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How to Pay for College Without Paying for College

College is expensive, and there's no way around it. But there's an easy way to manage the ever-rising cost without taking out hefty loans: scholarships

Fact: college is expensive. There are times when we look at past decades and are glad that we live in the present. But one thing we wish was still around is the low cost of higher education. My mother says her tuition was about $500 a semester when she went to college! Granted, inflation makes that a little higher, but the price was affordable. Imagine how many people graduate with student debt today compared to only a few decades ago. So what are some of the ways you can mitigate the high cost of college in the present? You could take out hefty loans or rely on your parents, but there is a better route to help pay for your education: apply for scholarships. It’s that easy. Are you guaranteed to get every scholarship you apply for? No. Nothing is guaranteed except death and taxes, according to Benjamin Franklin. But will you get a scholarship if you don’t apply for it? Absolutely not. The point is—apply, apply, apply!

Finding scholarships

Many scholarship opportunities go to waste because you don’t know about them. How do you find out about scholarships? You can ask your guidance counselor, sign up for scholarship emails, or even do a simple Google search. Don’t be surprised if you happen to find scholarships relating to potatoes or how to survive the zombie apocalypse. The sites I mainly use for scholarships are Unigo, Niche, and CollegeXpress. Each allows you to subscribe to emails for scholarship opportunities. What I like about CollegeXpress is that they send me multiple scholarship opportunities to apply for at a time. Some don’t apply to me, but I usually end up exploring a few options. Some scholarship opportunities can even be as easy as signing up for a mailing list! Many others ask you to write short essays for a prompt and don’t take very long to complete. And guess what: you don’t need to be a senior to apply for scholarships. There are tons of awards out there for middle school, high school, college, transfer, graduate, non-traditional, and many other types of students. Just make sure you’re eligible for an award before you take the time to apply! 

Related: Scholarships: Quick Tips, Tricks, and Why They Matter

Scholarship essays

When writing an essay for a scholarship, it’s important to be honest and follow the guidelines for the application. If the maximum word count is 250, don’t write more. A concise and intelligent essay is better than a long and repetitive one. Often the idea that first vividly comes to your mind is the best topic for you to write about. A big change from the essays you write for teachers and professors, it’s okay—and even expected—to write in the first person. After all, you’re writing about yourself.

If you’re having trouble writing a scholarship essay, you should focus on the meat (the body) of your essay. What do you really want to say? Putting your thoughts into bullet points to start out can be helpful. Don’t worry about the introduction and conclusion. They can come afterward. Having good introductions and conclusions isn’t everything—they might make your essay seem more eloquent, but if you’re really struggling, they don’t have to be included. It’s also imperative that your essay contains no spelling or grammar mistakes. Having simple mistakes won’t set you apart—they’ll make your essay seem rushed and half-attempted. So double-check your essay before you hit submit.

Another thing to remember is that if a scholarship asks you to write about “an experience that changed how you see the world” or “a life-changing experience,” don’t simply write about a mission trip or volunteer day. Your essay will seem bland and unoriginal. Instead, try to write about a unique childhood experience or use figurative devices to explore a deeper part of your mission trip. It’s important to set yourself apart from others so those who will read your essay find it memorable.

Related: Secrets to Writing an Amazing Scholarship Essay

I cannot stress enough how important it is to apply! Not believing you’ll get a scholarship isn’t a good reason to not apply. If you don’t apply, you’ll never get free money for college. Who doesn’t want free money for college? What are you waiting for? Search and apply!

Start your college journey off right by having money to pay for it! Use our Scholarship Search tool to find and win awards.

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About Grayson Yount

I love discovering new words and ways to describe the things I see every day.


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Brooke Maggio

Brooke Maggio

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously in my college search in narrowing down the schools I’m interested in. Using the college search tool, I was able to narrow down my choices to schools that matched what I was looking for. I also used CollegeXpress for their scholarship search, which helped me find scholarships that I meet the requirements of.

Sierra Carranza

Sierra Carranza

High School Class of 2022

I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to school; I was considering colleges in almost every state. CollegeXpress was an amazing resource and helped me compare all of my top schools. Without the help of CollegeXpress, I probably wouldn't have made such an informed and confident decision.



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me find Allegheny College with the super-user-friendly search tool for both schools and scholarships. Using CollegeXpress, I was able to search for programs I was interested in studying and find colleges that offered those programs. Also, once you search for the college, CollegeXpress can get you connected!

Fernando Ponce

Fernando Ponce

High School Junior

College is a way of life that helps us find out who we are as a person, and CollegeXpress is a great way to stay connected with our future, even for students with little time on their hands due to the challenges of high school we face.

Asia Stockdale

Asia Stockdale

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress helped me overcome a huge hurdle. Because of the small town I live in, I felt like I would never achieve more. I felt like I could never go beyond because of costs. I feared I wouldn’t be able to find scholarships. I had no idea of where to start. With CollegeXpress, I easily found scholarships—they came to me. It was a helper, and I was instantly matched with opportunities to go above and beyond educationally.

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