Money Matters » College Funding when you’re Broke . . .

College Funding when you’re Broke . . .

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Finding funds for college can be quite a challenge, particularly if you don’t seem to meet the Governments standards for “financial aid” despite the fact that you’re just squeaking by each month.

This is frequently the case for those whose parents are Self-employed; Because they must disclose their assets which may happen to be vehicles, tools, equipment- all necessary to work- and bring in the income to pay the bills, but not necessarily the easily disposable pile of cash the government seems to think they are!

18 Places to Find Money for College When You’re Broke.

Here are several different streams of revenue that can help cover your child’s college expenses.


First, let me start by saying that this is a topic near and dear to my heart. We have two teens heading off to college shortly, and for several months I’ve been diligently searching for legitimate scholarships, grants (which don’t have to be paid back) and financial aid for unique situations.

Secondly, when you begin you pretty much HAVE to start with the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Most (if not all) colleges require that you apply for FAFSA before you can apply for their scholarships and grants. Some of the critical factors in determining how much aid you’ll actually receive from this include your Expected Family Contribution (EFC), your year in college, your enrollment status, and the cost of attendance at the school you will be attending.

This form can seem overwhelming at first, but here’s a little-known secret, once you’re in the FAFSA form itself, you can opt to import all of your tax information into it, saving hordes of time and frustration.

Merit-Based vs Need-Based:

Merit-based scholarships are earned by meeting or exceeding standards (set by the person or organization offering the scholarship) which can be award based on academic achievement, community involvement, special talents, traits or interests. Merit-based scholarships can range from a few hundred dollars to a full ride.

Grants are often need-based, while scholarships are usually Merit-based, neither need to be repaid, they are considered “gift” aid.

Where to find Scholarships:

  • The Financial Aid office at the College
  • High School Counselor
  • US Department of Labor’s Free Scholarship Search Tool
  • Reference Section of your Local Library
  • Local Foundations: Churches, Community Organizations, Local Business, Civic Groups
  • If you’re in a Minority- you can search for scholarships that are available ONLY to that minority group
  • If you happen to be Gay or Lesbian or Bi- there are scholarships based on sexuality.
  • If you’re going into a particular industry, such as textiles or Chemistry, etc- you can search for scholarships by Industry
  • Fastweb- the largest Free scholarship search engine

Where to find Grants:

  • FAFSA- once the FAFSA form has been filled out the colleges that the student has been accepted to will provide a financial aid package. Oftentimes Grants will be included in this package.
  • Local Clubs
  • Your State Grant Agency

Other Sources of Money:

The Federal Work-Study program provides jobs to students who demonstrate financial need giving them a way to earn money for educational expenses.

Military Service– many branches of the military offer programs that offer as much as 100% tuition assistance for college hours taken during off-duty hours.

Student Sponsorships– Highly common in Europe, this is when a 3rd party provides a student with funds to help cover the costs of their education.

Community Service– Some community service plans offer tuition assistance based on completed service. These include AmeriCorp, Learn and Serve America, the Peace Corps, Teach for America and the National Health Service Corp

Student Internships– gain professional experience in a foreign affairs environment

Keep in mind that the above are often loan forgiveness programs, which means that if you fail to follow through with the service you agree to, the funds convert to a loan that will need to be paid back in full.

Notable Reminders

It does not cost anything to apply for a scholarship or grant. If you find a site that requires you to pay membership fees for such information, it’s a scam.

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