Making College Make Cents: Using Scholarships to AVOID Student Loan Debt

1.3 Trillion.

That’s dollars by the way.

$1.3 TRILLION.

That’s the amount of student loan debt held by individuals in this country. It’s also the amount that has financial experts up in arms about the state of our financial future.  You see, not only does this student loan debt break down into an average of over $25,000 per graduate in most cases, often times mounting financial costs impact a student’s ability to graduate, meaning they have the debt and no viable income to pay these costs.

But this money has implications for all of us.  Here’s how it works. Student loan repayment reducing money circulating within the economy.  If I have less discretionary income, I’m less likely to spend on luxuries like vacations or newer vehicles.  If I have a large amount of debt, I’m also possibly unable to qualify for a home mortgage which impacts the housing industry as more people choose not to buy and instead rent or home share.  

On a personal level, this debt has a negative emotional drain, and families like mine, with multiple children hoping to live the American dream with college included, are looking for creative ways to pay for college without the debt to begin with. One often overlooked tool is private scholarships.  

With varying qualification processes, some more simple than others, private scholarships are generally available to students regardless of their school of choice and translate into cold hard cash when stacked with state and federal grant programs.  Here are a few tips for finding scholarships that can help you graduate without the debt and a few links to current applications that might be of interest to you.

Start early. This early can mean early in your high school career or early in the school year.  Paying attention to dates for submission, allow you to stay eligible for scholarships like the Kulpa Family Scholarship, so you don’t miss the deadline to apply.

Get creative.  Many students are put off by the application essay, which typically ranging from a few hundred to 1000 words required, but don’t let that stop you! Most essays include a simple prompt or question like, “Who is your role model, and why?” or what are the main benefits of studying abroad. Lots of scholarships like to see how you would creatively solve a problem or fix the world if you could and might give you a broad question like how you define beauty, where the sky's the limit to how you express yourself.

Do your research. While most applications don’t expect a thesis, showing that you’re a standout candidate isn’t as hard as you may think.  Doing anecdotal research can lead you to interesting answers to some scholarship questions. While you may not own your own home, a quick call to the local real estate office might get you an $1000, if it leads you to discover upcoming trends in the real estate industry. And since you’re already thinking about money, find out how some older siblings or friends are getting their money on track by seeing how they have gotten financially stable. Not only could you earn yourself a scholarship, but you might just learn something too.

Connect with your interests. There are literally scholarships for everything you can imagine, and many include a focus on subjects that you might major in or have a personal passion for like how technology affects our lives or how you plan to use travel to change your life.

All in all, while the shots may be long in some cases, private scholarships tend to give you a better chance than most at getting a few dollars added to your bursar account. Whether you make enough to get a full ride or just cover a few books, every penny counts when it comes to tuition so spend a few minutes and give it a shot.

To help you get started with your scholarship search feel free to check out these scholarships below that have less than 500 submissions so far: