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Finding Free Money As A College Student

Mar 24, 2008
During high school your parents encouraged you to stop by the guidance department to find scholarship opportunities to pay for college. They also asked you to participate in extra curricular activities and volunteer opportunities. They highly encouraged you to keep your grades up and get to know your teachers. Then they, mom especially, tried to help you keep lists and mementos of the things you did.

Participating in the above list gave you the qualities needed to earn scholarships while in high school, free money to use to attend college.
Now that you are attending college, you may think that all the free money opportunities have disappeared and you must pay everything else out of pocket or with student loans.

The opportunities have not disappeared; just the name and location have changed. Free money for college students can be found on the national scholarship search engines. They are also found in department offices, career guidance offices, Honors program bulletin boards, and emails sent by the colleges and universities.

The free money is not just called scholarships either. It can be called teaching assistant, research assistant, mentorships, fellowships, and summer intern work. Each of these opportunities offers you the chance to earn money for school.

For example: IGSP/NSF Summer Fellowships Explorations in the Genomes Sciences A National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates Program Site, a 10 week Summer Fellowship program, includes the following: The Summer Fellowships in Genome Sciences and Policy are open to current Freshman and Sophomore students from 4-year colleges and universities having successfully completed (or currently enrolled in) at least one biological sciences course. Student participants will be housed in Duke University residence facilities, most likely in Central Campus, for the duration of the program. In addition to housing, students will receive a stipend of $4,250.

Most money at this level is designed to specifically benefit certain majors. Because of this restriction, the scholarship opportunities are listed in the department offices or emailed to students registered for a specific major.

I hope your student is not registered as undeclared because scholarships are not offered for that major. Even if the student changes his or her major later, pick one that is interesting now.

Your job is to ask questions and discover where these offers are hiding. like treasure hunting.

You cannot find all the treasure by yourself. You need to enlist the help of other treasure hunters. Create relationships with teachers, even if you are a freshman. Even in a class of hundreds, you can schedule an appointment with the professor and introduce yourself. Schedule a second appointment (or more) for class work help.

A certain freshman needed recommendations for an application. She had followed the program and met with her Biology professor (300 students in the class) and her Chemistry professor (300 students in the class). She wondered who to ask to write the recommendations. She was shocked to find that both teachers remembered her. She was told that so few students in the large classes make the time to meet the professors that any student, especially freshman, who makes the effort is remembered.

Make friends with the department chair if you can, but mostly make friends with their assistant. She sees all the stuff that is posted and sent to the professors in the department. Rather than you rummaging through all the papers, she can just tell you the new stuff and the good stuff.
Join the Honors program if you can. Most scholarship, internship, and teaching assistant opportunities come through the Honors program if not through the departments.

Find out who is in charge of guiding students through national scholarship applications. This person has EXPERIENCE and TRAINING to help you craft an awesome application. Use this resource.

Discover your nearest post office, the overnight fees, and the nicest postal clerk. One student finished an application the day before it was due. She had to overnight the package. She arrived at the post office minutes before the last overnight shipment was to leave. The nice postal clerk helped her fill out the overnight forms and asked the driver to wait three minutes as she ran the package out to the loading dock.

Learn to make cookies and brownies and write thank you notes. Sending thank you notes and delivering treats to all those that help you in this process lets the helpers know you appreciated their involvement. It also leads to continued help.

Check back each semester. New scholarships are continually added. A freshman at a small private college found three new scholarships posted in the financial aid office. Her friends told her not to waste her time: all students were eligible, so why would an underclassman earn the money? Apparently most students felt this way as the student won 2 of the 3 awards. Last year this student had scholarship income totalling over $20,000 for the year.

Colleges and universities may offer their own research opportunities. One university offers grant money starting in the sophomore year for independent research projects. The student designs a research project and submits the proposal. A committee chooses the projects and assigns up to $1100 per semester to fund the project. These projects do not have to be large or involved, just set up in the proper format with reporting features built in. (Think of your science fair or statistics projects - could any of these work?)

Interested students receive a list of possible projects on which to write proposals. Any money not spent on the project is kept by the student.

If you truly want to find free money, with a little investigation on your part, you CAN find additional free money during college. The same rules apply: grades and GPA, awards and honors, extra-curricular and community involvement, essays and deadlines.
About the Author
Mark Maiewski is a certified college planning specialist who shows parents how to beat the rising cost for college without depending on financial aid. Find out how you can get on track by visiting http://www.collegefundingadvisors.net
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