Skip navigation
1 2 3 Previous Next

Plan School Costs

180 posts

Well, scholarship challenge participants, you did it—you made it to the final challenge. And while my posts may stop here, your journey won’t. In fact, it’s just the beginning. Why? Because challenge number 12 is to start over and complete each challenge again.

 

giphy.gif

 

But before you do that, take a step back, celebrate your accomplishment, and recognize a job well done. If you did every challenge honestly, diligently, and wholeheartedly, then over the past year, you should have learned a lot about the scholarship process—and yourself. Use both to your advantage.

 

Keep Going

 

Hopefully, one of your takeaways from these challenges is that winning scholarships requires constant work. As we’ve talked about, success is a numbers game: The more awards you apply for, the more you’re likely to win a few. However, self-improvement isn’t a one-time thing either.

 

In addition to diligently applying for scholarships each month, you need to continue to improve your GPA, earn community service hours, and improve your application essay. If you do these things, the sky is the limit of what you can achieve—and not just when it comes to winning free money for school.

 

Thank You

 

At the beginning of the year, I didn’t expect to write these challenges. This was dianemelville's idea, and I hope I did it justice. (She did plot out all the challenges for me in advance, so I couldn’t be too far off, right??)

 

I want to thank all of you who read these posts and completed any or all of the challenges. Engagement seemed to taper off at points, but the value of becoming scholarship fit remains undeniable. I will continue to promote the activities within these challenges, and find a new home for them as this community moves toward its conclusion.

 

As we reach the end of this experiment, I’d love to hear from any of you who did (or didn’t) take part in these challenges. What worked for you? What didn’t? How could I improve this for its next iteration? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post your thoughts below.    

The Higher Education Act (HEA) governs federal student aid programs (among other facets of higher education). Congress revises it periodically to address the ever-changing higher education landscape, and the latest update is now 4 years overdue.

 

We finally saw some movement on this in late November 2017, as Republicans introduced the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education (PROSPER) Act. This legislation would not just reauthorize the HEA—it would really shake things up.

 

This bill has a lot of moving parts (and my editor tries to keep me from writing a tome for each post). Therefore, I’m going to focus today on the biggest change in the PROSPER Act and what it means to student loan borrowers—now and in the future.

 

Introducing The ONE Loan

 

The PROSPER Act will eliminate Direct loans and replace them with ONE loans. While both are federal loans from the government, they have some key differences.

 

First, the ONE loan lets you borrow more money each year and overall than the Direct Loan program—except if you’re a parent. Parents would be limited to $12,500 per student per year (down from borrowing up to a school’s cost of attendance minus all other aid), with an aggregate limit of $56,250 per student.

 

Unfortunately, all of these loans will be unsubsidized—meaning you’ll pay all the interest on it. Under the Direct Loan program, the government pays the interest that accrues on subsidized loans while students are enrolled at least half time. Without that assistance, students will repay even more on their loans.

 

What About PSLF?

 

The proposed transition to the ONE loan would take effect on July 1, 2019, for all new borrowers. If you’re a current Direct loan borrower, you could continue to borrow Direct Loans until September 30, 2024.

 

That’s important because while the PROSPER Act does not specifically call out Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), it would eliminate this program in the future—but not necessarily for current borrowers, who have been worried about this scenario.

 

PSLF is only available for the Direct Loan program. Since no new borrowers could get Direct loans as of July 1, 2019, this option won’t be available to students who start their educations after that point and wish to enter potentially low-paying public interest careers.

 

What Happens Next?

 

The PROSPER Act will make a lot of headlines, not only for the elimination of the Direct Loan program but also for the changes it introduces to Pell grants, Federal Work-Study, the FAFSA, and many other aspects of federal student aid.

 

But it’s important to remember that this bill is just an initial proposal. If it passes, some parts will change from what we can read today. If you’re unhappy with parts of the PROSPER Act, I urge you to contact your representative and express your feelings.

 

I plan to write more about this bill in the future, and I hope to answer your questions about it. What do you want to know about the ONE loan or how the PROSPER Act overall could affect you? Sign up or log in to post in the comments.

When I entered graduate school, I focused on two things: my studies and locating the next free meal on campus. However, in my second year of school, I realized that to get the most out of the experience, I actually had to stop dedicating so much time to my studies.

 

Here are the three things I focused on instead. You don’t have to wait for graduate school to do these. But if you haven’t tried them yet, graduate school may be your last chance while you have the free time, limited responsibilities, and numerous resources that come with being a student.

 

1. Build Your Portfolio

 

A professional portfolio provides an outlet for your talents and lets people know what you have to offer. As a graduate student, I realized that the best way I could showcase my successes and work was by building a website.

 

I built my first site using WordPress. I started by uploading videos, articles, and blog posts that I created for different publications, as well as a bio to describe myself.

 

You don’t need to be a professional developer to create your own website. In addition to WordPress, services such as Google and Weebly can let you set up a free site and offer tools to get you started.

 

2. Joining Startups

 

In my second year of graduate school, one of my professors invited by to be part of a biotech startup company as a director of marketing.

 

I was hesitant at first because the company had already started and I was a novice in the biotech world. I decided to join anyway, and I got one of the best experiences of my life.

 

Our startup won first place in a prestigious business plan competition, and my experience was second to none compared to a regular day job. Although my stay at the company was brief, I learned there is nothing like the adrenaline of being part of a startup and preparing for a business plan competition.

 

If the opportunity arises to join a startup, do so because you never know what could happen.

 

3. Networking

 

Talking to complete strangers can be nerve-wracking. As an introvert, I am not the biggest fan of networking, but I do it to get recognized and make connections.

 

If you’re still nervous to go to networking events, start small by going to a campus activity and building from there to an outside professional networking event in your community.

 

As a graduate student, I made the mistake of not networking and getting my name out there so people would recognize me. Recognition is important in landing a post-grad job, and it’s hard to get that without showing your face at networking events.

 

At networking events, I make sure to keep conversations short, be consistent with my background, and have business cards ready to hand out. Do not feel intimidated by other people’s titles—in the end, we are all human beings who have to start from somewhere.

 

How did you make the best out of graduate school? Is there something you did—or wish you’d done in retrospect? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share your thoughts below.

Have you ever had that one textbook you couldn’t find cheaper than $200? Then, when you try to sell it back to your college’s bookstore, they’re barely willing to give you $50 for it?

 

It’s a rip off, but what’s the alternative—let the book gather dust on your desk out of principle? We’ve all been there, but I don't plan on ever going back. That’s because I’ve found some surefire ways to get the most bang for my books (lol).

 

With the semester ending soon, now is the perfect time to take advantage of these options. Right before and after winter break is when people look for books most. Use the following resources to get a good deal on yours.

 

Facebook

 

This is probably the best place to resell books, in my opinion. My school has a Facebook page for each class year. Whenever the semester is up and I have books I no longer need, I just log on to the UMass Amherst class of 2019 page and post about them.

 

You set your own price, and people can like, comment, and message you about the book. One tip: Put the class the book is used for in your post, so people can easily figure out if they need it. The timing and clarity of your post are very important to bring in buyers.

 

If you live on campus, selling your books is even easier because you don’t have to ship them out—just meet the student in a location of your choosing. I usually do that and have the buyer transfer me their payment via Square Cash or Venmo on the spot.

 

BookScouter

 

An upperclassmen friend told me about this website for selling textbooks and reading books. You enter the ISBN number of the book you’d like to sell, and then it shows you how much different online vendors are willing to pay for it.

 

I haven't gotten lowballed when I’ve used this site—even though you’re not the one setting the price. Shipping is also free with this service, and the second your selected vendor OKs your book, you get your payment.

 

Chegg

 

You can sell books on Chegg as well as buy them. I haven’t had as much success with them, but if the first two options above don’t get you what you want, then Chegg is worth a shot.

 

In my experience, they don’t offer as much as you can get by selling a book yourself on Facebook or BookScouter—but it’ll still likely more than what your school’s bookstore will offer for it. It’s also a well-known, secure site, with free shipping so that’s an added bonus.

 

If you’re going to use this site, make sure the book is in good condition. Unlike some other vendors, Chegg has rules for different books, like no writing in them (which might actually be a positive if you can sell to someone at your school!).

 

Hopefully, these help! Do you have other services or strategies to sell your textbooks? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to share them below!

 

Salt has no relationship, financial or otherwise, with the products or services mentioned above. We encourage you to read their privacy policy and terms of use to decide if you want to use them.

 

Happy New Year, Salt® Community! (Well, sort of.)

 

The calendar may not have flipped to 2018 yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a head start on next year’s resolutions—especially if you plan to decrease your college costs by winning a few scholarships. As always, Salt has you covered with a list of awards with deadlines in January 2018. Carve out some time during your winter break, and apply for one of these scholarships today.

 

Express Medical Supply Scholarship Program

Deadline: January 3, 2018

Amount: $500

 

If you’re headed home for the holidays, Express Medical Supply has the perfect scholarship ask for you: Show them your hometown’s “heart.” Simply take a picture of your hometown's "heart," explain its meaning in no more than 108 words, and share your selection on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #ExmedScholarship.

 

You can submit different entries on all three platforms. See the link above for the specific entry details. Note that the provider specifically calls out (in bold text!) that spelling, punctuation, grammar, spacing, and proper sentence structure matter—even though you’re sharing your submission via social media. Heed that warning accordingly!

 

APIASF General Scholarship Program

Deadline: January 11, 2018

Amount: $2,500 to $20,000

 

The APIASF General Scholarship Program offers awards to Asian American and Pacific Islander high school students and college undergraduates who are the first in their families to get a higher education. Scholarship amounts vary, from one-time awards of $2,500 to multi-year $20,000 awards.

 

Interested students must submit an application that answers three essay questions (500 or fewer words apiece), as well as includes one letter of recommendation. Additional eligibility requirements include:

 

  • Must be a U.S. citizen.
  • Must live at or below the poverty level, or are otherwise of low socioeconomic status.
  • Must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.7 on a 4.0 scale (unweighted) or have earned a GED.

 

Girls Impact The World Scholarship Program

Deadline: January 20, 2018

Amount: Varies (Up To $5,000)

 

The Girls Impact the World Film Festival and scholarship program asks high school and college students under the age of 25 to submit a 3- to 6-minute film that does either of the following:

 

  • Raises awareness about critical issues affecting women and girls around the world
  • Proposes solutions to critical challenges faced by women

 

While submissions must focus on women’s issues, applicants of any gender may apply. Winners will receive a monetary prize, distribution of their film, and an official screening in Austin, Texas—red carpet included!

 

Technology Addiction Awareness Scholarship

Deadline: January 30, 2018

Amount: $1,000

 

The Technology Addiction Awareness Scholarship aims to increase understanding of the negative effects of too much screen time. To apply, students must complete an application form and answer the following prompt in 140 or fewer characters: “Instead of spending time with technology, I'd rather...” (Probably best to avoid mentioning the irony of applying for this scholarship while staring at your computer screen.)

 

The scholarship judges will select 10 finalists, who will then need to submit a longer (500 to 1,000 words) essay on technology addiction. Additional eligibility requirements include:

 

  • Must be a high school, college, or graduate student.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident.

 

College Raptor Scholarship

Deadline: January 31, 2018

Amount: $2,500

 

College Raptor helps prospective college students make decisions about their college future—but you don’t technically have to be in a prospective college student to apply. The eligibility requirements include:

 

  • Must be a legal U.S. resident.
  • Must be age 16 or older.
  • Must be enrolled (or plan to enroll no later than the fall of 2019) in an accredited college, university or trade school.

 

To apply for this award, you must create a College Raptor account, as well as submit an essay that describes in 500 or fewer words how College Raptor helped your college search.

 

Looking for even more awards? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to use our scholarship search engine

If your Thanksgiving was like mine, you’re probably still recovering from a food coma—and an awkward family conversation or two. For the high school seniors out there, those interactions might have been about your plans for next year or how you’ll pay for them.

 

Well, in belated honor of Thanksgiving, I’d like to let you know about some higher education institutions I’m thankful for: those schools that either meet their students’ financial need or, better yet, replace federal loans with institutional grants. (Yes, these schools exist!)

 

Unsure of what these terms mean or where to find these schools? I’ll shed some light on these diamonds in the rough, so you’ll have a new response when your family asks about your plans again at your next holiday gathering. (And you know they will ask again.)

 

Meet-Need Schools

 

First, let’s talk about meet-need schools. This type of awarding practice isn’t rare, but it’s mostly found at private, nonprofit colleges and universities with impeccable academic reputations and big endowments. (Think the ivy-covered halls schools.)

 

When awarding financial aid, these schools will typically review the information from your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and require you to complete the CSS Profile to determine your financial need.

 

This number factors in the FAFSA expected family contribution (EFC) and your CSS Profile information to come up with the value that they consider to be your financial need. The school will use your FAFSA EFC to award all federal and state aid you are eligible for, and with the new value, they will award their institutional aid to make up for the rest of your cost of attendance. This usually comes in the form of institutional grants.

 

I was fortunate enough to attend the College of the Holy Cross, which practices this awarding method. This meant I received a sizable grant each year after my federal loans, allowing my family to limit borrowing to the lower four figures each year. (Phew!)

 

The Holy Grail

 

I’ve said the Holy Grail of student loan repayment plans is the $0 payment under an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, but the Holy Grail of college financial aid is no-loan schools. Brown University made headlines most recently for adopting this practice.

 

No-loan packaging policies not only meet their students’ financial needs, but they also replace any federal or state loans with institutional grants. This isn’t a common practice, but it does exist. You can find schools with these policies at the most elite, selective, and well-endowed institutions.

 

How Do You Find These Schools?

 

Honestly, Google will be your best bet if you’re looking for these types of schools. For the most reliable information about each of them, you can review the College Scorecard or talk to the school’s financial aid office directly. They can explain to you how their packaging policies work and if they apply to all students, students whose families make below a certain amount per year, or if there is a merit component involved.

 

I wouldn’t recommend only applying to these types of schools in the event you don’t get accepted. (You always need a backup plan!) Instead, use the College Scorecard and the College Navigator to help you narrow down some good school matches for you.  Then you can prioritize any of those schools who have these packaging practices.

 

So, now that you know about these options, what questions do you have about financial aid packaging? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post them below.

This semester, I was promoted to assistant manager at my job, an opportunity that I (regrettingly) passed up last year because it made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t know if I could handle dealing with a staff, making schedules, and keeping people accountable. 

 

This year, however, I’ve pushed myself more—and told myself that I would not let a few doubts get in my way. I’m doing well in the new role, even though it’s different from any other position I’ve had. This has reinforced a realization I recently had: There is absolutely no problem with being uncomfortable. It just means you're growing. And that’s a big benefit of college.

 

So, my fellow college students, are you growing too? Here are some ways to tell:

 

Think About Your High School Self

 

In high school, I strived to do my best, but I always remained in my shell. The thought of failure or doing something outside my comfort zone petrified me. I yearned to take risks, but I hesitated whenever the opportunity presented itself—and often psyched myself out of it.

 

Now as a college junior, I have grown and learned so many things about myself during my almost 3 years in school. At this stage, I try to do everything whether or not it’s in my comfort zone or has a learning curve. If something interests me, I go for it.

 

What about you? Think about situations you’ve faced in college and whether you’ve handled them differently than you would have when you were in high school. Perhaps you’ve joined a club or gone out for an extracurricular activity you wouldn’t have back then. If not, there’s still time!

 

Check Your Confidence

 

An area in my life where I continue to grow is as a professional. Jobs are something that always make me nervous, because you’re usually applying to be in a new environment, with people you don’t know. There's just so many things that could go wrong. Right? While that may be true, you’ll never know until you put yourself out there.

 

Before this year, I constantly sold myself short when it came to applying for new jobs or inquiring about more leadership opportunities. I would think that there is someone better or I was underqualified. That's not the case, though.

 

As long as you give it your all, you should never be afraid to go for that new position. If something that would be good for you makes you feel nervous, just think about the potential it has to help you as a person—and as a working professional.

 

Identify Results

 

As a result of my increased confidence and new job, I have developed a whole new skillset, and I’m learning more and more every day how management jobs work. I know that I’m eventually going to master this and that it is going to look GREAT on my résumé. I’m very happy that I wasn’t afraid to be uncomfortable this time.

 

Think about the new skills you have gained in college that will potentially benefit you after you graduate. They don’t just have to be on-the-job experience. Maybe you’ve mastered some software for a class, or you’ve become a time management all-star juggling all your responsibilities. If you can’t point to anything, it may be time to push your comfort zone more next semester.

 

What do you guys think? How have you grown in your time at college? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to let me know below!

Greetings, scholarship challenge participants!

 

We’re close to the end of the year, and hopefully, you’ve made some positive strides as a scholarship applicant over the past 11 months. Maybe you’ve performed more community service, or perhaps you’ve improved your GPA this semester,

 

Ideally, this hard work has led to one or two scholarship wins. More likely, you’ve applied for a number of awards—and maybe lost them all. And you shouldn’t feel bad if that’s the case. Seriously!

 

giphy.gif

 

Applying for and winning scholarships is a process, and it can definitely be discouraging at times. Odds are you’re going to lose more awards than you win. When that happens, do you stop applying, thinking you’ll never succeed? Or do you persevere and figure out what you can do better? Unsurprisingly, we vote for the latter!

 

That leads us to this month’s challenge: Study any losing scholarship applications you have, and identify at least one thing you can improve. The goal here is not self-criticism—it’s self-improvement. Here are some ideas on where to look.

 

Review Your Essay

 

We’re big proponents of writing one great scholarship essay and using it to apply for as many awards as possible. The downside of this strategy is that your winning essay may not perfectly align with a scholarship’s prompt.

 

For instance, the scholarship provider may want to know about your career goals, whereas you wrote about why you selected your major. Those subjects seem close enough, right? As a result, you may just submit what you already have.

 

A better option is to tailor that essay to match the prompt. After all, you can write the most “compelling” essay in the world, but it won’t win you any awards if it’s not what a scholarship judge wants. So, revisit your old applications and confirm that what you wrote really answered the prompt.

 

If you didn’t, this may be an opportunity for improvement. You could start being more selective and only apply to scholarships that totally match your winning essay. Or you could commit to tweaking your essay for each application—even if it means applying for fewer awards.

 

Sweat The Details

 

While re-reading your essay, take the opportunity to proofread it again. You may find some previously missed typos or, even worse, the wrong scholarship name in your essay. (That’s another potential drawback of the “reuse your essay” strategy to be aware of.)

If you spot a small error or two, don’t beat yourself up about it. They probably didn’t cost you the award—though some providers do call out the importance of good grammar. Instead, figure out a better proofing process for your submissions. For instance, print out a copy for review. Reading it on paper might help you notice something you didn’t see on screen.

Similarly, check the rest of your application packet to ensure you submitted everything—not just your essay, but also transcripts, letters of recommendation, proof of enrollment, etc. Forgetting one of these pieces could have disqualified you. If you find that you’ve missed application pieces, create a checklist for each award to ensure you don’t in the future.   

Keep It Real

 

If you don’t win an award, it’s easy to think the judges got it wrong. But blaming them won’t solve anything. Instead, do an honest evaluation of your application and yourself. That may mean having someone else critique your essay with fresh eyes, or it could mean taking a hard look at your academic performance.

 

Ultimately, you may not find a “smoking gun” with every scholarship rejection. Sometimes, after re-reviewing the eligibility criteria or finding the winning entries online, you might simply realize you weren’t what the scholarship judges were looking for—or that there were better applicants.

 

It happens to everyone. After it does, take the time to understand what didn’t work, figure out what can you do better, and keep striving for your goal. We have almost a year’s worth of scholarship challenges to point you in the right direction.

 

Trying to figure out where you can improve as a scholarship applicant? Let us help! Sign up or log in with your Salt account, and share how these challenges are going for you in the comments.

There has been a lot of controversy in the news about proposed changes to federal student loan programs, student loan tax benefits, and college access in the last year. One good piece of news that I thought was important to highlight during November (when we celebrate Veterans Day) is the expansion of the GI Bill.

 

Quick History Lesson

 

The original GI Bill was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 and was actually titled the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944. The law intended to provide benefits to those returning from World War II who were commonly known as “GIs.”

 

The GI Bill has been updated many times over the last 73 years, but most recently, President Donald Trump signed an expansion to the law to allow for more educational benefits to our veterans. This is being called the “Forever GI Bill.”

 

No Termination Date

 

To use GI Bill benefits in the past, veterans had to complete their degrees within 15 years of their discharge. It was a “use it or lose it” situation. This remains the case for veterans discharged prior to January 1, 2013.

 

However, veterans discharged as of January 1, 2013, will not have to complete their degrees within a specific timeframe. Expanding eligibility beyond 15 years allows our veterans to further their college aspirations or careers at any point in their lifetime, instead of just the first 15 years.

 

Including All Post-9/11 Purple Heart Recipients 

 

Previously, reservists or National Guard members called to active duty post-9/11 would only be eligible for GI Bill benefits if they served at least 90 days on active duty. If you were injured during the first 90 days of deployment, you would be recognized as a hero and awarded a Purple Heart—but couldn’t take advantage of GI Bill education benefits.

 

The Forever GI Bill eliminates this exception for all post-9/11 Purple Heart recipients. Approximately 1,500 veterans gain eligibility through this inclusion.

 

Transferring Benefits

 

The GI Bill allows veterans or their dependents to use the provided college funding. The catch is once the benefits are transferred, they can’t be returned or go to another dependent. In cases where the dependent dies, the benefits are lost.

 

Now, in such a scenario, the Forever GI Bill provides for transferring college funding back to the veteran or to another dependent. Likewise, if the veteran dies and the benefits were transferred to a dependent already, that dependent can transfer the benefits to another dependent if desired.

 

Emphasis On STEM

 

To encourage more STEM-degree enrollment and career pursuits, the GI Bill provides an extra 9 months of benefits or $30,000 in funding to finish a longer STEM credential, effective as of August 1, 2019.

 

Veterans advocacy groups had voiced the problem of STEM programs typically requiring a longer enrollment time than other programs and costing a greater amount. This addition eliminates the time restriction and funding barriers veterans may have faced in pursuing careers in STEM fields.

 

Reinstatement After A School Closure

 

For veterans affected by the closures of ITT Tech, Corinthian, or other colleges over the year, any GI Bill benefits used for their programs are lost. This means the veteran may need to begin a new degree at a new school if they wish to achieve a credential, but they will have less GI Bill funding.

 

Like how federal student loan borrowers may have their loans discharged when a school closes while attending, GI Bill benefits will be reinstated if the school closed after January 2015. Without GI Bill funding, many student veterans can’t complete their degree programs. This provision may allow for veterans to continue to climb the socioeconomic ladder and pursue their educational and career goals.

 

What questions do you have about the benefits offered under the new Forever GI Bill? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post them in the comments below.

Recently, I saw my first Christmas display of the season in a store. Sure, Thanksgiving hasn’t even happened yet, but it’s never too early to look ahead to December. With that in mind, here’s my early gift to all of you: a new list of scholarships with upcoming deadlines in December 2017.

 

Odds are, you might finally (finally!) have some free time coming up with the holidays and winter break. Apply for a few of these scholarships—and then you can binge-watch all the stuff you missed this past semester guilt-free. (Unless it’s the latest Real Housewives or something like that, which you should at least feel a little guilty watching.)

 

Future Leaders Of IT Scholarship

Deadline: December 1, 2017

Amount: $2,000

 

The Future Leaders of IT (FLIT) scholarship is available to students pursuing a career in information engineering, information management, or a related academic area. So, if you’re focused on tech, this award is for you. To apply, students must submit:

 

  • Their most recent high school or college transcripts.
  • Three letters of recommendations from teachers and or counselors.
  • Proof of university or college acceptance (if you’re still in high school).
  • A 1,000-word essay on your career goals.

 

This award also serves as a reminder that December is a GREAT time for high school seniors to search and apply for scholarships. You’ll need to figure out your financing for college sooner rather than later. Why not get some free money to make those decisions a whole lot simpler?

 

The Reeves Law Group Scholarship

Deadline: December 15, 2017

Amount: $3,000

 

This scholarship is for students at accredited U.S. law schools and undergraduate students who have applied or will apply to law school. That last bit of language (“will apply”) potentially opens this award up to a broader audience. If you’re even considering a career in law, give this one a shot.

 

To apply for this scholarships, students must submit a 750- to 1,000-word essay about who they are and their interests. The provider states that they’ll also accept a Prezi or other creative-based presentations. You should be able to reuse your personal statement essay for this one, especially if it talks about your community service efforts. (The judging criteria specifically references, “Worthy deeds that you have already performed.”)

 

Foreclosure.com Scholarship Program

Deadline: December 15, 2017

Amount: $5,000

 

The Foreclosure.com Scholarship Program is available to legal U.S. residents who are currently enrolled in an undergraduate program at an accredited college, university, or trade school. To apply, students must submit an 800- to 2,000-word essay based on the following prompt: “Is the ‘American Dream’ of one day owning a home alive and well among Millennials?”

 

Bonus points if your essay references the Life Delayed study by Salt’s parent organization, American Student Assistance, which talks about how student loan borrowers are postponing home ownership. (Well, bonus points from me, not the scholarship judges. That’s worth something, right?)

 

The Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship

Deadline: December 15, 2017

Amount: $5,000

 

The Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship offers $5,000 to the best college cartoonist around—or at least the best one that applies for this award. According to their website, this award received just 90 submissions last year. I bet there are way more struggling artists out there who could use a little free money for school.

 

To apply, students must send eight samples of their cartooning work. Applicants must be attending a 4-year college in the United States, Canada, or Mexico and be in their junior or senior year for the 2018-2019 academic year. You do not have to be an art major to qualify.

 

Fitwirr College Scholarship

Deadline: December 30, 2017

Amount: $1,000

 

As a freshman in college, I had two grilled cheese sandwiches and fries for lunch pretty much every day. Dinner was typically a bagel—or Lucky Charms cereal. If you’re more health conscious than I was (which is an admittedly very low bar), give the Fitwirr College Scholarship a shot.

 

This award is open to all currently enrolled college students, regardless of major or minor. You simply need to be a U.S. resident and attending an accredited U.S. college or university. To apply, submit a 500- to 1,000-word essay on the following prompt: “How to eat healthy in college.” (Needless to say, I probably wouldn’t have done very well in this competition.)

 

A Better America Scholarship Program 2017

Deadline: December 31, 2017

Amount: $1,000

 

Offered by Global English Editing, the Better America Scholarship Program offers a $1,000 award to students who wish to change the world. To apply, students should submit an essay no longer than 200 words that outlines how they intend to change America. Eligibility criteria include:

 

  • Must be currently enrolled at an accredited university in the United States.
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or have a valid green card.

 

The scholarship does allow international students studying in the United States to apply as well. However, they must, “demonstrate their intention to stay in the country after graduation and see through their change-making agenda.”

 

Getting Real About Distracted Driving Scholarship

Deadline: December 31, 2017

Amount: $1,000

 

All right, let’s finish things with a “nope” scholarship that aligns with the latest scholarship challenge. The Getting Real About Distracted Driving Scholarship is looking for creative submissions instead of essays. If you’re ready to have a little fun applying for scholarships, try this one out.

 

The award’s provider, Comedy Defensive Driving (which, from what I can tell, is a serious driving school), wants students to: “Design an advertisement that will educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving, and convince them with a clear call to action not to text and drive, drink and drive, eat and drive, or any other distraction you choose to focus on.”

 

They’ll accept all types of ads, including PSAs, billboards, commercials, etc. It just needs to have a clear call-to-action. The only listed eligibility requirement is that you either plan to attend or are currently attending an accredited college, university, or continuing education program.

 

Remember these are just a sample of the awards available in December 2017. To find more that you qualify for, sign up or log in with your Salt account to use our scholarship search engine.

Since taking over this site’s scholarship duties earlier this year, I’ve read a lot of scholarship applications. Like, A LOT a lot. And yet, I’ve probably skipped twice as many as I’ve read—sometimes based just upon the award’s name.

 

I know: You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, nor should you dismiss a scholarship based on its name. Those can mislead you. One of my predecessor’s favorite examples of this was the 100 Black Men of America scholarship, which had no racial eligibility requirements.

 

However, many students avoid certain scholarships not because they have misleading names, but because they have names like “Poetry for Life Scholarship” or “Young Scholars Prize in Romani Studies.” If you find poetry or Romani Studies borng, you’ll probably say “nope” to these scholarships without giving them a second look.

 

giphy.gif

 

But here’s the thing: You won’t be the only student who does this. In fact, most students probably pass on awards like this—making the competition much less fierce for these dollars. And honestly, sometimes with scholarships it’s not about doing the best job, but simply about showing up.

 

So, this month’s challenge is to get out of your comfort zone and apply for one scholarship you typically wouldn’t touch with a 20-foot pole. Consider these types of competitions:

 

Video Competitions

 

Video submissions can seem like a hassle because we worry they need to be super creative to win. However, most scholarship providers care more about you than your production skills.

 

So, find a video competition with a broad prompt, like this one, and craft your submission to leverage your personal statement essay. Your passion and emotion will definitely come through in your story—and that’s what will really impress those scholarship judges.

 

Historical Essays

 

OK, so you’re not an expert on things like Romani studies or the Spanish Civil War off the top of your head—but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn about them. If you like a good research project, try out an historical essay scholarship if it doesn’t require you to be in a specific major.

 

Treat your submission as an independent class project. Except, with your scholarship, you’ll learn something and get the chance to earn some money—instead of a letter grade. That’s a pretty good trade-off!

 

Creative Writing Scholarships

 

Don’t feel like digging into history books? Go the non-non-fiction route and make something up instead! Tons of creative writing scholarships are available, and they cover not only different types of writing (poetry, plays, short stories) but also genres—from mysteries to science fiction.

 

All of these types of scholarship competitions are great for students who feel like they “don’t have a personal story” worth telling (though I bet you do!). Expand your opportunities by expanding what you believe is or isn’t possible. Try applying for one of these types of awards this month.

 

Have a question about this challenge? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post it in the comments.

The free community college movement is starting to gain momentum—and results. Over the past few months, Chicago and Tennessee have both released encouraging data about their respective free tuition programs.

 

And why wouldn’t these initiatives succeed? After all, free community college programs can be an enormous financial help. Get a 2-year degree for little to no expense to you? It’s a deal!

 

However, these programs’ success doesn’t necessarily ensure student success. In fact, you may not benefit from a free community college program at all—unless you do some forward planning.

 

Free Community College Background

 

In addition to Tennessee, states including Rhode Island, New York, Oregon, Arkansas, Minnesota, South Dakota, Connecticut, Delaware, and Louisiana offer programs to let some (or all) in-state community college students earn an associate’s degree for free. There are even cities and counties doing the same, like Chicago, San Francisco, and Ontario County in Florida.

 

Some of these programs are for all interested students. Others have strict guidelines, such as academic, age, or community service requirements. Each program is rather unique, but all have the same goal in mind: provide greater access to college by making it less expensive.

 

The average student takes 6 years to complete a 4-year degree. This can be due to academic issues, life getting in the way, or because the cost is too great. With these new free college programs, the amount of time in school should start to decrease as well as the amount students borrow, right? Not necessarily.

 

Not All Credits Are Created Equally

 

Many students fresh out of high school enter college without having an ultimate goal after graduation or an academic plan. They’re 18 to 20 years old. There’s plenty of time to decide what they want to do with their lives—and change their minds. Unfortunately, this can place them in a precarious position.

 

Utilizing a free community college program sounds great, but you need to know in advance if your credits will transfer to your new 4-year school. In most places, colleges  are not required to accept credits from any other institution. If yours doesn’t, you could find yourself retaking classes—and paying a higher cost to do so.

 

Make A Plan!

 

Before you attend community college, you must (not should) make a plan. What program will you study? What schools are you considering for your bachelor’s degree? What career path are you thinking about? You need solid answers to these questions.

 

Once you have your answers, you can figure out how best to approach college in an inexpensive manner. Go to a community college that has a relationship with the school you want to end up at, or at least check with that school’s registrar’s office or an academic adviser to find out what credits they would accept.

 

The more transferrable credits you have, the fewer classes you’ll need to take at the more expensive 4-year school. Hopefully, that lets you borrow less in student loans as well.

 

What question do you have about free community college and credit transfers? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post them in the comments.

Everyone knows about November’s two big holidays: Veterans Day and Thanksgiving. But not everyone knows about some of the month’s lesser celebrations—like Saxophone Day (November 6), Homemade Bread Day (November 17), and of course, National Pie in the Face Day (November 28, and good for all those Thanksgiving leftovers, I suppose).

 

giphy.gif

 

And yet, the observance I’m most excited about is National Scholarship Month (even if the GIFs for it aren't as good).

 

Since 1998, the National Scholarships Providers Association has highlighted November as a great time to “celebrate the power of scholarships.” So, join their party and apply for an award or two this month. (I mean, the proper thing to do when someone throws a party is to at least make an appearance, right?)

 

We’ve found some great opportunities with November deadlines below. But as always, these are just a side dish to the feast of scholarships available. Use the Salt scholarship search engine to browse more than 3.6 million awards and find the best ones for you.   

 

Fall 2017 National Scholarship for College Students with Disabilities

Deadline: November 12, 2017

Amount: $2,000

 

disABLEDperson, Inc offers a $2,000 scholarship to a disabled student per the ADA's definition: “A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such an individual. A record of such an impairment or being regarded as having such an impairment. Applicants must also meet the following criteria:

 

  • Must be enrolled in a 2- or 4-year accredited college or university in the United States
  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must be attending school full time, though part-time students are eligible if that attendance is due to disability

 

Applicants must submit a fewer than 1,000-word essay that covers, “If you can go back in time to the beginning of your senior year of high school or 17 years old what advice would you give yourself?”

 

ACES Education Fund Scholarships

Deadline: November 15, 2017

Amount: Varies

 

ACES (The Society for Editing) offers six scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $3,500 for students interested in careers editing written material. Awards are available to all U.S. citizens and international students, regardless of major, who are enrolled as juniors, seniors, or graduate students during the current term.

 

Depending on the award you apply for, you may need to submit an essay and/or edit copy for clarity and write story headlines based on provided blurbs. It probably goes without saying, but typos are likely a giant no-no for this selection committee.

 

To celebrate National Scholarship Month, I may just complete their editing challenges for fun ... (Now who deserves a pie in the face??)

 

Scholarship for Outdoor Lovers

Deadline: November 24, 2017

Amount: $2,000

 

Do you love hiking, swimming, or another outdoor activity? Nature Immerse wants to hear all about your best outdoor recreation memory, in the form of a 500- to 1,000-word essay. (You don’t have to tell them that you find out about the award while sitting inside and killing time on your phone; that’s our little secret.)

 

Your essay should cover:

  • Where you spent your time?
  • Whom you went with?
  • Why the experience was special to you?

 

Undergraduate and postgraduate students at universities and colleges are eligible to apply, as are high school students or others who are about to enter colleges.

 

Griswold Home Care Bi-Annual Scholarship

Deadline: November 30, 2017

Amount: $1,000

 

For many people, helping take care of a loved one is a common occurrence at home —whether it’s a grandparent, parent, sibling, or someone else. If you’ve experienced this, the Griswold Home Care Bi-Annual Scholarship may be a good fit for you.

 

This award is open to students pursuing bachelors, associates, graduate, or professional degrees at accredited colleges or universities. As part of the submission, you’ll need to provide short answers (one to five sentences) on the following topics:

 

  • What you believe are the greatest rewards of providing care and/ or support for someone.
  • What you believe are the greatest challenges of providing care and/or support for someone.
  • What advice you have for someone who will be taking care of a loved one?

 

Small Business Scholarship

Deadline: November 30, 2017

Amount: $2,500

 

Insureon offers a $2,500 scholarship for the best small business story. To apply, students should submit a 500- to 750-word essay that details their favorite small business and why it is important to them.

 

To be eligible, students must also meet the following criteria:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or resident
  • Be a current undergraduate student
  • Be enrolled full time in a 2- or 4-year college or university

 

If your family owns a small business, you worked for one, or you have some other connection, consider applying.

 

Have any questions about these awards, or looking for something else? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post in the comments!

 

It’s college application season for high school seniors—time to determine what you’ll do and where you’ll go in this new chapter of your life. You may base your decision on a school’s reputation, location, size, facilities, and more, but don’t forget to factor in how you’ll pay for this experience.

 

With the average student loan debt north of $30,000, affordability has to be part of the decision process before you fall in love and choose a school. More and more families realize this, but they focus on the wrong things. If you want to know how much you’ll actually pay, you need to ignore a school’s sticker price—and look at the following instead.

 

Understand Net Price

 

Many students and parents see the overall tuition and room and board costs for 4-year private schools and get a case of sticker shock. Whereas they may see the full price of an in-state university more appealing.

 

And while many private colleges are more expensive than in-state schools, they typically have larger endowments to utilize for financial aid awards. In fact, private, nonprofit colleges on average offer enough aid to decrease first-time, first-year students’ costs by 48.6%. Yet, 55% of families rule out at least one school due to the sticker price before the application process even begins.

 

Conversely, public universities may have a low price, but they don’t typically have the same funds available for financial aid awards. The average discount students at these colleges see is 18.4%. The more expensive private school could be the most affordable option.

 

I’m not implying that either type of school is a better choice than the other is. Rather, my point is that the “sticker” price (the price listed for a college) is rarely what you actually pay. That amount is the net price, and it can be drastically lower than the sticker price is.

 

Focus On Financial Aid

 

To determine which college is most “affordable,” some families concentrate on the total amount of financial aid offered. The largest one wins!

 

The problem with this approach is not all aid sources are created equal. Grants and scholarships are great because they’re free money. Student loans are not, but it’s very common to receive them from the federal government, your state, and your school.

 

When thinking about how much you’ll need to pay, factor in the loans you’ll borrow as part of your net price. (You’ll need to pay them back at some point, after all.)

 

Compare Schools

 

 

Now that you understand what the net price is, you need to figure it out for each school. Comparing apples to apples can be difficult, as financial aid awards and bills come in all shapes and sizes. Very few will look the same, but doing this is worth the work.

 

For every school, calculate the net price by taking the tuition bill amount and subtracting all of the grant money you have been offered. You will need to pay the remaining amount out of pocket or with a loan. Don’t forget to multiply this by the number of years you will attend (typically 2 or 4 years). Use our College Cost Planner to help model this.

 

Now, you’ll have an estimate of how much each school will cost. This doesn’t have to be the only determining factor, but it should be part of your college decision.

 

Need help figuring out which school is the most affordable? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post in the comments, and I’ll help you figure it out.

Greetings, scholarship challengers!

 

With the school year back in full swing, you’re probably bogged down with work, friends, and life in general. Pretty much anything but scholarships, right? Well, to account for that, we’ve devised a super easy challenge this month: identify three professors/academic counselors to meet with at least once per semester.

 

That’s it! In terms of scholarship prep, this one is easy—but important. If you think you can’t find the time for these meetings, remember this: Building relationships with professors will not only help you win scholarships, but it will also set you up for success with your classes. That’s win-win! Let’s talk about why.

 

giphy.gif

Landing Recommendations

 

One of the many reasons students shy away from some scholarships is that they require a letter of recommendation. If you remember the hustling it took to get these for college applications (I definitely do), you might not rush to ask for more for scholarship applications.

 

But that’s the beauty of building a relationship with a professor and/or counselor: It removes the awkwardness from this situation. By meeting with these individuals before you need a recommendation, you won’t feel weird asking when you do. You can even set this possibility up when you first connect with them.

 

Don’t feel bad making your intentions clear. You won’t be the first student to ask that professor for a recommendation—and he or she will surely be happy to provide you with one, so long as you earn it.

 

Become A Better Applicant

 

You can become “scholarship fit” in a few different ways. We’ve covered some of them in previous scholarship challenges, including improving your GPA. In that challenge, we identified a few different strategies to achieve this—like asking for help.

 

Well, what better person to ask for help than a professor/counselor whom you plan to meet with anyway? If you select someone teaching a course you’re currently enrolled in, use your time with him or her to ask for extra credit, help with assignments, etc.

 

You’ll make an awesome impression by doing this at the beginning of the semester (and, of course, delivering on what’s asked of you). Your professor will know you’re serious about your performance, and that will give him or her great fodder for that recommendation you’ll eventually ask for.

 

Choosing Professors/Counselors

 

So, how do you pick your three professors/counselors? Well, the counselor part is easy. Odds are, your school assigned you one or you chose one yourself. Don’t shy away from that relationship. I barely met with my adviser (who was the dean of my school), and it’s something I definitely regret.

 

In terms of professors, I bet that at least one popped into your head when you started reading this post. Perhaps he or she taught a class that you previously performed well in. Or if you’re a freshman, maybe there’s a well-known professor in your school/major who’d make a good ally/mentor.

 

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter whom you select—just that you select somebody. (OK, maybe not Professor Professorson.) Remember, professors literally dedicate hours just to meeting with students 1:1. Take advantage of it.

 

We’re 3/4 of the way done with these scholarship challenges. How’s everyone doing? Need any help or have any questions? Sign up or log in with your Salt account to post them in the comments!