Franklin Countys First News

Coping with College: Scholarships and how to pay for college

Ellie Duley

By Ellie Duley

College applications are probably mostly done and now you may be wondering how you will pay for college. Good question. Scholarships and grants provide money for college that doesn’t have to be paid back. So, how do you find scholarships and grants?

Typically, the biggest scholarships that you receive will be from the colleges which accept you. This is typically called merit money and is based on your accomplishments while in high school. These scholarships can range from a couple thousand dollars up to full tuition-kind of a big deal. Many schools will list, on their websites, what the qualifications are for the different scholarship levels. This is usually based on GPA and sometimes test scores and is handy information as you plan your college list and think about college affordability-this is, obviously, only useful information if you are a younger student beginning the college search. Many of these scholarships don’t require additional applications or essays, but some do so be sure to do your research!

There are some schools that do not grant merit money for academics, (I’m looking at you, Boston College). These schools tend to be more selective, so again, you need to do your research if you are planning on getting a nice scholarship to help pay for college. I can think of a number of these off the top of my head without even hitting the Ivies. Some colleges will have special scholarships on their websites that may be tied to alumni or for students in certain areas. These may have earlier deadlines so be sure to make that part of your research as well.

Grants are need-based and awarded to students and families who show demonstrated financial need through financial aid forms such as the FAFSA and CSS profile. You may be able to get state, federal and institutional grants depending on financial need. These should be listed on your financial aid award letter after you are accepted. Good stuff if you qualify.

So, what if you don’t qualify for need-based aid and your school doesn’t offer merit money? There is still money out there for college, but you might have to work for it. There are a number of national scholarship websites that list tons of scholarships. Be sure to use a filter so you don’t have to wade through scholarships that you won’t qualify for. I also advise creating a free email account just for scholarships. You will have to provide your email for the national sites, such as, and to name just a few. You will get emails from them so a dedicated email account makes lots of sense. Some sites give away thousands every month just for entering your email. Are you feeling lucky? How many scholarships you apply for will depend on your level of need, amount of free time and, frankly, your energy level. Try not to get too bogged down here and prioritize where to spend your scholarship energy and time. There are even scholarships for students in younger grades so start early if you have time and energy.

Local scholarships can be found in your school guidance office. These should not be overlooked. There will be some that will need applications, transcripts and, perhaps, letters of recommendation. There are also many scholarships for which you can be considered just by filling out the form given out by guidance in the spring. Don’t be the kid who doesn’t fill this out and makes his parents sit through a three hour awards night only to find out that you didn’t fill out the form and received exactly zero scholarships. Just don’t.

There is also college money to be found in your community. Check out your credit union, church or parents (or your) employer. Get creative-it could pay off!

A few last words on scholarships: don’t ever pay to apply for a scholarship, be organized and mindful of deadlines and don’t let yourself get overwhelmed. Some students find it easier if they have a dedicated amount of time per week to spend on scholarship searches. Best of luck to you!

Ellie Duley is a certified school counselor and is currently working privately with students and their families all around the state of Maine, with all aspects of the college process.

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