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Balancing an Education

A Guide to Free College Money and Less Student Loan Debt

Nov 06, 2019

This recent article “Dos and Don’ts For College Scholarships” talked about free money for college such as grants and scholarships, and offered general tips on how to search for free money.

Now, it’s time to dig a little deeper.

Students who are not high school seniors can win prizes and scholarships well before they apply to college. By storing away their winnings, they’ll get a nice head start on paying their college bills in the years to come. Students of all ages and grades compete for prizes and scholarships for just about anything you can think of — like doodling (Doodle for Google), playing Marbles (National Marbles Tournament), dressing up in duct tape (Stuck at the Prom Scholarship Contest) and being a champion speller ( 

For high school seniors, early November means that Early Decision and some Early Action Applications have been filed and applications for the regular admissions cycle will soon be due. Many families have also filed their FAFSA form described in this article to get their Expected Family Contribution. The college affordability picture is coming into focus because student and parents know:

  • How much they have saved for college
  • The cost of the colleges where applications have been filed
  • Their Expected Family Contribution

Once students file their admissions and financial aid applications, the ball is in the colleges’ court and, for the first time in a while, students have a relative lull in the action. As students await their admissions and financial aid fate, they can use this downtime time to search for third-party scholarships, grants, contests and prizes.

A visit to the school counselor’s office will likely uncover some local scholarships, grants and contests. Local credit unions, a parent’s employer and fraternal organizations such as the Elks Club and The Knights of Columbus, among many others, are often rich sources of scholarships as well.

Here’s an important tip: Many scholarship providers report how many students applied and how many scholarships were granted in past years. Find scholarships that have high applicant success rates. It’s better to have a one in three chance of winning than one in five thousand. Why not put the odds in your favor and focus on scholarships with high applicant success rates?

This free Scholarship Search tool has more than $10 billion of available free college money and will help you identify scholarships with the highest applicant success rates. It takes less than 10 seconds to get your first list — answer three simple questions (State, GPA and Field of Study) to get started. If you don’t want to use those three filters to get the first search results, simply click out to search and sort using other criteria.

There is one fly in the free money for college ointment: third party scholarships may reduce the financial aid award a student receives from a particular college. It’s worthwhile to contact the financial aid office of a college to see how they would treat a third-party scholarship. No matter the outcome, free money for college will likely reduce the amount of student loans that may be the difference between a college being affordable for a family or not. Just as Saving A Dollar Today is Better than Borrowing one Tomorrow®, winning a scholarship dollar today is better than increasing student debt tomorrow.