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How to Get the College Help You Pay
By: Gen and Kelly Tanabe

For most parents, the relationship with a college is simple: The college sends a tuition bill, and the parent writes a check. What if the roles were reversed and the college wrote a check to you? Does this sound like a Twilight Zone episode? It happens more often than you might think.

Colleges often use grants and scholarships to attract students. Because a school's reputation is based on the quality of its students, it is in the school's interest to make sure that students who meet certain criteria—such as having high grades or special talents—attend. Some schools go so far as to guarantee that all students who meet the requirements will get a scholarship. Colleges also offer numerous discounts: reduced tuition for in-state residents, tuition waivers for students from neighboring states and two-for-one deals for siblings.

So when it comes down to it, the college can be your most valuable partner in helping to pay the bills. This guide will walk you through the various ways that you can get your college to help pay for your child's education.

View admission apps as scholarship apps.

Many colleges offer merit scholarships as a way of attracting students. These awards have nothing to do with a family's finances! Students who will add to the campus community and reputation are highly sought after. These students might have high grade point averages (GPAs) or test scores; special talents in academics, music or the arts or strong leadership abilities.

The secret is that for convenience, most colleges automatically use your child's application for admission as a scholarship application. This means it's doubly important that your student submit the strongest application possible. How great would it be for your child to be offered admission to his or her top choice college and a generous scholarship to boot?

See if there is money for your child's major.

Don't stop with the resources of the college's financial aid office. Individual academic departments also offer funds. Because these scholarships are available only to students in a particular major, there is less competition. A good example is the School of Music and Dance at San Francisco State University, which awards tens of thousands of dollars to students majoring in music. The awards are based on a combination of academic and musical performance.

Of course, many students enter college unsure of their majors. But once your child declares a major, make sure he or she speaks with professors and administrative personnel in the department regarding their resources, as they can most likely point the way to scholarship opportunities.

Look for guaranteed scholarships.

Normally, if you hear the words "guaranteed" and "scholarship" in the same sentence, it is a scam. The one exception is when the college is making the guarantee. A growing trend is for colleges to establish scholarships with specific, quantifiable criteria—any student who meets the criteria automatically gets the award. This removes much of the guesswork and allows families to know whether they can count on a certain award.

Guaranteed scholarships are often based on GPA and ACT or SAT test scores. Many are offered on a sliding scale, which means that the higher the grades and test scores are, the more money is granted. Usually no scholarship application is necessary. Using the information in the application for admission, the college will automatically award the money to any student who qualifies.

About the Author

Gen and Kelly Tanabe
Founders of SuperCollege and authors of 13 books on college planning.

1001 Ways to Pay for College

By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
Need money for college? Stressed over how to pay the next tuition bill? Searching for a way to get a degree without going broke? Whether you need a full-tuition scholarship or a little extra cash to make ends meet, 1001 Ways to Pay for College provides students and parents with the answers.

Learn More

The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2021

By: Gen & Kelly Tanabe
The goal of The Ultimate Scholarship Book is simple: To help you find free money. Inside you'll find the most up-to-date and comprehensive listing of more than 1.5 million awards. An easy-to-use index makes finding the right scholarships ridiculously quick. And it wouldn't be the Ultimate book without a section of little known insider tips and strategies that show you how to actually win the scholarships you find!

Learn More