When I was applying to college, I applied to as many scholarships as I could so that I didn't graduate in debt after college.
I did three things,
1. Every single day, I browsed scholarships.com for new scholarships, and tried to apply to at least 5 scholarships a week. Many of these scholarships require an essay, because they want to gift money to students who let their experiences and personality show through in their application. Many of these scholarships were meant to uplift disadvantaged, marginalized, and/or low-income students, so I made sure to explain how the different intersects of my identity shaped my life experiences and my views on success. I explained what I wanted to do in college, and how I would use my education for the betterment of my community and society overall.
Whenever you apply to a scholarship, save your essay because you might need it again! Also, try to foster meaningful relationships with adults such as your educators, principles, counselors, and bosses, because many of these scholarships require recommendation letters. If a teacher or mentor write you a letter, ask them to save it in case you want to use it again for another scholarship.
2. Many people forget about local scholarships, and only apply to national ones with a lot of name recognition such as the Coca-Cola or Mcdonald's scholarship. In addition to applying to these, I would browse my local restaurants, local electric companies, and non-profits to see what scholarships they are offering. It is a lot less competition, because there are a lot less applicants, and their goal is to support local students. No scholarship is too small! Little scholarships can add up, so don't discount small scholarships. I also received small scholarships from some of the honor societies I was a part of in high school, such as National Beta Club. If you are in any club such as this, like National Honor Society, ask your chapter leader for any scholarship applications.
3. I applied to colleges that had a well-established record of providing a good amount of financial aid for their students. I went to a school with a very large endowment, and if parents earned less than 60k a year they would provide a grant to pay off at least 97% of tuition costs. Colleges with large endowments tend to be in the top 30 or 40 ranks on the US National News and World Report, they are very competitive, but once you make it in, they have the most comprehensive financial aid packages.
Paula-Ann recommends the following next steps:
As a side note textbooks can be expensive but the main website I would recommend would be Chegg.com, there are much cheap options to rent them and then you can send them back. This really helps with textbook costs, I wasn't aware of this at first and spent about over a 150 dollars on my textbooks!
Best of luck!
Yasemin recommends the following next steps:
When applying for FAFSA, they will award you a certain amount of grants and different loans that will cover the total amount of your tuition, books, other tools, and housing for any school. You may have other options like working, where the government will contribute to half of your hourly wages the other half the campus job will pay the difference. You can choose what you want to accept and decline. Like others have stated, you can apply for scholarships, and whatever you earn will reduce the amount of financial aid given to you. For example, you earned $1000 scholarship, then you would receive $1000 less in financial aid. Some schools will offer scholarships based on socioeconomic status. For instance, UC system offers UC Regent scholarships based on family income. You have everything covered and may also get priority when picking classes. Sometimes scholarships, do not have a lot of applicants, so the sole applicant will win by default. Never hurts to ask or try. Take care, be safe and good luck!
Thank you for your question. Financial aid is extremely important when applying to college and should be done as early as possible. I agree with the responses you've received so far.
I'd like to add a different perspective. I know that you don't want any loans, etc. and want to be debt free. The advice I've provided to my friends' young adults when they've said a similar type comment is "don't let loans, debt, etc. be the reason why you do not charge forward with going to college and investing in your future". You will always have debt; there's no escaping it. In terms of college, that debt could be big or small and that's why there's work-study programs, get a summer job, paid internship, etc. I believe in investing in yourself, which means - if you need to get a loan, apply for it. There are programs out there that have "loan forgiveness" especially for essential workers.
I've listed some sites for you to check out on grants and scholarships. I wish you much success on your journey.
Best of luck!
Sheila recommends the following next steps: