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Hopefully by now you’ve completed your FAFSA application and have nailed down your four-year budget for college. Assuming you have, you may have a gap between your budget and your top-school choice. Even if you don’t, you probably would like to decrease your out-of-pocket cost or loan debt.
Outside scholarships are an excellent way to accomplish this goal. These are scholarships that you apply for completely “outside” of the college application and merit scholarship process. There are numerous sources of outside scholarships. Students are encouraged to start close to home by researching community foundations and service organizations.
Sometimes churches and synagogues offer scholarships. Employers are also a great resource; have your parents check to see if their company offers any scholarships or tuition-assistance benefits. If you have a job, check with your employer. Even if they do not offer a scholarship, sometimes the question prompts them to consider offering one, especially if you’ve done a good job while you’ve been there.
Next, expand your search to the internet. The key is persistence. This process takes work, but if you think about the possible payout, the hourly rate for the work is significant.
These are specific resources to help with the search for scholarships:
Make sure to watch out for scams. Never pay for information about scholarships. There are people who will gleefully take your money to give you a list of scholarships that is available for free. Or worse, they’ll take your personal information and use it for personal gain (otherwise known as identity theft).
Always make sure to read the fine print about a scholarship. Many organizations will want to use your application, art or social media creation for advertising purposes, even if you don’t win. That is perfectly fine as long as you feel comfortable representing that brand. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to hear "no." If you work this process well, you will hear no often, but you’ll also hear yes.
Colleges have different methods of handling outside scholarships. Some will reduce your institutional aid for the outside scholarships you receive. Ask questions and understand the consequences at each school. Organizations may also designate scholarships for a specific purpose, like tuition. If your tuition is already covered, that means you can’t use the designated money for something else like room and board.