Tips on finding money for your kid’s college education
To help pay for her education at the University of Texas at Austin, Alisha Jones searched for grants — and ended up with $24,000 from more than 50 sources. “I basically spent my senior year writing scholarship applications,” explains Alisha, who got help from her high school college counselor. The awards were all small — $1,000 or less — and included local scholarships for community service and athletics, a national award from a professional association related to her business major, and a four-year grant from her stepfather’s employer. “It’s a load off to know I won’t graduate with any debt,” says Alisha.
Here’s how your teen can get extra financial help:
- Go local. Competition for big national scholarships can be fierce. But local chapters of service organizations like Rotary International or Lions Clubs International may get fewer applicants, especially for smaller awards (ranging from $500 to $1,000). You should also pay attention to announcements of local scholarships in the community pages of your town paper.
- Make volunteer work pay. Kids who are big on community service have a good chance of getting a scholarship — more and more of these grants are available every year at both private and public schools. For a list, visit FinAid.org.
- Sign up for contests. While most of these competitions reward standouts in writing and the arts, some involve more luck than talent. The American Fire Sprinkler Association (firesprinkler.org) holds a drawing for ten $2,000 scholarships for students who ace a 10-question, open-book, multiple-choice test. Several companies and banks — such as Tylenol, Calgon, and Wells Fargo — give from $1,000 to $5,000 to lucky winners. So do a number of college-related companies: Next Step magazine (up to $20,000) and ECampusTours.com ($1,000).
- Try co-op programs. Many universities team up with local employers to create programs where students earn money in an off-campus job that’s related to their major. Your child can work part-time while in school or alternate between semesters of full-time work and full-time study. The Directory of College Cooperative Education Programs (it’s $69, so look for a copy at your library) lists 460 schools with co-op programs, which are especially popular at engineering schools. Finishing this kind of program can take five years, but students graduate with little or no debt and a lot of résumé-enhancing experiences. They’re also frequently hired by their co-op employers at significantly higher starting salaries. The National Commission for Cooperative Education (co-op.edu) has a “best of” guide about these programs on its site.
- Check out professional associations. They offer scholarships to students planning to major in their field, or even to kids who are just looking into that kind of job. Visit FastWeb.com for a huge database of scholarships from various associations. Students can apply for these at any point in their college career, but their application will be more convincing after they’ve declared a major.
Want more information about paying for your kid’s education? Check out Send Your Kid to College Without Going Broke for tips and strategies.
See our College Crisis Savings Plan for parents of teens who are two years or less away from school.