It goes without saying that you should try to graduate college with as little debt as possible. The average college graduate has $37,172 debt; being so indebted will restrict your options post-graduation. It will be more difficult to accept a lesser paying, but career advancing internship after graduation if you have excessive loans breathing down your neck. Many students find it difficult to work while in class is in session due to the constant academic, extracurricular and social demands. Finding a job during the summer, while helpful, can rarely make a huge dent in college tuition as the increasing cost of attendance has far outstripped the minimum wage. Understandably, many students accept debt as an inevitability. There is fortunately another way.  Scholarships and grants are consistently underutilized by students and they are the single best way to pay for college for one simple reason.


Unlike loans, you aren’t obliged to pay these backs. They may come with stipulations such as completing a certain number of community service hours or writing a reflective paper at the semester’s end, but those are far more manageable than tens of thousands of dollars of loans. They’re as close to free money as you’ll find in your life.


Before discussing how to find scholarships and grants, a note on semantics: many chose to use the two terms interchangeably, there is a small difference between them. Grants tend to be need based and scholarships tend to be merit based.  Knowing that difference will help you refine your search. This is particularly important for families who are engaging with the college process for the first time. Many low income students spend too much time searching for scholarships when grants are often more accessible and lucrative. Better off families often end up disappointed by their expected contribution because they expected aid in the form of grants, and didn’t search for scholarships.


The earlier students begin the aid search the better. You’ll have more time to collect potential funding sources and know the ins-and-outs of documentation and essay writing. With that being said, there are a number of resources available to high schoolers. The first is high school guidance counselors. They will often have deep lists of scholarships that past students have applied to and have a rough understanding of what sorts of applicants tend to receive funding. Beyond that, nearly every state has a grant agency through its department of education. Some require that the student attend a public university within that state, but many do not. Additionally, the federal government has one of the most robust aid programs through Pell Grants which are criminally used. Lastly, the Department of Education has a powerful scholarship search tool which will let students comb through thousands of private scholarships.


This might seem like an information overload at first.  It often is.  Ivy Admissions is here to help.  We encourage all students to apply for both scholarships and grants.  Our consultants create a personalized list of aid supplements which our applicants are likely to receive.  We pride ourselves on this service which more than pays for itself.  We aren’t only concerned with getting you into your dream school; we want to make it as affordable as possible.