young woman with question marks above her headSeniors, part of the reality of going to college is that you’re gonna have to pay for it in some way, shape or form. You’re aware that scholarships are available to help cover college expenses, but how do you get your hands on that free money? Apply, Apply, Apply!

Where can I find scholarship opportunities?

Although some scholarship deadlines have already passed, you’ll find that the majority of scholarships are due between February and April. Scholarships are awarded by private donors or your college. You can ask the financial aid office or your academic advisor about school-specific or departmental (major-specific) scholarships.

Utilize our online resource, ScholarshipQuest, for thousands of Nebraska-based scholarships. Also, check out our Scholarship Tip sheet for steps to successfully complete applications along with a listing of where to find scholarship opportunities.

Can anyone apply for scholarships?

Absolutely! Some scholarships are based on financial need, while others are based on a number of criteria such as academics, leadership, athletics, talents or community service, to name a handful. There are also lottery scholarships, meaning that by simply filling out and submitting the application you’ll be in the pool of applicants to be selected as a recipient – a game of chance, if you will!

Apply for as many scholarships as you meet the criteria for…the more scholarships you apply for, the more chances you have of being awarded some free money, and the less you’ll have to borrow (and pay back) in student loans.

What happens if I apply and don’t get a scholarship?

While no scholarship award is a guarantee, if you don’t apply, you’ll never know! In the event that you apply and are not awarded scholarships, here are some ideas to consider and places to look to help cover your college expenses:

  • If you haven’t already, complete the FAFSA. This is your application for federal, state, and college based financial aid. The results of the FAFSA determine if you qualify for any grants, work-study, and federal student loans. Check out this blog for more details.
  • If your family’s finances are not accurately reflected on the FAFSA because of job loss/reduction, divorce or separation, or other special circumstances, ask the college’s financial aid office to reevaluate your FAFSA results.
  • Get a part-time job to help cover some of your college costs.
  • Consider living at home to cut down on living expenses.
  • Talk to your college about a monthly payment plan.

If I need a loan, what are my options?

If you still do not have enough money to cover the cost of college, you might need to consider additional options. If you’re a dependent student, your parent is able to borrow a federal parent PLUS loan to cover the remaining unmet expenses.

If parents aren’t willing to borrow money on your behalf, you can look into private student loans. However, in almost every situation you’ll need a cosigner to borrow this type of loan. Also make sure you understand the terms, fees, and interest rates tied to these loans! Borrow as little as possible so you don’t leave college with a huge amount of debt.

Finally, have a serious conversation with your family to decide if your college is financially feasible for you. If you’ll be working on a bachelor’s degree, perhaps you start out at a community college to knock out your general education courses, or entertain the idea of attending a less expensive college altogether.

Words of advice

Finding money to pay for college isn’t an easy task – it takes time and effort. Set aside a few hours each week to research scholarship opportunities, fill out applications, and get them submitted before their deadline! It may not be a fun job, but it can be very rewarding! Therefore, you need to take the scholarship process very seriously.

If you have questions  or concerns about financial aid, contact the EducationQuest location nearest you. We’re here to help!