3 Flavors of FREE College Money

Cliché: A free ride.    
POCS Reality: There are FREE money grants and scholarships to help students pay for college.


Did you get FREE money to help pay for college? Money that you don’t have to pay back is the best type of financial aid and there are 3 different flavors:

  1. Plain vanilla grants are free money for college based on financial need. Students demonstrate their need by supplying financial and other information on an application. Grant programs are sponsored by federal and state governments and the colleges. To apply for federal aid, students must fill out a FAFSA. Check with your state higher education agency for its application. Some colleges will use info from the FAFSA to award grants from their own institutional funds, others may require their own supplemental form, and a few hundred also want the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE®.
  2. Cream of the crop scholarships are free money from from the college based on student merit. Students are rewarded for their academic, athletic, artistic, musical or leadership abilities. Colleges may require a special application or just use the admission application to determine awards. Ask your college for program details.
  3. Cool Mint Chip outside scholarships are free money from private sources that students can earn or win. Many are contests that are as varied as their sponsors. For example, there’s a best tweet $1,400 Twitter scholarship (“In 140 characters or less, write a Tweet highlighting how we can use Twitter to improve the world.”), and a $5,000 duct tape scholarship to a prom attending couple “wearing complete prom attire and/or accessories made using duct tape.” Other sponsors include small and large businesses, employers, individuals, high schools, fraternal associations and professional organizations. Outside scholarships require an application and many also want an essay or a project. They may be financial need-based, not consider need at all, or a combo of need and merit.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Watch out for deadlines, follow the application rules, and reapply every year you want money for college. Before accepting, check for strings attached such as maintaining a certain grade point average, playing on the team, or writing a thank you note. You can search online for outside private scholarships but don’t give out your personal numbers (bank account, PINs, Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers). Watch out for scams and don’t pay a fee for free college money.