Making the decision to attend college is one of the best decisions young adults can make in their lives. However, college can be expensive. Most students use a combination of financial aid, student loans and scholarships to help cover the expenses of college. Even if your grades in high school were so-so, or you scored low on the ACT exam, you may still find other ways to qualify for a scholarship to help you achieve your college goals.

Scholarship Types

There are many different types of scholarships available to help prospective college students pay for their schooling. Merit-based scholarships are financial awards available to students who have excelled in their studies. Extracurricular activities are also a factor in determining who is eligible for a merit-based scholarship. A second type of scholarship is need-based. These financial awards are available to students who have demonstrated a significant financial hardship. Students will have to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to qualify for these types of scholarships. A third type of scholarship is directed toward students who have a certain career in mind. Scholarships may be awarded to students who pursue education in high-demand fields such as nursing or business or are contracted to work within a company in a low-income area upon graduating college. Athletic scholarships are available to students who are exceptional in a sport, such as basketball or football. For example, a university may offer a scholarship to a student if he agrees to play basketball for the school.

Where to Find Scholarship Opportunities

The first place to look for scholarship opportunities is your high school guidance counselor. Most guidance counselors have information on several types of national and local scholarships, as well as college-specific scholarships (colleges that award their own scholarships to students who attend their schools). Also check with local nonprofit organizations, as well as local veteran posts such as American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) posts. Sometimes these types of organizations offer scholarships to local students. You may also want to check out the websites of major store brands. Most store brands offer competitive scholarships (requiring an essay, video or some other task to complete) to prospective college students, as well as some free branded gear.

Improve Your ACT Score

Another option to consider is retaking the ACT test in order to obtain a better score. A better ACT score means you may better qualify for merit-based scholarships. Study ACT prep information thoroughly and take an ACT practice test to better help you understand the types of questions that may be on the exam. Once you feel comfortable with the exam subject matter then re-take the test. You may retake the ACT exam no more than 12 times.

Other Ways to Pay for College

Scholarships are only one way to pay for college. Many colleges offer work-study programs to students in order to help pay for their tuition. This program requires you to work part-time on campus in exchange for a check or financial credit toward your tuition account. Another option for covering the cost of your college education is through the G. I. Bill, which covers college tuition and housing for soldiers who have served time in the United States military. Student loans and grants are yet another route students can take when looking for solutions to cover tuition. Some student loans are automatically granted if needed after a student files her FAFSA. Grants are offered to students who demonstrate financial hardship or live in an area where the number of graduates is very low.

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