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It can be stressful to go through the college application process and figure out how to finance that education, whether you're a high school senior doing the applying or a parent who's supporting the process.
Even the thought of looking for scholarships or understanding how much you can earn from work-study can be daunting. And it doesn't help that all the news about the cost of college is depressing, from the debate brewing over student loan forgiveness to the fact that the total national student loan debt load reached $1.5 trillion at the end of 2020.
However, financing your college education can be made easier if you know where to seek scholarships and how to apply for aid from the federal government.
The College Board found that the average cost of tuition and fees at a public university was $10,560 per year in 2020. Most students, though, aren't actually paying the full amount to go to college: The College Board also found that public university students, on average, were spending $3,230 per year on tuition and fees thanks to grant aid.
College is expensive, but there are a host of for-profit and non-profit organizations that give out free money to help students cover the cost — you just need to know where to look. Below, Select highlights four websites that provide college application resources and help students find college scholarships.
While these websites are useful, many of the scholarships listed are competitive, so students should also seek out local scholarships, fill out their FAFSA, appeal their pre-existing financial aid package and look into federal student loans.
Going Merry was first created by Raymond Murthi and Charlie Maynard. Ray saw a gap in the market when helping his girlfriend apply for scholarships for her master's program. Charlie faced similar issues during his undergraduate and master's program. Together, they were inspired to create an online service that not only aggregates scholarships but also allows users to apply for them directly through the website.
Rather than fill out multiple scholarship forms, high school students can set up a profile by entering some basic information about themselves. Once they've established a profile, they can apply to multiple scholarships through Going Merry. Users can alter the info for each application and may be required to answer different questions depending on the application.
Going Merry will use the information in your profile to recommend scholarships. Users can also use the search function to filter scholarships by categories like number of recipients, the deadline and competitiveness.
Fastweb (Financial Aid Search Through the Web) is the OG scholarship search website. Founded in 1995 by Canadian businessman and entrepreneur Larry Organ, it has over 1.5 million scholarship opportunities listed. Its team of researchers decides which scholarship opportunities are posted and makes sure that none are scams. None of the scholarship applications have fees and none require you to enter personal information.
Students can set up a profile, and Fastweb will recommend scholarships based on the information provided. There's also a database of scholarships organized by student type, whether you're Black, bilingual, a veteran, etc.
Whenever you apply for a scholarship via FastWeb, you'll be redirected to the specific scholarship website where you can apply. Unlike Going Merry, you'll have to go through the hassle of entering the same information multiple times in order to apply for different scholarships.
Cappex is a website that matches students up with potential scholarships and also helps them discover and learn about different colleges.
Cappex, like Fastweb and Going Merry, will recommend colleges for students to apply to based on their profile. It also has a comprehensive database of colleges with information about the average net price of a college, acceptance rate, application deadlines and post-grad statistics to help you choose which college is a good fit.
The website makes a point to educate students about the college process. It has quizzes that help students understand what college majors they might be interested in and explainer articles about specific majors.
For example, the article about social work majors details what type of coursework you might take in college and info on entry-level salaries.
The scholarship search function allows students to search by different factors like ethnicity, first-generation status and the reward amount.
The Fair Opportunity Project was founded in 2016, by Harvard juniors Luke Heine and Cole Scanlon. They started the organization with the intention of helping high school students of all socioeconomic backgrounds gain access to college-application resources.
The Fair Opportunity Project works a little differently than the other sites, as it doesn't match students to scholarships.
Instead, it offers a comprehensive 70-page guide for high school students that includes information about letters of recommendation, how to compile a college list and examples of college essays that worked.
The Fair Opportunity Project also offers a free mentorship program. Mentors are volunteers who are either current college students or recent college graduates. This program runs from from the spring semester of the student's junior year to fall semester senior year (with a break for summer).
High school students are paired with a mentor, who is from their community, and have 10 to 12 sessions with them over the course of the application process. In these sessions, students can talk about the financial aid process, writing and editing essays and deciding on a college list. The project has helped over 500 students, and they have over 50 active mentors.
The Fair Opportunity Project also offers free college application office hours every Friday and Saturday so students who aren't enrolled in the mentorship program can sign-up to ask questions to a mentor.
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