Monday, August 12, 2013

How to get your hands on a university scholarship

According to Bloomberg, "former students are hobbled by a collective $1 trillion in education loans".

The universities are raising their costs every year claiming economic difficulties and young people are still willing to borrow vast amounts of money to get the most basic shot at success in life. 

Of course, it's hard to build a career, start a new business or get a normal-paying job when the first thought on your mind is how you'll pay this month's installment of your student loan.

It doesn't matter if you're gunning for college or graduate school, and it doesn't make much difference what you want to study, you have to explore the possibility of getting one or more scholarships.

scholarships, graduate school, college, financial aid, university, tuition
Not the best hairline but you want to have his attitude

If you're American you should obviously explore the possibility of getting a federal student loan. However, take a couple of days to see if you can get some of that future burden off by getting a scholarship or two along the way. Do some research and see if it's worth investing more of your time in it (answer: it is).

If you're an international student, you probably already know that you're not eligible for a federal student loan.

This means you can:

  • borrow money back home (depends on where you're from); 
  • try to get a scholarship in your native country (maybe your government gives out scholarships to talented students on the condition you work for them for a number of years after you graduate); 
  • apply for scholarships in the US competing with American students; 
  • ask the university for merit-based aid; or 
  • pay out of pocket in which case you should proceed to the top of the page and press the big letter X in the right-hand corner because you don't need to be reading this at all.

Now, if you do need the money, you want to apply for scholarships and don't know where to begin here is a simple way to start. Try creating a profile on these 3 websites and see if they can match you with some good sources of funding:

Do this way in advance and know that many of the deadlines are at the end of March every year.

See what kind of requirements they have and if your background fits the kind of people that won their awards in the past. 

Check out if there are any scholarships for students of your ethnicity or from your part of the world/US. You'd be surprised how many small scholarships you can find that are designed strictly for one group of people. 

Also, do some research on your school's website, see if they are offering any scholarships and what hoops you need to jump through to get some of that sweet green.

Money schools are willing to offer you, especially if you're a graduate student, should be a major incentive to add/drop a school from your wish list. Some of the really big schools, especially in urban environments like New York, DC, or San Francisco, will charge you up to $60 K/year. 

Add living expenses to that and you're in trouble. If you can't get any relief from them financially, it doesn't matter much if you get an early acceptance letter in March - you still won't get to go to that awesome school you chose!

Check out the ten most expensive colleges in the US!

Another way to save money is a sports scholarship. If you're good at a sport and you were/are on your high school team check to see if the university has a team and if you could apply to be on it. If you're a graduate student, you can't compete but you can assist the coach. 

Most of the time, if it's not a division 1 team, you can probably get in without much coaching experience although some experience as a player is a must. Seriously, try it, I know a lot of people who got a free ride/ticket to the US thanks to this.

If you're an international college applicant, make sure you mention all the extracurricular activities you've done in high school. It may look downright silly to you but this may help you a lot if you're going for a merit-based/academic scholarship. 

American schools value this kind of activity a lot, and if you can show that you have different interests, you're active and willing to be part of student clubs and organizations they will be more likely to offer you some kind of financial aid.

To find out more about the types of scholarships follow this link.

If you're interested in scholarships available to international students you can check out some of them here.

I almost forgot, just like with schools, don't forget to apply to more than one place. 

Maybe your university can give you a grant that will cover one part of your tuition, and then you can add two or three small scholarships to help ease the pain.

Don't just think that the really big awards are worth it, there are some smart kids out there who save a lot of money winning those small amounts most students don't pay attention to. 

Do it, the 30 year-old you will be eternally grateful, I promise!

As a bonus, here's a nice and short documentary about the student debt crisis in the United States.

P.S. Check out this group on facebook where you can get the newest info on schools and scholarships!

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