Sometimes no matter how hard you work or how awesome your scholarship application turns out, you still don’t win the money you need for college. If this happens, don’t take it as a sign that you’re not meant to go to college, and hurl yourself into the ocean of blue-collar employment. You still have a number of options to make your college dreams a reality. Here are a few:
Keep Trying For Scholarships: Just because you didn’t win the first few scholarships you applied for doesn’t mean you should stop trying. Continue to work on your resume of activities and honors that will make you stand out to scholarship committees. Never stop looking for the next opportunity to win college money, and never give up on your future!
Financial Aid: It’s a common misconception that you can only qualify for financial aid if your family is very poor and receiving food stamps. This is simply not true. If you happen to come from a poor family, or have other complicating factors in your life, you may be able to finance your entire education through financial aid. In order to receive financial aid you need to complete the extensive Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the CSS/Profile for private colleges.
Military Service: One of the best benefits to enlisting in the U.S. Armed Forces is Tuition Assistance (TA). As a thank you for your service, the military will foot (most of) the bill for your education during or after your tour of duty. In addition, being a military veteran will make you eligible for even more scholarships than before.
AmeriCorps Volunteer Work. If you volunteer with AmeriCorps either part-time or full-time, they will give you a set amount of money to be used for college tuition or loan repayment. This award isn’t by any means a large sum but it does give you the opportunity to gain valuable life experience while helping others. Plus, many colleges will even match the amount of your AmeriCorps award.
Attend a Tuition-Free School. There are a handful of colleges that don’t cost any money to attend if you have one of the following qualities: you are financially need, you want to work in the college’s field of specialty, you are willing to work 15-20 hours a week for the school, or you are very smart. Before you jump out of your seat and decide this is the best and easiest option for college, remember that the competition to attend these schools is fierce.
Take Out a Loan. While everybody knows they can finance their college education with student loans, most everyone tries to avoid them because they don’t want to sink so far into debt. There are, however, two methods of borrowing money that won’t hit you quite so hard:
1. Loans offered through your financial aid package will be low interest or subsidized interest – meaning you won’t have to start paying them back until you’ve graduated and have a job. There are also a number of repayment schedules to choose from.
2. Generous “loan forgiveness” is available through many post-graduation programs, such as the Peace Corps, Teach for America, National Health Service Corps, Equal Justice Works, and many others.
Take advantage of Internships and Work-Study. If need be, you can always work your way through college little by little. If the idea of working full-time to pay for your schooling and not much else sounds like torture to you, you can always try to earn money in a less-traditional way by trying one of these ideas:
1. Financial aid offers qualified students a Federal work-study option to help them pay their tuition costs. These jobs are often better than those that students can find on their own, because they are usually located on campus and offer flexible hours to make sure you can actually attend your classes.
2. Paid Internships are another great option because they give you experience in your chosen field of study in addition to giving you some much needed cash.
Fundraise for Your Education. If all else fails you can always devise your own plan to solicit money from your friends and neighbors to get money for college. Just keep it legal! One of the easiest ways to do this is to set up a simple website where loved ones can use their credit cards to donate to your cause. You can send out email reminders just before your birthday, Christmas or any other time when people like to give you free stuff.