When you’re not a straight-A student or the top athlete in your school, it’s easy to feel like college scholarships aren’t for you. But before you start thinking about borrowing thousands of dollars, consider your skills and other ways you can qualify for free money for college. You may not get a full ride—but every little bit helps!
Here are a few simple ways to look for non-merit based college scholarships:
Be first in line
If you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible, you may get awarded more state or university grant funds because you filled out the form before the money ran out.
I’m not kidding—timing matters. I got money for school simply by being the first person in line. TWICE! In my business master’s program, my school offered $1,000 to the first 75 applicants to get accepted during the summer session. It didn’t matter what your GPA was, as long as you qualified for acceptance. In the second year of my undergraduate program, a similar non-merit scholarship package was available for the summer session, as long as you had a 2.75 GPA or above and were one of the first 75 people in line.
Contact the school’s financial aid office and your high school counselor
The college’s financial aid officer can tell you about local, national, and regional scholarships you might qualify for. And the truth is, many scholarships go unclaimed. Talk to your high school counselor, too. They know a lot about scholarships for high school students and might be able to recommend the ones you’re most likely to get. Scholarship essay contests are one area where grades and academics may not matter. It’s all about your writing quality and your passion for the topic.
Look everywhere for available scholarships
Go online and use free tools such as Sallie Mae’s Scholarship Search. Look beyond your GPA and create a profile that includes your skills, hobbies, background, and interests. If you're a student who identifies as a minority, you may be eligible for minority scholarships.