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How to Get Free Money to Fund Your College Studies

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Dominique Broadway
How to Get Free Money to Fund Your College Studies

There are two main ways to boost your bank balance during your college studies. Some of these methods will require minimal effort on your part. You may be eligible for a grant or a scholarship without even realizing, or you may have to make minor changes to your daily routine so that your student loans go a little bit further.

Other methods may require a little bit more work, which is literally the case when it comes to finding yourself a part-time job.

However, this doesn't have to get in the way of carrying out your college studies and enjoying the social aspect of this time in your life.

Here is our guide to putting some extra cash in your pocket during your time at college.

What is the Difference Between a Grant and a Scholarship?

Grants and scholarships may have the same function, to support college pupils financially through their studies, but there are differences in how you access these forms of financial support.

Grants are awarded to the students who need them and usually awarded to students whose home situation means that they would benefit from the extra financial support.

Scholarships are awarded to students who deserve them.

There are several types of scholarships available, which can differ from college to college. A common type of scholarship is one made available to a student who has displayed a high level of skill in a sport or an academic subject. There are some exceptions, but this is the general difference between a grant and a scholarship.

What is the FAFSA?

FAFSA stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Fill it out as soon as you know that you'll be heading to college, as the FAFSA will determine if you are eligible for federal support. The federal government, states, and colleges all frequently use the form to assist in awarding further grants or scholarships, so make sure you don't delay in submitting your application.

Completing the form is the most important thing to do for someone looking to supplement or replace their student loans. With federal student aid distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, prospective college pupils should apply well in advance of the start of term.

What Types of Grants Might Be Available?

There are lots of different varieties of grants available, but most fall into three categories: federal grants, state grants, and grants from your college.

Federal Grants

  • As mentioned above, completing the FAFSA is essential if you want to unlock any potential federal grants.
  • Only students who can prove a need for financial support will be eligible for federal grants.
  • The size and the nature of the grants can vary across different colleges and courses.
  • Federal grants usually don't need to be repaid, which makes them an attractive alternative to student loans. As long as you meet the academic requirements for your course, you won't have to worry about paying back your grant.

>> read more on studentaid.gov to see how you can proceed 

State Grants

  • State grants work a lot like federal grants, except it is the state that pays money directly to the student in need.
  • States use FAFSA information too, although state deadlines can vary from federal deadlines. Once you know the location of your college, check out the rules for grants in that state.
  • Many students that are eligible for federal grants will also be eligible for state grants, with states likely to contribute if federal aid alone doesn't cover tuition costs.

Academic Grants

  • Your college may be given money to distribute as grants to students who require financial aid.
  • As long as you fulfill the obligations of your course, you won't have to pay these grants back. This is essentially free money - what a relief compared to the stress of student loans!

What Types of Scholarships Might Be Available?

There is a wide range of scholarships available to college students. Many of these are awarded on merit, but students may also be eligible for scholarships through other factors. Here is a look at some of the most common types of scholarships.

Academic Scholarships

  • If you have displayed an aptitude in a particular subject at school, you may be eligible for a scholarship based on your performance.
  • Candidates for academic scholarships are generally those with impressive grades and an impressive character to match. 
  • A scholarship could help you out if you want to apply for a certain college to push yourself academically, but feel unable to meet the financial commitments.

Athletic Scholarships

  • Colleges are always keen to balance their academic results with sporting performances. If you can offer something to a college both athletically and academically, you may be a prime candidate for this type of scholarship.
  • Having extra money at college is especially useful for aspiring sports stars, given the costs of playing sport.
  • This type of scholarship means you don't have to rely on your student loans to fund your dreams, while you also aren't forced to try and squeeze in a part-time job alongside your studying and your training.

Equal Opportunity Scholarships

  • There is a growing number of scholarships on offer to reach out to groups of students who may not traditionally have been given the opportunity to attend college, or who are currently underrepresented in the college system.
  • Scholarships may be awarded for a variety of reasons, including race, nationality, and disability. 

Military Scholarships

  • Service members, veterans, and their families may all be eligible for some form of a college scholarship.
  • Many military scholarships not only pay the full-time tuition and accommodation fees but also cover students' studying expenses - no need to spend all of your student loans on textbooks!
  • Those who plan to join the Armed Forces after college may be able to access scholarship funds during their studies, depending on the merit of their application.

How to Balance a Part-Time Job With College Studies

This is one of the most popular ways of generating more money while studying, particularly for students who have found that they don't qualify for a grant or a scholarship. While it comes with its challenges, a part-time job can provide valuable life experience and a new social group, as well another important thing: money!

Here are a few things to take into account when hunting for the perfect part-time job.

  • Can you do it online? - there are many jobs that can be completed from your computer, which removes traveling times from your schedule. Proofreading, copywriting, and online tutoring jobs can be flexible while playing to the strengths of a college student.
  • Will my boss be understanding? - don't take a job where you'll be forced to work certain shifts that will impact your college timetable. Make sure your boss will appreciate your increased revision schedule during exam periods.
  • How many hours should I take? - weigh up the demands of your timetable and course, then decide how many hours you can take without hindering your studies. If your manager is pressuring you to take on more hours, then this isn't the right job for you to take when college studies are the priority.

How to Manage Your Student Loans and Reduce Living Costs

It is possible to make cutbacks in your monthly spending at college without compromising on your comfort and your happiness. Not all of these will be viable options for you, but these are things that you should consider when planning your move to college.

  • Live at home - while many people want to be fully immersed in the college world, living at home is a huge money saver in terms of rent and bills. You might have to pay some money towards bills at home, but your parents are likely to be more forgiving landlords than student accommodation.
  • Buy in bulk - if you are living with other college students, you can save money by coordinating your shopping. Buying in bulk can drive costs down, while joint shopping and cooking also strengthen the bond between housemates. 
  • Purchase pre-owned study materials - buying used textbooks can save a lot of money, while you can then sell these on once you've finished the course. 

>> Read more on how to keep your student loan debt manageable 

What to Do Before Heading to College

  • Complete the FAFSA - this is the most important thing you can do if you're looking to access college grants. 
  • Speak to somebody who knows all about student loans, college grants, and scholarships - your school guidance counselor should be able to suggest what you may be eligible for.
  • Speak to people you know that are currently at college or that have recently left. This may give you an idea about how finances work once you get to college, plus it will be useful for college life in general.
  • Apply for lots of scholarships well in advance of going to college - you have nothing to lose by applying, but you might have lots to gain if you earn a scholarship. There are scholarships out there with all sorts of criteria, so take the time to research.
  • Get a part-time job before college - if you're worried about balancing studies with work, then you could use the summer before going to college as a time to generate some extra funds. 

By checking your eligibility for grants and scholarships, funding your college studies can become so much easier. Even if you aren't eligible, there are ways that you can manage your money so that you can focus on the best aspects of college life.