Can anyone really go to college for free? Is such a thing even possible? We’ve all heard the story of students who have gotten a “free ride” at X, Y or Z college or university, but is that really the case? Can you get a free ride anywhere?
I’ve been reading Ben Kaplan’s How to go to college almost for free: the secrets of winning scholarship money (for those few of you who are not amazon fans, my apologies for the sales link). Ben does a fairly good job of describing the aid system, although most of the information is available for free on-line. What I find interesting about Ben’s story is how much money and how many different awards he received from other sources to attend school. Ben does a very good job of describing his scholarship discovery, targeting and application process in his book, and explains how others can benefit from his methods. Let me be very clear: Ben won many talent competitions and other scholarship awards and he invested a great deal of time in the process. But it paid off for him.
Can it pay off for you? Well, first of all realize that the last thing that a scholarship from another source will impact is your family’s contribution toward your college expenses. We will talk about this in another post later on the blog, but keep in mind that if you receive a scholarship or grant from another source, most colleges will start by reducing your unmet financial need, then they will reduce loan and work before they touch any grant or scholarship awards (although each institution may do something different).
But given this, any money you bring in from outside scholarship or grant programs can certainly help.
So when do you need to start the application process? NOW!!! I would advise that anyone who is interested in looking to other sources for scholarship or grant should be looking on-line now to see if there are any programs with which you match. You can do this for free by creating an account at FastWeb, as well as some other scholarship sites. By entering some basic biographical information, these search engines will try to match you with scholarship programs you may be able to apply for, and provide deadlines and application processes for them. NOW is absolutely the right time to do this. Many of these programs have early deadlines, so time is of the essence.
Now, will you be able to go to school for free? For most of you, even if you are awarded one, two, three or no scholarships from other sources, the answer to this question will be no. I will say that if you are from a low-income family, your Financial Aid Officer will do everything she can to make the cost of college affordable for you, even if that means no contribution from you or your parents, but the reality is that most of you will have to contribute something to make your dream of a college education a reality.
But even so, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try; how’s that for a double negative?
Good luck in your search process and look here for more updates!