If you’re spending your college weekends and summers relaxing or partying, you might want to spend the time looking for scholarships instead.
The 2016-17 average cost of undergraduate tuition and living expenses was $24,610 for public in-state universities and $49,320 for private colleges, according to the College Board.
Maybe you’ve already shopped for student loans or applied for FAFSA, but why not search for a free way to attend?
Even if you’re already in your 2nd or 3rd year, there are still billions of dollars’ worth of scholarships available. Keep reading to find out five reasons why you should look for scholarships during college.
1. Start Debt Free
Financial despair is the last emotion you want to show when you’re out looking for a new job or apartment. The feeling of having impending bills and having to take a job that wasn’t even related to your major is a downer, yet it happens to millions of Americans.
Graduating from college with as little debt as possible is an attainable goal if you put in the effort and work that it takes to apply for scholarships.
One of the best approaches is to apply for several small, local scholarships. Smaller awards will give you less money per award, but then the scholarship is less sought-after, so the competition is low. While many students apply for the large full-ride scholarships, the chances of winning them are slim.
If you win several small scholarships worth $200-2000, you could end up paying for your entire year. Look for scholarships that pertain to your major, extracurricular interests, race, religion, and region. Many scholarships are unheard of and go unclaimed because they just can’t find anyone to give them to.
It’s up to you to search out as many as you can and apply for them. The ones that are easy to get might just be the ones that haven’t been advertised.
Action Tip: Make a spreadsheet to keep track of scholarships and apply to as many as you can on your downtime.
2. A Scholarship Could Land you a Job
Let’s face it. Anyone who donates money to a student’s success is bound to think of getting something in return besides a tax deduction. Maybe they’re looking for fresh graduates like you, and that’s why they’ve decided to help. You might have a job interview waiting for you as soon as you graduate.
Action Tip: Get in contact with your sponsor by sending a thank you letter and engaging with them on social media.
3. Looks Good on Your Resume
When you’re fresh out of college, you’ll likely come across a strange catch-22: Hiring managers want you to have work experience to get the job, but you need the job to get experience.
Getting a scholarship means you can also put the company name onto your resume. Sure, it’s not the same thing as bonafide experience, but it looks better than empty space. And it gives you credibility. If a company was willing to give you money to study, why shouldn’t a hiring manager give you money to work?
Action Tip: Make a list of your scholarships under the “Awards” section of your resume and write 1-2 sentences about each.
4. It’s Easier to Study When Bills are Paid
You know the feeling: the financial despair that happens when money is tight. Transitioning into adulthood is hard when you’re running on low finances. To make matters worse, worrying about money is a productivity-killer. Being concerned about where your next meal will come from will make it hard to concentrate on your classes. Many employers look at the transcripts of new college grads, so you’ll want to keep your grades in good shape.
Getting scholarships through school will help keep your mind on the books.
There are real people behind the scholarship money. Even if a company doesn’t have the capacity to hire you full-time, it doesn’t mean they can’t connect you with someone who can.
70% of jobseekers find jobs through networking, not through job boards. When you network with your school academic counselors and scholarship donors, it means opening more doors.
Action Tip: Get to know people. Connect with your scholarship donors and school administrators on Linked In. It could be through your scholarship connection that you land your first job.
Winning scholarships while you attend school is an excellent way to keep your debt to a minimum and open the financial doors to your future. Even if you need to pay for school with part scholarship and part loan, it is still better than footing your entire college education on borrowed money.
You might just end up with a free ride through college.
Have you applied for scholarships while being in school and if so, what was your strategy?