Paying for college can be incredibly stressful for families. In my series of blogs on reducing the cost of college, we’ve talked about using tax credits and tax benefits to help lighten the load. In this blog, we’ll talk about another avenue for reducing the cost of college: scholarships. Every dollar you or your child is awarded in scholarships helps to reduce the overall cost of education. Scholarships never have to be paid back and can be qualified for in a number of different ways. Here are some of the different types of scholarships and more information on each:

Scholarships offered through the college
  • Are usually awarded based on a combination of grades, community involvement, college entrance test scores, and financial need.
  • May require the student to major in a particular area of study; others may have different requirements. For instance, a student receiving a music scholarship could be required to participate in band or choir or take private music lessons.  They could receive this scholarship money even though they are not a music major.
  • Private colleges often offer higher dollar value scholarships than state funded colleges.
Scholarships from other sources
  • Through the high school
    • Many of these scholarships are offered by local organizations
      • Alumni associations
      • Services clubs such as Rotary or Lions
      • Chambers of commerce and other business associations
  • Through national organizations
    • Veteran’s groups
    • Religious organizations
    • Ethnic groups
    • Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts
    • Private foundations
    • National Honor Society

It is not necessary for the student and family to pay a fee to find scholarships as there are plenty of free options.  First, the student can talk to their school counselor to find out what scholarships are available through the school.  There are also numerous websites designed to help students find scholarships.  A quick search on showed scholarships for freshman students through doctoral students.  Many have basic requirements such as ethnicity, living in a certain area, or pursuing a certain degree.  Some scholarships are awarded for four years, while others are for just one year or are renewable each year if the student maintains a minimum GPA.

Another way to find scholarships is to just ask.  If the family belongs to a local organization or religious community, find out if they offer any type of scholarship.  Many veteran organizations offer scholarships each year to junior high and high school students who write an essay on the theme chosen by the organization.  In addition, many places of worship offer scholarships to their members and their children.

With the cost of education continuing to increase at a pace greater than inflation, scholarships are an important piece in paying for the education.  Remember, every dollar received in scholarship money reduces the college cost, so they are always worth pursuing!


Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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