College is a time for excitement, but there is something else that comes with that excitement – fear of how you will pay for college. Student loans do allow you the opportunity to pay for your schooling, but they have a hefty price tag once you finally pay them back. In fact, many students will find that their original student loan amount is as much as doubled once they reach the payoff when factoring in interest.
If you do not want to worry about entering the real world with student debt, there are alternative options out there to pay for your education. In fact, one of those options is scholarships. Scholarships are considered to be free money and they do not have to be paid back to the organization that awarded it to you.
If you avoid student loans altogether, then you can increase your net worth and worry about investing your money instead of making payments for 20 years. Below, we will explore scholarships in depth to help you make a decision about your future.
Scholarships Can Fund Your Entire Education
Did you now that scholarships can fund your entire education? It is true. In fact, many students apply to and receive enough scholarship money that they never have to pay a dime out of pocket towards their education.
If you want to pay for your education with scholarships, you will need to start applying to them early on. Many scholarship organizations will allow you to apply for the award when you are a freshman in high school. You do not need to know what school you plan to go to either, which allows you to keep your options open.
One thing to keep in mind about scholarships is that you are not limited to the number of them that you can receive. This means that you can apply to 10 of them for $10,000 each and if you win all of them, you would have a nice amount of money to get the education you want.
As you look for scholarships to apply to, you should focus on smaller, lesser-known ones that have less competition overall. This will increase your odds of winning and you will find that you win more small scholarships than if you focus on the highly-marketed, larger ones.
What Can My Scholarship Be Used For?
One of the good things about scholarships is that they can be used to fund your education. This money is applied to your tuition, lab fees, books, and other school-related expenses. The scholarship foundation or organization will send the money directly to the school, so you never have to worry about transferring the money over to the school on your own.
In addition, the school will keep the money on file and the remainder is not disbursed to you. This is a good thing because you may be tempted to use the money and then end up with none for your education.
Do Scholarships Have Any Requirements to Apply?
Yes. Scholarships do have some requirements to apply for them and it is important that you look at what those requirements are. Most scholarships are either need based or merit based, which means you may need to demonstrate a financial need or demonstrate that you have earned good grades.
In addition, many scholarships require you to attend an approved school and be in a degree seeking program. You may or may not have to be in a specific degree seeking field. If you do, the scholarship will let you know if you do.
Scholarships usually require that you are a US citizen or legal permanent resident. Lastly, you will likely need to provide two to three letters of recommendations and complete an essay to apply. The recommendations should be professional and not be from your friends and family. The best types of recommendations include those from employers, religious leaders, community leaders, and educators.
Your essay needs to stand out from the rest of the applications, which means you should work hard to choose a topic that is not covered by many students or take a unique approach to the traditional topics that are provided to you. Do not be afraid to be creative with your essay, as this will help increase your chances of your application being chosen.
Your net worth is important and when you graduate from college, you can either start with a small amount of money, no money, or in debt. If you do not want to start out in debt, you should apply for scholarships to help you pay for your education. Remember, you can apply to as many as you want and receive as many as are awarded to you, so it is possible to fund your entire education without the use of student loans.
Jacob runs his own personal finance blog over at Dollar Diligence. Through meticulously watching his money and extreme frugality, he was able to pay down over $25k in student loan debt in just 15 months. You can learn more about his story and follow him here.