scholarships and to attend college for free. She has a parent and a student guide which are extremely useful and worth the $27.00. I’ve signed up for her newsletters and she’ll let you know when to apply for scholarships. She always has up to date information on her blog.
The Scholarship System– Jocelyn Pearson. She has a free webinar you can register for here. She paid for 100% of her college expenses through scholarships. Jocelyn has definitely done her homework and has created a 2018-2019 Scholarship Guide. I liked her webinar. Very honest and tells it like it is.
DIY College Rankings– Michelle Kretzchmar. She’s another mom who did her homework and started her own site. VERY thorough and detailed in her information. Really worth signing up and/or use her site as a resource.
JLV Counseling– Jessica has 10 years experience as an admissions officer. Her website has information on scholarships, college essays, test prep and has a newsletter you can subscribe to. I like how her site is easy to navigate.
“Scholly was created by Christopher Gray who won $1.3 million in scholarships through hard work, grit and determination. Realizing how broken and time consuming this process was, he and his team created Scholly to make things a lot easier for you. Whether you prefer the mobile or web app, Scholly helps you fill out 8 simple parameters, and then our comprehensive and constantly curated scholarship database delivers a verified and personalized list of scholarships. Our platform also gives you access to management tools and scholarship essay resources to help you manage deadlines, track progress and win the money you deserve.” There is a monthly fee.
“Scholarship Owls is an innovative platform designed to dramatically speed up your scholarship application time. All you have to do is fill out one application, and they will do the rest. They will match you with the award opportunities that best match your personality, grades, lifestyle, and more. Once you’ve narrowed down your options, they will take the information from your initial application and put it into the appropriate places on the scholarships of your choice.”
TUN stands for The University Network. It is a fairly new website. What I like about their scholarship tool is that you can search by GPA, scholarships to apply to by month, state, student interest and what year your student is in school. They also have information on student jobs, a textbook save engine, career advice etc.
it’s easy. “Once you complete your profile you’ll have access to their database of more than 1.5 million scholarships. That’s $3.4 billion dollars in funding – all available to students like you! They’ve made it simple to keep track of your scholarship search. You can indicate which scholarships you’d like to apply for, which you’re not interested in and those you’ve already completed.”
College Board Scholarship Search
“Use this tool to find scholarships, other financial aid, and internships from more than 2,200 programs, totaling nearly $6 billion. Scholarship information is based on the College Board’s Annual Survey of Financial Aid Programs. Not only does it help you search for scholarships, but also provides loan information, calculators, and information for high school students and the college application process.”
FinAid Scholarship Search
“FinAid was created by Mark Kantrowitz, a noted financial aid and college planning author. Mark was also publisher of FastWeb, the largest and most popular free scholarship matching service. Previously, he was a research scientist at Just Research, the US software laboratory for Justsystem Corporation of Japan. Mark has earned the praise of numerous college administrators, journalists and students and families for his dedicated work on the FinAid site; also, not surprisingly, he managed to fund his own schooling without spending a single cent of his parents’ money.”
“U.S. Department of Labor Search more than 7,500 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial aid award opportunities. You can: Look through the whole list of scholarships arranged in order of closest deadline, you can narrow your list with “Search by keyword.” or enter a keyword about the type of award you’re looking for and use the filters to see only awards for certain award types, locations, level of study, and more.”
The Scholarship Workshop
“The Scholarship Workshop LLC, founded in 1991, is an educational service from Marianne Ragins, $400,000 scholarship winner, best-selling author, and motivational speaker. She provides services and resources for parents, students, counselors and youth leaders such as The Scholarship Workshop presentation, online classes and scholarship webinars, motivational speeches, and a range of presentations about scholarships, college, and other educational topics.”
I suggest you bookmark each of these sites but if you’re a paper person, here’s a username and password tracker you can use. (Click image to download.)
I highly recommend, as do other “experts”, the Ultimate Scholarship Book 2018. I am going through this now and found 4 in about 30 minutes. What I like about this book is that it is broken down by state, interest and there’s a huge section of just “general”. I flagged them with post-it notes and added to our scholarship tracker. I write down the name of the scholarship, when they are due, and the amount my daughter could earn. Yes, this is a lot of work, but free money works for me!
If you managed to read all of this, you can see that working with your teen and/or college student is all about teamwork. Come up with a schedule of when you both can work on finding scholarships, applying and completing applications. In the beginning, it feels awkward, but once you go through the process a couple of times, it becomes “old hat” and exciting to wait for the results.
So, let me know how it goes! Comment below. I’d love to hear your success stories and of course, please let me know if you have any questions. I’d be happy to help! I will keep you posted on how my daughter and I do with our own search.