Mark A. Stein: Scholarships are Better than Student Loans; here’s how to find them | news

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Scholarships and grants can reduce private university tuition fees almost half. They can also reduce the average cost of a public college by nearly 40%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Colleges and universities usually offer students “financial aid” packages that include scholarships and grants, as well as large loans. Scholarships and grants are much better because they are gifts that do not need to be returned, unlike loans.

Before subscribing to student loanexhaust all opportunities to get as many scholarships or grants as possible. There are thousands of them, ranging in size from $ 250 to $ 40,000, but they can be difficult to find because they come from a variety of sources – community groups, employers, individuals, non-profit organizations, private companies, professional and community organizations, and religious organizations. groups and even colleges and universities themselves.

Hunting is complicated by the conditions of many scholarships. Some are for students studying some specialties, or students who come from a specific state or study at a specific university. Some are for veterans or children of active members of the armed forces, others are for cancer survivors or children of people who have died of cancer. Some of them are only for students with certain surnames, such as Gatling or Zolp. One is limited to convicted criminals living in Kalamazoo County, Michigan who can demonstrate how they overcame adversity.

Use the site to search for scholarships. There are dozens of them, including one sponsored by the US Department of Labor and another run by the College Council. You can find them by typing “scholarship search” in your browser. Popular private search sites include Fastweb, Peterson’s, Sallie Mae, and Scholarships.com

Beware of commissions, scams and selling your data. Some sites charge a fee for searching or processing an application. Some were paid to send prospective students to for-profit schools with high tuition fees and low graduation rates. Even a few reputable sites sell your profile information to nonprofit colleges or student loan companies, which can open up a flood of marketing messages and mail.

“Never pay money to find a scholarship or to apply for a scholarship,” says Mark Kantrowitz, financial aid expert. The FTC, which investigates complaints about scholarship sites, recommends searching the Internet for the name of the website and the words “complaint” and “scam” to see what others have to say about it.

Start early – even before you decide which colleges you can apply to. Wait while applying for a scholarship until you apply to college – or worse, until you get accepted – and you miss deadlines, says Kantrowitz. “Many of the top scholarships have deadlines in October, November and December.”

One of the nation’s most generous scholarship programs, run by the Jack Kent Cook Foundation, stopped accepting applications for the upcoming academic year on October 31st. The Cook Foundation provides a whopping $ 40,000 to college students entering their first year of college. It also provides grants to community college students who transfer to four-year institutions.

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

Small scholarships add up. Most of them range from $ 500 to $ 2,500, which is only a fraction of the cost of college tuition. However, there are several restrictions on the number of scholarships you can receive and accept, and technology makes it easy to apply for many of them.

One search site, Going Merry, invites you to combine applications with similar requirements, such as essays on a specific topic, so that students can apply for several at the same time.

Will students receive all or even most of the scholarships they have applied for? Not. Despite the misleading chatter about billions of “unclaimed” scholarships every year, very few go unpaid and the competition is real. But you can tweak the odds a bit in your favor by taking advantage of the fact that many apps are similar, and you can complete several in an evening and a dozen over a weekend – even without going for a Going Merry-style techno package, Kantrowitz says.

“Let’s say you have a one in 10 chance of winning a $ 500 scholarship and it takes you an hour to apply,” he says. “So 10 applications will take you 10 hours and you have a pretty good chance of winning a $ 500 scholarship. That makes $ 50 an hour. I don’t know of any high school students who can make $ 50 an hour doing something legal. ”

Even if you don’t land to its fullest, remember that every dollar of scholarship you receive is one dollar less to borrow and repay with interest in order to realize your College education

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