Cinderella's College Search: How to Find Schools and Scholarships When Life Is Holding You Back

Remember how Cinderella had diddlysquat except for her dreams of going to that royal ball? Her wicked stepmother and bratty stepsisters were certainly holding her back, and so was her serious lack of skrilla. It’s easy to feel Cinderella-like in your college journey too: when you’re facing tons of personal and financial obstacles, that far-off campus can seem as out of reach as a castle.

A student recently got in touch with us, concerned about her ability to pay for college. She talked about the town she lived in—a place where no one ever “got out”—but how she was determined to leave and go to college so she could have a better life. She said her family was totally cash strapped, and she knew she needed a little academic help too, but all she wanted was a little advice. It was a Cinderella story if there ever was one.

Hers is a tough situation, but being driven and asking for help are important first steps. The next step is learning all you can about college affordability and financial aid. And although we can’t pull a true Fairy Godmother and personally guide each CollegeXpresser through their college and scholarship search (as much as we might want to), we can do the next best thing, which is give you all the tools you need to do it yourself. So you can be your own Fairy Godmother.

Here’s a collection of articles and advice for when you know you want to go to college, but you have a long way to go—and not enough money to get there.

Already been accepted?

If you plan to go to a two- or four-year school next year and have already been accepted, you can contact them and ask for financial aid help, including the possibility of more doable repayment plans, insights regarding school-sponsored scholarships, and perhaps even deferred admission. You should also search for school-sponsored scholarships on your own and apply to any for which you’re eligible. 

Still looking for a college?

If you haven’t picked out a college yet, you should try to find ones that truly fit your needs and strengths. Finding the right school is a huge part of college affordability; when you’re a good fit for the school, the financial aid tends to follow. 

Interested in transferring?

You might also find that transferring is the right path for you, like a huge number of students do each year (around one-third of them!). Starting at a two-year school can be a great way to earn cheaper college credits while boosting your grades to improve your scholarship opportunities.

Just looking for scholarships?

Regardless of where you go to college, you should look for general scholarships in any areas that apply to you. Search and apply tenaciously! Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end. 

Need a little extra help?

You don’t have to be the stepdaughter to a mean lady to look for outside help and guidance. No matter where you’re coming from or what you want to do in life, it often helps to look for mentoring opportunities through your school, community groups, and/or professional mentoring organizations. They can be a wonderful source of professional and personal advice, and they can help you in your scholarship and college search too.

Finally, talk to family, friends (especially any with college experience), teachers, and high school counselors about your scholarship and college search and ask for their help too.

We know this is a lot of information to absorb, but we hope you find it helpful. Please feel free to e-mail us or get in touch via Twitter @CollegeXpress if you have any questions. 

Meanwhile, throwback to the only Cinderella version that matters, with Brandy and Whitney Houston. ’90s kids understand.

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