Anna’s declassified college survival guide: Tip #12 get your “free” money

College is expensive. Period. According to St. Cloud State’s website, the cost of simply tuition and fees per year is $8,890. That does not include housing, meals, or books. Factoring those in, it is safe to budget $20,000 per year. While most students plan to graduate in four years, many take up to an additional two years to get their Bachelor’s degree. That means that a degree from St. Cloud State can cost students between $80,000 and $120,000 all said and done. 

Thankfully, most students don’t have to pay the whole bill themselves. If your family is in the situation to help you pay for college, good for you and I hope you appreciate the blessing. For me personally, my signature is the only one on the tuition check. Working minimum wage, it would take 900 hours a year to just pay for tuition, or 18 hours of work per week (before taxes) just to foot your tuition bill. 

Luckily there are other ways to help pay for tuition besides working at a minimum wage job. SCHOLARSHIPS! The funny thing about scholarships is they are a lot like the lottery. You can’t win any money if you don’t buy a ticket (or apply for the scholarship). Now, I am not endorsing gambling or buying lottery tickets; I much prefer the odds of receiving a scholarship. 

The scholarship window for St. Cloud State Scholarships opened Monday, Jan. 11 and most scholarships have a deadline of March 15. Before students are eligible for scholarships; however, they must first apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Depending on the income level of your parents, regardless if they are helping you pay for school or not, you might even qualify for grants. Grants is a magic word for free money that you don’t need to pay back. FAFSA will also qualify most students for loans, which you do need to pay back if you choose to take them out.

While grants are need based, the majority of scholarships are merit based (some do give a preference to students who demonstrate financial need). Every single student should at least fill out the general application on Huskies Scholarships. The general application automatically applies you to dozens of scholarships. 

Once you fill out the general application, the system will show you some recommended scholarships that you are likely to be eligible for based on your general application. Once you go through those, I would also recommend browsing through all ten pages of scholarship options because typically there are a few additional ones you might be eligible for that didn’t show up in the recommended section. 

Many scholarships only require you to submit your DARS (Degree Audit Report). You can access that by logging into e-services, going to “academic records”, then “degree audit”, and finally “request a degree audit”. 

Other scholarships may require you to answer a few yes or no questions, maybe a (few) short essays, and some require letters of recommendation. It is best to ask for letters of recommendation at least a month before the deadline so the person writing one for you has plenty of time. 

While, I may be a special case because I can apply for scholarships for education majors, and those in the College of Liberal Arts and College of Science and Engineering, there are scholarships for everyone. Even if you apply for three dozen scholarships like I do every year, and receive two of them, that is likely one hundred hours that you do not need to work (or more!). And, going back to my lottery metaphor, I would much prefer a 1/18 odds than 1/292 million, according to a recent article about the Powerball

The small amount of hours you will put into applying for scholarships will typically pay for itself in spades. I know many people who have had half or more of their tuition paid for by scholarships. While I can’t force you to fill out any scholarships, I stand by my math that the odds are in your favor if you fill out the applications. Invest in yourself, who doesn’t like free money?

If you enjoyed reading this, check out my previous tips:

Tip #1 Tip #2 Tip #3 Tip #4 Tip #5 Tip #6 Tip #7 Tip #8 Tip #9 Tip #10 Tip #11

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Anna Panek

Anna is a junior at St. Cloud State University and is double majoring in Math Education and Spanish Education, with a minor in Special Education. She is the Managing Editor for the University Chronicle this year. When she is not at campus attending class, working as a learning assistant or math tutor, or writing for the University Chronicle, she enjoys volunteering, reading, being overly competitive at board games, and telling horribly funny puns.

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