If you're a family with a demonstrated financial aid need, meaning that your expected family contribution (EFC) is less than the cost of attendance (COA), most of the free money you receive to fill the gap between what your family can supposedly afford to pay for college and the cost to attend, will come from the federal and state government, in the way of grants and loans.
But, I can hear you asking, what are the evil one per centers to do? Your family makes too much money to qualify for need-based financial aid. For example, perhaps you're the son or daughter of public college employee. Public colleges regularly pay their employees hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Before being fired after the 2012 season, the best-paid University of California employee was Jeff Tedford, with a salary of $3 million a year coaching football at Cal Berkeley. Practically every single Top 25 head coach in football and basketball makes multiple-six figures. However, these high salaries aren’t limited to head coaches. The UC’s last President earned $900,000 and UCSF’s Chancellor; Susan Desmond-Hellman reportedly made $450,000. Gee, I wonder why college is so expensive! If this scenario describes your family, don’t despair. I am here to help you find free money for college.
The best source of free money for “full pays” is going to come from the colleges and universities themselves. Excluding the Ivy League colleges and a handful of other elite colleges who don’t award merit money to students from wealthy families, these colleges have sources of funds outside of the federal and state governments to award students they want to attract to their school. It’s not unusual for these colleges to award merit-based scholarships and institutional aid in the tens of thousands of dollars per school year. You’re also more likely to find that there is a lot more money available from the private colleges than the public colleges because they’re more expensive and there’s a bigger gap to fill. These private colleges also want to be competitive with the lesser-priced colleges and will do what’s necessary to fill seats.
To save you an enormous amount of time and to share with you just how easy it can be to find college-based merit scholarships, I am going to share with you my favorite websites, www.collegetreasure.com. Using College Treasure.com is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find merit based scholarships and academic scholarships for college! Simply use their quick search and enter in your SAT score, your GPA, and the states where you want to go to school, and then you will have a list of colleges where you are eligible for merit based scholarships.
Do you still need money for college? If you do, the next place to turn is to outside private scholarships. Be forewarned, the amount of money available from outside scholarships is actually quite small. Don't waste your money on the private scholarship searches that you get through the mail, it's not something you should spend your time, or money, or energy on. To begin your search for private scholarships, I recommend you check out the following websites.
College Answer Scholarship Database
The College Answer database is one of the elder statesmen of the scholarship database world. In fact, several individuals who worked on the development of this database were later involved with some of the other databases. This particular database uses a matching system to help you locate appropriate scholarships. Filling out the required questionnaire takes about 20-25 minutes and involves quite a few pull-down menus and browser reloads to get at the exact numerical codes used for matching.
College Board Scholarship Database
Created by the College Board (the same folks who administer all those standardized tests), the scholarship listings in this database are based on the College Board’s Annual Survey of Financial Aid Programs. The online version of this database is drawn from a portion of ExPAN, a guidance software product sold directly to schools. The free online database includes fewer scholarship listings than many of the other scholarship databases profiled here, and the search mechanism is fairly simple and straightforward, making it quick and easy to use. The database is updated only annually, with the information contained in the online version lagging one year behind the College Board’s printed directory.
Fastweb Scholarship Database
Fastweb is easily the most “commercial” of the scholarship database websites, with consumer product offers interwoven into its scholarship results lists. The database features an easy-to-use interface, a personal user mailbox, and a regular stream of e-mail that advises the user of “new” awards (even though these are more likely awards that have been previously withheld). Because Fastweb is one of the better known scholarship websites, the database benefits from the fact that certain scholarship administrators and sponsors take the initiative to send the latest information on their scholarships directly to Fastweb. The questionnaire used for scholarship matching is one of the lengthier ones—on the order of 20 minutes or more to fill out.
College-based merit scholarships have an advantage over private scholarships in that they are often renewable for all 4 years, assuming the student meets the GPA requirements. Whereas, an outside private scholarships will need to me won each and every year. Additionally, if you do happened to be a family with a demonstrated financial aid need, the outside source of funds would most likely be counted as a dollar for dollar reduction against any free money that the college was going to give you. My advice to you is to spend those hours studying and preparing for the SAT and or ACT tests, and not searching for those outside scholarships. Increasing your scores on either of those two standardized tests will not only increase your chances of getting accepted to the college of your choice, but possibly increase the amount of merit money you receive from the college by hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year.
Michael Rappa Rocklin CA