By Rachel Meyer, Indiana Commission for Higher Education

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to attend college to learn all you can, expand your professional network and become a more employable person. Narrowing down your list of colleges and potential majors is most students’ first step, but the most important step is making sure you can afford the college you want to attend.

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You want to find free money to help you earn your degree or certificate, so it’s time to apply for SCHOLARSHIPS and 
GRANTS. Having a job can also helps save money for college and build your character: babysit (or dog-sit), work at a local business, mow yards or shovel snow for neighbors, sell your artwork or produce from your own mini-garden. That hustle looks great to future employers, too.

All of this will help you limit the amount of LOANS you take on. Remember…you are required to pay back any money loaned + the interest amount on it. One strategy is to never borrow more than what your starting salary will be in your first job. If you expect to make $35,000 for your starting salary, don’t borrow more than that to earn your degree.

So where do you find scholarships and grants to help you pay for your education? Here is a list to jumpstart your search:

  • CollegeChoice529 plan, an educational savings plan with tax benefits
  • Church (if you attend)
  • Employers of parents/legal guardians/grandparents (and your employer, if applicable)
  • Scholarship search site
  • a non-profit offering free financial aid counseling, FAFSA filing events, etc.
  • *shameless plug for our own resources and scholarship programs
  • Local businesses in your town
  • Local/County Community Foundation: Check out this list to get you started
  • Local Public Library: ask a friendly librarian to help search for scholarships/grants
  • Prospective college’s Financial Aid Office
  • Scholarship search site
  • Scholarship search site
  • School counselors: set up a meeting to ask about available scholarship & grant applications
  • Federal Student Aid (This also links to the FAFSA and/or FSA ID creation)
  • Volunteer organizations (if you volunteer): see if the organization offers scholarships for college
  • If you have a hobby, a special character trait, have a disability, etc…look into organizations or groups that are associated with that; they might have a grant or scholarship
  • If the career you are considering has a professional organization, or is in a high-demand field, they might offer scholarships/grants to students going into that career

You can do it! The more money you earn and save, the more options you have for colleges and training programs. And honestly, what would be a better gift to your future self than to graduate almost debt-free?!?!

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