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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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High School Class of 2019

My college search began at CollegeXpress. Due to this helpful tool, I was able to gather a lot of information to guide my college planning decisions. Through CollegeXpress, I was also able to apply to several scholarships to help pay for my tuition. I would definitely recommend this website to anyone who wants to explore colleges and get more information from admission experts, counselors, and real students.

Kyla McClain

Kyla McClain

High School Class of 2024

I found CollegeXpress when you partnered with for a scholarship. I found your website, put my information in, and got connected. I only wanted to stay in North Carolina [for college] and not move far from home, but you all opened a door up for me. I started researching colleges you suggested for me. On your social media platforms, you also give really good test-taking tips that I used and suggested others to do the same. It helped me a lot on my exams, so thank you.



High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress gave me options of schools with my major and from there I was able to pick what was most important to me in a school. Everything was so organized that I could see all the information I needed.

Farrah Macci

Farrah Macci

High School Class of 2016

CollegeXpress has helped me in many ways. For one, online searches are more organized and refined by filtering scholarships through by my personal and academic interests. Due to this, it has made searching for colleges and scholarships significantly less stressful. As a student, life can already get stressful pretty quickly. For me, it’s been helpful to utilize CollegeXpress since it keeps all of my searches and likes together, so I don’t have to branch out on multiple websites just to explore scholarship options.

Joan Franklin

Joan Franklin


I love this website and have been using it for years with my students. I originally bought products through Wintergreen Orchard House and appreciated having key facts at my fingertips when advising students. Your site is easy to access and offers a wide array of topics I need as a busy college counselor.

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