In the United States, college is one of the most expensive investments that a person will make in his or her lifetime. Most people need to take out financial aid – including loans – to help pay for school. But, those loans will need to be paid back with high interest rates, making it financially difficult for many students once they graduate. Luckily, there are ways to get money for school that doesn't need to be paid back. One way is through obtaining a scholarship which is a great way to subsidize education, but knowing where to look for them can be a challenge.

Apply for FAFSA

One way to obtain a scholarship or a grant is through the federal government. Most students who are going to college will apply for aid through FAFSA, in addition to applying for scholarships. Though the federal government doesn't give out scholarships, they can give other forms of federal aid, such as grants. Or, they can provide information on other scholarships you may be eligible for and how to apply. Keep in mind that federal aid is only given after scholarship money is awarded. Therefore, if you are chosen as a recipient for a scholarship that covers most of your tuition, then you can only be awarded federal aid to cover the remaining fee afterwards.

Ask Your School

Before you go on the hunt for free scholarships, you can make time to meet with your guidance counselor for help and support. Guidance counselors not only have a lot of information on scholarships, but they also know you on a more personal level and can recommend scholarship programs that you'd be a good fit for. They may even mention a scholarship offered by your high school that you could apply for, or know of local organizations that are offering scholarships. In this case, many scholarships are based on academic achievement, outstanding community service and leadership or athleticism.

You can also ask your prospective college for information on scholarships. Colleges typically have a lot of information regarding this, especially the financial aid office. They can direct you on where to go and what the eligibility requirements are. Don't be afraid to ask!

Places That Offer Scholarships

If you want to apply for a scholarship, then you first need to know where to look. You can do this by searching for a list of scholarships based on your involvement, interests, experiences or even your ethnicity and/or religion. According to the Studentaid.ed.gov website, there are various places where you can seek out information on scholarships:

  • Federal agencies
  • State agencies
  • Religious organizations
  • Community organizations
  • Ethnicity-based organizations
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Civic organizations
  • Local businesses
  • Franchises
  • Professional organizations
  • Your job or your parents' job
  • Military

Do a Search Online

Because there are so many different entities that offer scholarships, it can feel overwhelming when it comes time to start your search. Thankfully, there are many scholarship databases out there that you can utilize to help you narrow down your search. Once you find a scholarship opportunity that's appealing to you, it's a good idea to go directly to that scholarship organization's website, to make sure all the information you receive is accurate and updated before applying. Then, you can apply for scholarships online too:

  • Careeronestop.org (U.S. Department of Labor scholarships)
  • Collegedata.com
  • Collegeboard.org
  • Fastweb scholarships
  • Scholarships.com

These sites are considered the best scholarship websites for students. However, if you have a more specific idea of what kind of scholarship you're looking for, then you can do an online search with keywords. For instance, if you are of Hispanic heritage, then you can search "Scholarships for students of Hispanic heritage."

Visit the Library

In this day in age, many high school students may not realize the full potential of a library. A library is a great place to find out information about scholarships, whether that's in your school, in your town or at your college. Just because you're already in college doesn't mean that it's too late to apply for scholarships. If you have excellent academic standing, you may be awarded a scholarship without even needing to apply. Either way, make a visit to the library. Libraries have reference sections with useful information, and, librarians can point you in the right direction so that you can conduct your research successfully.

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