Mark A. Stein: Scholarships beat student loans; here’s how to find them | News

Scholarships and grants can cut the cost of attending a private university by almost half. They can also cut the average cost of attending a state college by nearly 40% on average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Colleges and universities routinely offer students “financial aid” packages that include some scholarships and grants, but also large loans. Scholarships and grants are much better because they are gifts that, unlike loans, do not require repayment.

Before you sign up for a student loan, make sure you try your best to secure as many scholarships as possible. There are thousands of them ranging in size from $ 250 to $ 40,000, but they can be hard to find because they come from a variety of sources – community groups, employers, individuals, nonprofits, private companies, professional and social organizations, religious groups and even colleges and universities themselves.

The hunt is made difficult by the conditions of many scholarships. Some are for students of certain fields of study or students who come from a certain federal state or attend a certain university. Some are for veterans or children of active military personnel, others are for cancer survivors or the children of people who have died of cancer. Some are only for students with specific last names, such as Gatling or Zolp. One is limited to convicted criminals who live in Kalamazoo County, Michigan and can demonstrate how they have overcome adversity.

Use a scholarship search website. There are dozen of them, including one sponsored by the Department of Labor and another run by the College Board. You can find them by typing “scholarship search” into your browser. Popular private search sites are Fastweb, Peterson’s, Sallie Mae, and

Beware of fees, scams, and selling your data. Some websites charge a fee to perform a search or a fee to process an application. Several have been paid to lead prospective students to for-profit institutions with high tuition and low graduation rates. Even a few reputable websites sell your profile information to nonprofits or student loan companies, which can open the floodgates of marketing messages and emails.

“Never pay money to look for grants or to apply for a scholarship,” says Mark Kantrowitz, financial aid expert. The Federal Trade Commission, which investigates complaints against grant search websites, recommends searching online for the name of a website and the words “complaint” and “scam” to see what others have said about it.

Start early – even before you decide which universities to apply to. Wait until you apply for college – or worse, get accepted – before you apply for scholarships – and you’ll miss deadlines, says Kantrowitz. “Many of the best grants have a deadline in October, November, and December.”

One of the most generous scholarship programs in the country, run by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, stopped accepting applications for the upcoming school year as of October 31st. The Cooke Foundation provides up to $ 40,000 to undergraduate students starting their freshman year. It also awards scholarships to community college students who move to four-year institutions.

The deadline for submitting applications to another generous nonprofit, the Ascend Educational Fund, was February. Ascend donates $ 2,500-20,000 to immigrant students and immigrant children who graduate from high school in New York City.

Small scholarships add up. Most are between $ 500 and $ 2,500, which is a small fraction of the cost of college. However, there are few limits to the number of scholarships you can pursue and accept, and technology makes it easy to apply for many of them.

A search page, Going Merry, does you the favor of pooling applications with similar requirements, such as an essay on a specific topic, to make it easy for students to apply for more than one at a time.

Do students receive all or even most of the scholarships they apply for? No. Despite misleading Malarkey about billions of “unclaimed” scholarships each year, very few go uncollected, and the competition is real. But you can tilt the odds a little in your favor by taking advantage of the fact that many applications are similar and you can close several in one evening and a dozen over a weekend – even without the Going Merry style of techno bundling, Kantrowitz. to use says.

“Let’s say you have a 1:10 chance of winning a $ 500 scholarship and it takes you an hour to apply for each application,” he says. “So it takes 10 hours to apply for 10 applications, and you have a pretty good chance of winning a $ 500 scholarship. That’s $ 50 an hour. I don’t know of any high school student who can make $ 50 an hour doing something legal. “

Even if you don’t land a full ride, just remember that every scholarship dollar you get is one less dollar that needs to be borrowed and paid back with interest to make your college education a reality.

( covers the worlds of personal finance and residential real estate.)

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