Go Back To School for Free
There is free money available for you to go to community college in your state, your region, or online. You just need to know where to research to get money for your higher education. Going to community college is a great way to add some college courses, new training, a certificate, or an associate degree to your resume, and supercharge your career. Imagine what changes in your life could happen if you had more training in that fast growing field that you have always dreamed of. Sure community college is affordable - but why not get free money through financial aid to help you go back to school. Any money you don’t have to pay back will cut the need for you to take out student loans, and make your investment in your future and your career pay you back faster! Maybe you just want free tuition, or free textbooks, or a few free classes or courses-- find the money you need to fund any aspect of your enrollment in community college!
You’ve decided that attending community college might be a good idea, and you have your application all filled out. And to help you go to school, there are many places to find free money for education. Some of this money will be “merit-based” -- based on your accomplishments, grades, achievements, and other will be “need-based” -- based on your lack of financial resources and personal situation. Here is your action plan to find the support you need to go back to school.
- HIGH SCHOOL GUIDANCE OFFICE
- If you are in high school, or you have just finished your diploma or GED, you may still get alumni help from the career counselors at your guidance office. They will know of community, school, and alumni scholarships that you can apply to get free money for community college. Even if you have been out of school for a few years it could still be worth the telephone call for more information.
- COMMUNITY, FRATERNAL, SPORTS, AND CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS
- Check with any community and civic organizations that you have connections to - direct or through family members - to see if they have any annual scholarships or grants available. After that check with any other community and civic organizations in your town because often they have scholarship help that they give out not only to relatives of members, but also to residents of the town or region. These include fraternal and veteran’s organizations and more.
- ASK YOUR CHURCH, SYNAGOGUE, OR OTHER RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
- Check with your place of worship, or that of your family members (parents, cousins, uncles/aunts, grandparents, etc) to see if they have any support funds available for you to go to community college. They may have specific accounts, separate from their operating funds, that they use to sponsor individuals for higher education. If you ask and they have no direct funds, they may suggest a way to raise funds from your fellow worshippers and the community (i.e., raffle, auction, bingo, etc.) It’s worth asking either way because the pastor/priest/minister/rabbi/spiritual leader might help find a worship member to help sponsor you as a “pay it forward” grant! That means that they find someone to help you now, and when you get your degree, build your successful career, you can possibly help someone else in your spiritual community later.
- ASK THE COMMUNITY COLLEGE ITSELF
- The financial aid office at the community college of your choice will have direct school resources that it could offer you-- if you just ask. They will also prepare a financial aid package for you based on your FAFSA forms, but most students get a small amount of actual scholarships, grants, and student aid -- but rather get offers of student loans that must be repaid. The strategy here: tell the financial aid office that with your unique situation (such as great high school grades, single mom, unemployed, high SAT scores, first person in your family to attend college, etc) that you will not be able to attend college unless you have more direct grants and scholarships. The admissions office will confirm to the financial aid office that they (really) want you to attend, and many times that will immediately increase the college grant/scholarship offer just by asking! They have a number of merit and need based grants and scholarships that they withhold just to convince undecided students to attend their community college!
- ASK YOUR MAJOR DEPARTMENT
- Next ask your specific department or major area at the community college if they have any scholarships that you can apply for. You can do this even before you apply to the school. They may have departmental and alumni resources to spend and may just offer it to you if you put your need in writing -- and also tell them that you probably cannot attend their community college department without more financial assistance. Contact the department secretary and ask to speak to the coordinator or department chair.
- RESEARCH NATIONAL AND STATE GRANTS
- There are a number of national grants (like Pell and others) and Foundation support scholarships and other forms of aid that you can apply for. Research these grants and foundation awards and more in your intended field, your region, and your nationality/heritage/religion, and more.
- PRIVATE TRUSTS AND ENDOWED SCHOLARSHIPS
- Very often successful people pass away (with or without heirs) and leave a portion of their money to be given away to citizens to support good causes (like higher education). They set up a trust or endowed scholarship and a trustee is chosen who each year gives away the interest and gains on the accounts. Many communities have several private scholarships, trusts, and endowed scholarships like this. Research online, at the library, and even ask at your local bank or credit union if they know of any such endowed scholarships for community college.
- Outside of your community, private scholarships with very specific conditions are available all across the country. You may just have the heritage, ancestry, and college major choice to get free money from just a simple application.
WORK-STUDY, LOANS, AND SUMMARY
If you get this far you may have raised all the money you need for your studies at community college! Congratulations. It required some legwork, some telephone calls, and some letter writing, but your educational bills at community college will be paid!
If you didn’t raise enough free money for community college, here is your back up plan: apply for federal work-study programs. This way you are given a modest on-campus job (likely in your department) to earn some money to support the cost of going to school. Although it’s not “free money” - you actually have to work, there are a number of benefits. First you have a job that is convenient and flexible to your school schedule and is at the school. Second work-study students in their own major departments get to know the program and the faculty better by working there, and often later get great reference letters, referrals, and more.
The last stop-gap is low or no-interest student loans. Many of these are federally backed and can be consolidated later (like Perkins). This should be your last resort because this is money that you will have to eventually pay back, and these are student loan debts that will never go away, even if you file bankruptcy. If you do accept loans make sure you find out about the “loan forgiveness” plans that exist today for graduates. You could get your degree and make a commitment to a specific job (inner city education for example), and portions of your student loans will be forgiven over time.
Students today accept loans too easily when they should spend more time searching for free money for community college! Now you can get your certificate or degree online or in a classroom near you using all the free money that you found.