Earn Money for College
Average college tuition and fees range from $9,650 to $33,480 per year, according to the College Board. Tack on room and board, and that pushes the average annual bill up to $12,000 more.
Although most scholarships and financial aid will come from the college you attend, you can get a head start on paying for college now. Beginning your search for scholarships and essay and video contests early—even during your sophomore year—is essential so you don’t miss out on excellent money-earning opportunities.
Apply for scholarships today
Scholarships are based on your academics and talents, as well as your extracurricular activities, leadership roles and community service work. They provide money you don’t need to pay back. And, according to Cyndi Sweet, former executive director for admissions and financial aid of Maryville University (MO), sophomores and juniors can begin an online scholarship search anytime.
“While they may not be able to apply right away, they will be able to research the types of scholarships that are available and the qualifications and criteria needed when the application is available,” she explains. “The Federal Student Aid site (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/) is a great place to gather information about grants, scholarships and loans, as it breaks down the process into easy-to-understand steps. Other reputable sites include Fastweb (fastweb.com), Chegg (chegg.com/scholarships), and College Xpress (collegexpress.com).”
Kate Brittain, director of recruitment & enrollment for Rutgers University (NJ), agrees that Fastweb is a good source, along with Unigo (unigo.com) and others. “They both list literally millions of scholarships available from freshman year of high school all the way through graduate school. The U.S. Department of Labor also offers a website to search for scholarships based on the education level you are pursuing (careeronestop.org).”
Local and community foundations, professional associations, ethnic organizations, churches, nonprofits and corporations all offer scholarships. There’s a scholarship out there for everyone: for students under 5 feet tall, for students with red hair, for students who volunteer, and even for students who write a 250-word essay on what ice cream flavor they’d like to be.
To find local scholarships, Google the terms scholarship foundation and your city or state. For example, a search for scholarship foundation Milwaukee gets results for scholarships offered by organizations from the Milwaukee Brewers Community Foundation to a Milwaukee home improvement remodeling association.
In addition, ask everyone you know—including teachers and high school guidance counselors, your boss at your part-time job, or leaders of school and community organizations you participate in—about whether they know of any scholarships or other awards you could apply for.
You’ll also want to learn the names of the national or regional professional associations related to your preferred fields of study. Ask a professor or admissions counselor, or do a web search for the academic major and association scholarships, such as, for example, dietetic association scholarships. (Put the terms in quotation marks to have Google match the phrase precisely.)
Many corporations offer scholarships—some to any student and some to their employees’ children. Have your parents ask their employers about scholarships and search the internet for large companies in your city or state to see if they offer any. New scholarships become available all the time, so search regularly, and take advantage of social media by following scholarship-related Twitter feeds such as @Scholarshipscom, @USNewsEducation, @PayingForSchool and @ScholAmerica.
As you start your search, a word of caution:
“Legitimate scholarship providers want to help students attend college, not earn a profit from the student,” explains Brittain of Rutgers. “Students should also be wary of unsolicited scholarship offers. Legitimate scholarship providers are not looking to reward a student who hasn’t applied or put forth any effort in receiving the award. Like anything, students should read the fine print and make sure they understand the terms. For instance, are there any specified renewal criteria they should be aware of?”
When in doubt, just remember that you should never pay to apply for scholarships.
Write or create videos for college money
“Scholarships for high school sophomores and juniors are typically smaller in dollar amount, but individual awards can add up over time,” says Sweet of Maryville. “Many of these scholarships are based around competitions of some type which may include essays, projects or interviews.”
“The nice aspect of [essay contests, etc.] is that they broaden the criteria used for awarding scholarships,” says Brittain of Rutgers. “Academic performance is no longer the main factor and instead talents, interests, expression through an essay, community service, residency, membership to a certain association, etc. … would be considered, which allows a younger audience to join the pool of candidates.”
Other than the format, video contests are like essay contests in terms of content and creative expression. Large corporations and other organizations offer these types of contests. Organizations determine the topic or subject for the contest. Then you get to be creative and have fun while trying to earn prize money. For a list of several video contests and their deadlines, visit onlinevideocontests.com.
To find video and essay contests, ask your teachers about upcoming opportunities, and search for contests on the same websites you search for scholarships. Additionally, Google high school essay contests to find national and local contests. National competitions often require local or state competitions prior to advancing to the national level, so look for these opportunities early in your sophomore and junior years to meet the deadlines.
Examples of annual essay & video contests
The National Academy of Engineering’s EngineerGirl website offers an essay contest on an engineering topic for girls and boys. Awards range from $100 to $500.
Apply to earn a scholarship of up to $10,000 and have your artwork exhibited or writing published.
Special summer awards provide scholarships for prestigious pre-college programs.
This contest, sponsored by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, offers a top prize of $500 to students who create a video examining any aspect of transportation in the United States.
C-SPAN offers a national student documentary contest about issues that affect our communities and nation. The contest is open to students in grades six through 12. Awards range from $250 to $5,000.
Examples of Scholarships for Sophomores or Juniors
The Veterans of Foreign Wars annually awards three scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts ages 15 or older who have received their scouting organization’s top rank.
This program annually recognizes high school students for volunteer community service. State winners receive an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., and $1,000. National winners receive an additional $5,000.
Compete with other high school students in online quizzes about general common knowledge items, specific academic subjects, books, websites or movies to win scholarships from $250 to $2,500.