If you’re a college freshman, you may think it’s too late to find college scholarships to help fund your education. Fortunately, there may still be several scholarships available to you even if you’re already on your way to getting your bachelor’s degree. Unlike student loans, scholarships are free money. They can drastically reduce the amount of debt you graduate with.
Whether you attend a state university, four-year college, community college, or technical school, if you’re not seeking out and applying for all the scholarships you might be eligible for, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table. In this article, we’ll go over some ways you can find great scholarship opportunities as a college freshman.
Can College Freshmen Apply for Scholarships?
The realization that, on average, borrowers take over 20 years to pay off their debt from higher education can be a rude awakening. Many student loans have a grace period of six months after graduating before borrowers have to start paying them back. This can be a double-edged sword, though, especially if you have unsubsidized loans (loans that accrue interest while you’re in school).
On one hand, you have time to get situated in a full-time job before you have to worry about paying them. On the other hand, you’ll be so busy with college that you might not think about, or plan for, the debt you have until after you graduate. The less money you have to borrow, the better.
That’s why education scholarships are great. You don’t have to pay them back or pay interest on them. High school seniors aren’t the only ones who can qualify for scholarship programs. Just because you’ve graduated high school doesn’t mean you should stop looking for these opportunities. There’s plenty of academic scholarships, memorial scholarships, and merit scholarships available to college freshmen.
Where Can College Freshmen Find Great Scholarships?
There’s a number of places you can turn to in your first academic year of college to find scholarships. Each merit scholarship will have its own academic standing requirements and conditions you’ll have to meet to be eligible. Many will require you to have certain academic achievements, maintain a certain grade point average (GPA), be involved in certain activities, or meet community service requirements.
To apply for a scholarship, you’ll typically have to fill out a form and complete a creative essay. However, there are also no essay scholarships available if you don’t consider yourself a writer. Be sure to pay attention to things like application deadlines.
Keep in mind that receiving a student scholarship will have an effect on the amount of financial aid you qualify for. When you receive scholarship awards as a college student, you’ll need to notify the financial aid office at your school so they can remove any unneeded aid from your tuition.
In the next few sections, we’ll outline some resources for discovering great scholarships.
The Financial Aid Office at Your School
Your college’s financial aid office is an excellent resource for getting personalized and in-depth information about the scholarships that could be right for you. The office staff likely has listings and extensive knowledge about all the scholarships available to students at your school.
If you can sit down with an adviser who has expertise in your particular education program, they’ll be even more adept at giving you personal advice for finding the best scholarships for your field of study.
Organizations Related to Your Major
Some scholarships are only available to high-achieving students with specific majors. Although many of these types of scholarships are created for graduate students, some are available to undergraduates, as well.
While there are organizations that offer scholarships for every type of degree program, organizations in high-need industries, like education, health care, and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields will typically have bigger scholarship funds.
Here are a few examples of scholarships available to undergraduate students in certain fields:
- (ISC)² Undergraduate Cybersecurity Scholarship
- Alaska Space Grant Program Undergraduate Scholarship
- Allegheny Mountain Section Air and Waste Management Assn. Scholarship
- ASNT Engineering Undergraduate Scholarship
Some major-based scholarships may also be offered by your school directly. To set up scholarships for academic excellence, professional groups will sometimes give donations to certain departments within a college.
These scholarships can be easier to get than national scholarships because you’ll only have to beat out the students in your school to get them. To see which scholarships are available to students in your field of study, visit your department directly or check out its website.
The United States is a country with a wide array of cultures and ethnicities. If you’re part of an ethnic minority, you may be able to secure a scholarship. Here are a few examples of different ethnic groups that can be eligible for scholarships:
- African American/Black students
- Hispanic students
- Asian American students
- Native American students
Different ethnicity-based scholarships have different qualifying criteria. Some are only available to international students, others might only require you to have a specific cultural heritage, and some scholarships may be available to mixed race students.
Here are some examples of scholarships available to undergraduates in different minority groups:
- The Breath of Life Scholarship is available to African American/Black students pursuing a career in nursing.
- The American Chemical Society (ACS) Scholars Program is available to minority students pursuing careers in fields like chemistry and chemical engineering.
- The William A. Crawford Minority Teacher Scholarship is available to future African American and Latino teachers in Indiana.
Do a web search for different types of scholarships you could be eligible for. There’s a number of websites that feature curated lists of scholarship opportunities. They can be a great place to start your scholarship search. Many of these sites have links to the websites of organizations that offer various types of scholarships.
Consider Grants to Help You Pay for School
Grants are like scholarships in that they offer stipends (i.e., free money) to help you get through college. The difference is that scholarships are given out based on things like academics, community service, ethnicity, or extracurricular activities, while grants are needs-based.
While grants can also have things like minimum GPA requirements, they’re given out based on a student’s financial need. You might qualify for a grant if your family’s income falls below a certain threshold or if you have a disability that makes it difficult for you to pay for college.
Qualifying for grants can be competitive because grants aren’t as widely available as scholarships. They typically don’t cover full tuition, either. Many grants are offered by the government.
Here are a few of the most well-known government college grants:
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants are offered to future educators who promise to teach in a low-income educational facility for a number of years after they graduate.
- Federal Pell Grants are offered to students pursuing an undergraduate degree who have exceptional financial need.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are also given to university students with financial need. They’re designed to provide extra aid to supplement federal Pell Grants.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants are offered to children of military veterans who died in service.
To become eligible for federal grants, simply fill out and submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. In addition to government grants, there is a slew of private and public grants available to all different kinds of students.
Learn More About Managing College Expenses and Scholarships at CollegeFinance.com
When it comes to paying for your college education, you need all the financial assistance you can get. If you rely too heavily on student loans to fund your education, however, you could dig yourself into a financial hole after you graduate. If you can qualify for them, scholarships and grants can greatly reduce the amount of debt you’ll have to deal with later on.
Planning for college enrollment or college graduation can be both exciting and scary. CollegeFinance.com has great information and resources to help high school students and high school graduates learn their options for funding their education, plus resources on paying back student loans after college graduation. We help you take the mystery out of things like applying for grants and scholarships so you can graduate in the best financial situation possible.