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Paying for College: Scholarships and Grants Edition

(Get That Degree for Free)

These days it seems practically impossible to pursue a college degree without graduating with a mountain of debt. Studies show that roughly 70% of today’s college graduates leave school with a whopping $37,172 student loan bill. That’s a lot of cash, but don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom. Here are some ways you can pay for college.


There are thousands of scholarships out there, and chances are you qualify for more than one of them. Be sure to read application requirements vigilantly to ensure that you qualify before you spend time applying, and don’t limit yourself to only large scholarships. Small scholarships add up, and you will be grateful for any amount of money when it’s time to pay tuition. Finally, remember to keep in touch with the financial aid office. Scholarships can impact your total financial aid package, so you want to have a full picture of what you’re getting into.


Grants are loans that you don’t have to pay back (usually), which is a pretty sweet deal. There are several types of grants you can apply for, but be aware that you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form on an annual basis. Discover which grants apply to you.


The Federal Pell Grants are awarded to undergrad students, or in some cases postbaccalaureate students who are pursuing a teacher certification program. The amount awarded depends on several things, such as financial need, cost of attendance, full-time status, and your plans to attend school for a full academic year or less. As of July 1, 2017, the maximum award amount is $5,920.

college kids having fun while thinking about paying for college


The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are given to undergrad students with the greatest financial need. The amount awarded ranges from $100 to $4,000 per year, and depends on when you apply, your financial need, financial aid awarded and funding available at your institution. Note that this award is not available at all schools, and in certain instances the grant must be paid back.


Are you planning on becoming a teacher? You may want to consider a TEACH grant. These grants are awarded to undergrad, grad and certain postbaccalaureate students who plan to become a teacher in a high-need field in a low-income area. The maximum amount awarded is $4,000, and you must adhere to certain academic standards. Should you choose to pursue a different career path after graduation, this grant will become an unsubsidized loan, which you are required to pay back.


The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are applicable to students whose parent or guardian died serving in the United States military in Iraq or Afghanistan post September 11, 2001. The maximum amount awarded is $5,920.

We get it. This process can be overwhelming. But trust us, you will thank yourself later when you have thousands of dollars in the bank rather than paying off more student loans than needed. Meet your deadlines, know the terms of each scholarship or grant, and keep in touch with your financial aid office.

As always, we’ve got your back. — The On Your Own Team End of article insignia

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by On Your Own, the National Endowment for Financial Education or any of its affiliate programs.]