To increase your chances of being awarded a college scholarship, begin searching for programs during your junior year in high school, or at least a year in advance of your intended college application if you’ve already graduated from high school. There are several free scholarship sites available online. With more than 1.5 million scholarships worth more than $3.5 billion, the FastWeb.com is the largest scholarship-search database. Students often ask if there are any scholarships available for them because they don’t have a perfect 4.0 GPA. In fact, there are many scholarships that focus on other qualities besides GPA and class-standing alone.
In general, parents end up paying at least 1/2 to 2/3 of their children’s college costs, through a combination of savings plans, current and future income contributions, and guaranteed student loans. Government aid, scholarships, and grants, account for only about 1/3 of the cost of a college education. In this light, it’s crucial that parents think about starting a savings plan 10 years before their kids reach high school age.
Another option may be the ROTC program, if you are interested in military service. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps pays for college tuition as well as a stipend, as long as you’re attending school. There is no fixed military commitment for the first year, allowing you to enroll in ROTC on a trial basis. If you then choose to commit to a military career, ROTC scholarships pay for almost all tuition and fees, and textbook costs, for up to four full years of college.