You can still tap free college money – here’s how

Paying college was a problem even before the Covid pandemic.

Now that families are more financially burdened and higher education is more expensive than ever, some parents of college tied students have hit a breaking point.

Most need to borrow to pay for much of the cost of their graduation. That has already driven student loan debt past an impressive $ 1.7 trillion. But there is another way.

Eunice Chon, 18, a first-generation Korean-American student living in Macon, Georgia, was determined to find enough scholarships and grants to cover all college expenses.

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Chon attends Howard High, a Title I school, which means there is a high percentage of low-income students. In fact, Howard is 99% considered economically disadvantaged like them.

“My father said, ‘We can’t send you to a school that has out-of-pocket costs,'” she said.

Unlike a student loan, a scholarship is essentially free money, which means it doesn’t have to be paid back. In addition to the gift assistance offered by colleges and universities, there are many private grants available, often funded by foundations, corporations, and other independent organizations.

Even small awards add up over time. “Every dollar you win is one less dollar you borrow,” said Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on higher education.

Eunice Chon, 18, will be entering Harvard’s freshman class this fall and will have enough scholarships to cover costs in full.

Source: Eunice Chon

Chon applied for half a dozen such scholarships from local and national groups and received various amounts ranging from $ 500 to $ 20,000 from the Coca-Cola Scholarship Program. She also received a scholarship from Crimson Education, which provides free help from admissions experts to economically disadvantaged students.

“It was the most competitive thing I’ve ever done,” she said of her scholarship applications – which says a lot when you consider that Chon also applied to 18 elite colleges in the toughest application cycle yet. She was accepted into Harvard University as well as a handful of other Ivy League schools.

Chon will be entering Harvard’s freshman class in the fall and will have enough scholarships to cover costs in full.

There are more than 1.7 million private scholarships and fellowships totaling more than $ 7.4 billion, according to Kantrowitz.

There is a scholarship for everyone out there.

James Lewis

President and Co-Founder of the National Society of High School Scholars

“The biggest mistake students and their families make is feeling like they won’t qualify – they choose not to,” said James Lewis, president and co-founder of the Atlanta-based National Society of High School Scholars.

“There’s a scholarship for everyone out there.”

Lewis suggests starting with a quick search online. “Put in your passion and the word scholarship, you will be amazed at what you will find.”

“Do you love asparagus? There’s a scholarship for that. Are you left-handed? There’s a scholarship for that,” said Ashley Boucher, a spokeswoman for education provider Sallie Mae, hypothetical.

How To Find College Scholarship Funds

Free scholarship search websites like and also compare a student’s background to a database of scholarships.

A typical high school graduate could keep up with up to 50 to 100 scholarships, said Kantrowitz.

“You should always apply for any scholarship you are eligible for,” he advised.

Alexis Simon, 17, will be attending St. John’s University this fall.

Source: CNBC

Alexis Simon, 17, is applying for 20 to 30 scholarships. “I don’t know what the money will be like, but I will definitely never give up,” said Simon, who attends a performing arts high school in New York.

While this may seem like an overwhelming task related to applications and academic achievement, much of the same material can be used for each scholarship submission with only minor changes, Kantrowitz said.

The more scholarships you get, the more likely you are to move forward, Lewis added.

“Once they receive awards, they can use that entitlement for additional scholarships.”

Best Time To Apply For A College Scholarship

Although many families wait to receive their college offerings, “it’s always better to start sooner rather than later,” said Kantrowitz.

In fact, some deadlines have passed – but there is more help available for students who are looking.

“There are still dollars from the schools themselves based on both needs and academic merit, and then of course on-demand scholarships that are offered on a federal, state and community basis,” said Robert Franek, editor-in-chief of The Princeton Review.

Some foundations have even increased their spending on school aid and are now giving “emergency grants” to students who have been severely affected by the pandemic, Kantrowitz said.

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