According to 2014 College Board estimates, the average annual tuition for a public four-year college is $8,655 if you’re a resident and $21,706 if you’re an out-of-state student. Private four-year schools average about $29,056 annually.
These numbers may be daunting, but there is money out there to help you pay for school. In fact, there are millions of scholarships available for qualified students, worth billions of dollars.
If you want to get your hand in that pot of gold, start looking early. Rough odds are one out of 25 for receiving a scholarship of some kind.
The Internet provides free databases such as fastweb.com, scholarships.com, and collegeboard.com with information about thousands of scholarships. Some even allow you to create a personal profile and generate a search that will find the scholarships you’re best qualified for.
If you use online databases, try to use more than one. You’ll find a lot of overlap, but there may be some scholarships that are unique to each website.
Furthermore, if you use the personal profile search option, be as specific as possible. For example, if your choice of major is “marine biology,” put that in the search box, not “biology” or “science.”
And remember, never pay fees to obtain access to a scholarship website or database.
If you aren’t quite so tech-savvy, the public library has plenty of books that contain scholarship information. But be wary of any scholarship listing that is three or more years old, as award programs change from year to year. You also can ask a school guidance counselor or a financial aid officer at a university you’re interested in for referrals.
Many scholarships have deadlines as early as August or September, so don’t wait until January of your senior year to start applying.
The typical high-school student should be eligible to apply for 30 to 40 different scholarships. The more scholarships you apply for, the higher your chances are of being awarded money.
Finally, think small. In addition to applying for a big award, consider applying for smaller awards offered by local businesses, organizations, SIU Credit Union, or faith-based organizations. These often are easier to obtain.
SIU Credit Union’s Scholarship Program is offering 5 $1,000 scholarships this year! For more info click here.