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Figure Out How NOT to Pay for College

Funding college is one of the most difficult financial hurdles for any American family.  A college degree, despite changing narratives, is still expected for quality employment. Combine this with the fact that college costs, on average, increase at twice the rate of inflation, and you see why it is an increasingly arduous challenge for families.

Consequently, financial professionals are working to bring solutions of high value to parents so that they can send their kids to college without going broke.  Quite simply, it’s not about finding the magic financial product to hit this goal.  No, the most value is found in the ability to take a coordinated approach to bring costs down.

A participant at one of our College Funding Coach® workshops once put it this way to us: “If I’m hearing you right, it’s not really about figuring out how to pay for college as much as it’s about figuring out how NOT to pay for college. This leads us to today’s topic, Private Scholarships!

Top Scholarship Websites

There are over millions—yes, millions—of scholarships available online that offer billions of dollars for which a student can apply.  Almost all of them can be found and identified online. There are many websites out there, but here are a few major ones we’ve used:



Starting Your Online Scholarship Search

The premise of these sites is to serve as a database of scholarships and to provide a platform from which you can search and refine based on your personal criteria. This allows you to identify scholarships that are relevant to you. To get up and running on these sites it’s as simple as….

  • Visiting the website
  • Creating a free account for yourself
  • Beginning your search

Let’s take as an example.  On this site, I like to start with the navigation bar on the top of the site (pictured below).  From this bar, I usually select either “Scholarship Directory” or “College Search.” You can also see the other choices available for your use.

Scholarship directory, for example, brings you to a page that organizes different functions/ talents/specialties, etc. that might be relevant to you, further narrowing your search.

Here is an example to find a specific, actionable scholarship:  By using the Scholarships Directory page, I clicked through to “Artistic Ability” -> “Art – Painting” and was able to locate the “Nikon Storytellers Scholarship” for $10,000, of which there are 10 available!


Now, this may or may not be relevant to your unique skills and abilities, your background, your educational goals, etc.  However, this is one of tens of thousands of examples of what can be found on this and other websites.

A Scholarship Success Story

I’ll leave you with one success story from our program at The College Funding Coach®.

One of our clients has a daughter who got a summer job at Baskin Robbins between her junior and senior years of high school.  Working 20-30 hours per week, she likely would have earned $2,000-$3,000 for the summer.

Instead of taking this job, her parents offered her the following terms:  if she spent her summer applying for scholarships, they would give her a quarter for every dollar she earned in scholarship money.  By the end of the summer, she had been awarded close to $12,000 in scholarships for her freshman year of college, and her parents happily wrote her a check for $3,000!

Key Scholarship Takeaways

  • There are millions of scholarships out there in the world to be utilized by students.
  • Websites and smartphone apps exist as scholarship “databases.” These sites can be used to help you search for scholarships that are relevant to you. Tip: use these sites and apps to create a list of scholarships. Then, once you have your list…take action and apply!
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up!
  • These scholarships are often not mutually exclusive, meaning that applying for one often may have no impact on whether or not you are eligible for another.

Please enjoy the rest of this article series on How to Utilize Online Resources for College Planning, and if you have questions, please ask!

This post is Part One of a seven-part article series entitled How to Utilize Online Resources for College Planning. 

Part 2: Utilizing the College Board Website for Research

Part 3: College Planning Alphabet Soup – FAFSA, CSS, EFC, COA

Part 4: Researching Student Loans

Part 5: How to Check Your Admissions Probability for College

Part 6: Endowments: Finding Where the Money is

Part 7: Educating Yourself When It Comes to Paying for College

Related Post: When Should You Apply for Scholarships?


Erik Fischer, CFP

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