College  |  September 26, 2018  |  Hadley Cook

How my family is sending 6 kids to college by using scholarships

What you’ll learn
  • Where to look for scholarship opportunities
  • That there are scholarships out there for everyone

Let’s talk about scholarships—AKA free money for college that you don’t need to pay back.

As one of six children, I know firsthand how beneficial scholarships can be. While my siblings and I all approached scholarships a little differently, each of us has been able to cut the cost of college down significantly. Here are a few tips based on our experiences.

Set aside time to apply for college scholarships

When my oldest sibling, Cait, was getting ready for college, her guidance counselor gave her a list of scholarships. My parents encouraged her to apply for as many as she qualified for and eventually she checked nearly every one off the list. Applying for scholarships wasn’t Cait’s favorite way to spend her spare time, but it paid off—literally. By graduation day, Cait had earned many college scholarships that would ease her financial burden.

"No matter what path you’re on, there are scholarships out there for you!"

My brother Tyler took time off before going to college, but during his senior year he took the time to apply to dozens of scholarships for seniors in high school. Because of his stellar grades and the fact that he made time to apply for scholarships, he’ll come back from his free-spirited adventure with money set aside for when he’s ready to continue his education.

Use free scholarship search tools

By the time it was my turn to apply to schools, there were tons of new college scholarships available. Using tools like Nitro by Sallie Mae, I found college scholarships that many of my peers didn’t even know existed.

With Nitro you just answer a few questions about your skills, hobbies, and interests, and the tool serves up a list of scholarships that are right for you. You can even track your progress in securing scholarships, savings, financial aid, and student loans all in one place. Check out Nitro by Sallie Mae. (By clicking this link, you’ll go to our trusted affiliate, SLM NitroCollege LLC. Any use of the site will be governed by SLM NitroCollege LLC’s terms of use and any information you provide will be governed by the terms of SLM NitroCollege LLC’s privacy policy.) 

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Apply for scholarships every year

Scholarships aren’t just available to high school students. In fact, as you become more involved in your studies and your college community, you may become eligible for more scholarships. While I attended Framingham State University, the honors program offered me a scholarship every semester for maintaining my GPA.

My younger sister, Meghan, is a sophomore at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. One of the best college scholarships she received was the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition for all four years at a Massachusetts state college or university. That’s pretty awesome, but she still needs to pay for books, fees, and other school expenses. With two years to go, Meg is still applying for scholarships available for current college students. There are plenty of scholarship opportunities for students, so apply every year.

Find college scholarships based on your skills and interests

My next youngest sibling, Erin, is going into her senior year of high school. Erin’s super artistic, so she’s working hard to find creative scholarships that challenge her and that she’ll have fun applying for. College scholarships aren’t just for all-star athletes and valedictorians—they’re for everyone: crafters, animal lovers, gamers, entrepreneurs, outdoor enthusiasts, and more. No matter what path you’re on, there are scholarships out there for you!

Finally, there’s my youngest sibling, Brady, who just graduated from middle school. Even though it’s hard to imagine that he’ll be paying for college in the near future, we know that after watching all of us find scholarship money, he’ll be more than ready to find scholarships that match his strengths and will help him on his college journey.

Take my word for it

There are so many college scholarships out there. All I can say is apply, apply, apply for scholarships! You won’t regret it.

footnote Sallie Mae does not provide, and these materials are not meant to convey financial, tax, or legal advice. Sallie Mae makes no claims about the accuracy or adequacy of this information. These materials may not reflect Sallie Mae’s view or endorsement. Consult your own financial advisor, tax advisor, or attorney about your specific circumstances. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited.

footnote *No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. See official rules at