The idea of student loan debt can be pretty terrifying — especially considering the average 2016 college graduate left school owing more than $37,000 for their education.
For the 2016-17 academic year, here’s how much it costs to attend college:
- Public Two-Year College (in-district students): $3,440
- Public Four-Year College (in-state students): $9,410
- Public Four-Year College (out-of-state students): $23,890
- Private Four-Year College: $32,410
And the harsh reality is, the price of higher education is continuing to increase year after year.
Federal student loans can be a great way for students to get help paying for school, but they don’t always cover the entire cost, and depending on the college, students are graduating with tens of thousands of dollars in debt — with no chance of paying it off anytime soon.
The idea of turning to private loans is even worse — in fact, there is pretty much no situation in which you should ever take out private student loans. They come with extremely high interest rates, fees for late payments and other concerning features that make them less favorable to federal loans. And while the government may work with you on your repayment plan, private lenders have no sympathy — they are coming after you for that money one way or another.
But here’s the good news: While the cost of college isn’t getting any cheaper, there are several ways to make it cheaper for yourself.
Whether you need a little help or a lot, there are tons of opportunities available to help you cover the cost of your education. It may take a little extra research and hard work, but in long run, it is absolutely worth it to avoid graduating college with the burden of nearly $40,000 of debt.
12 of the best websites to find a college scholarship
Fastweb hosts more than 1.5 million scholarships that provide more than $3.4 billion. Once you create a profile, the site’s search feature will help you find the most accurate matches that fit your needs. Your personal profile is how the site helps you find pretty much exactly what you’re looking for.
You can then also see all the scholarships you applied for, or may want to apply to in the future. They also have ‘contests’ that you can enter monthly or weekly to win money.
While the College Board is known for its college planning tools, it also has an arm that focuses on scholarships. Big Future hosts scholarships, as well as other financial aid and internship information from more than 2,200 programs — totaling nearly $6 billion. In order to get the most accurate search results, it’s critical to fill out as many details as you can in the profile that’s used for searching.
Read more: 5 ways to save money on your college degree
Formerly known as College Prowler, Niche is a great tool that can help you find colleges AND money. It’s organized into categories that make it pretty easy to find what you’re looking for — allowing users to search by interest, career, major and other areas.
Niche also has some contests to enter.
Scholarships.com hosts one of the largest scholarship databases out there and it’s updated on a daily basis. According to the site, “With more than 2.7 million scholarship and grant opportunities worth more than $19 billion, just about everyone is bound to find something.”
It’s easy to browse by category, but the best way to take advantage of what the site has to offer is to make a personal profile, which will allow you to find the most exhaustive lists of opportunities available to you.
Moolahspot isn’t as robust as some of the other scholarship databases, but in the search for a college scholarship, it’s another option to help you find extra money.
When you go to the site’s homepage, go to the top right corner to search college scholarships. From there you can either search by specific keywords or create a personal profile in order to get the most accurate matches that fit your needs. Once you make a profile, you create and save lists of opportunities you’re interested in.
Scholarship Monkey allows you to search for scholarships a few different ways. You can search by keyword, browse scholarship lists (various categories/topics) and also see lists of the latest and featured scholarships. The site also allows you to create a personal profile for more accurate results.
Cappex hosts a database of more than $11 billion in scholarship opportunities. Once you create a personal profile, you can search for opportunities that directly match your strengths and skills. Plus, Cappex has a tool that will calculate your odds of getting into a certain college before you even apply.
Chegg is widely known for its online textbook store that allows students to either rent or buy textbooks for cheap. But Chegg is also a great resource for finding scholarships — more than $1 billion worth of them.
To search for available scholarships, go to ‘colleges’ at the top of the homepage and then click ‘scholarships’ in the drop-down menu. Once you create a personal profile, you can search for available opportunities that match your criteria. Chegg also has a ‘top scholarship picks this week’ category that highlights some options you may have missed.
Read more: How to find the lowest costs on textbooks
Unigo hosts millions of available scholarships and makes it easy to search by type, including: athletic scholarships, college-specific scholarships, company-based scholarships, minority scholarships, major-specific scholarships, state-specific scholarships and more. You can search by category or create a personal profile to get more specific results that match your needs. Unigo also offers scholarship contests and sweepstakes.
Peterson’s hosts $10 billion in scholarship opportunities and also provides information to help you in your search. Once you fill out a short survey, you can filter your search results so they’re tailored to your specific needs.
The site also allows users to search by a variety of different topics, college types and personal details — in order to give you the best results for you.
12. The U.S. Labor Department’s Free Search Tool
According to the official Student Aid website, this free tool is a great resource for students to search more than 7,500 scholarships, grants and other various types of financial aid award opportunities.
The CareerOneStop tool allows you to:
- Look through the site’s entire inventory of scholarships, arranged in order of closest deadline.
- Narrow your list with a “search by keyword” option: Just enter a keyword about the type of award you’re looking for.
- Use the filters to see opportunities for only certain types of awards, locations, level of study, and more.
More tips for finding scholarships
The Department of Education recommends using the following free resources to find more information about scholarships and other financial aid opportunities:
- the financial aid office at a college or career school
- a high school or TRIO counselor
- the U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool
- federal agencies
- your state grant agency
- your library’s reference section
- foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups
- organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest
- ethnicity-based organizations
- your employer or your parents’ employers