The Ultimate Guide to Finding Community College Scholarships
For many, the cost of college is a real barrier to pursuing career goals. The good news is that now students can find a way onto their dream career path through on-ramps that weren’t available in the past.
We’ve discussed on this blog before some of the ways you can save money on your college education. For instance, you can complete a Prior Learning Assessment, or look for opportunities to test out of certain classes and earn credit by exam.
Those are great options but financial obstacles can remain. Are you hesitating to apply to your local community college because you don’t know how you’ll pay for it? Keep reading for tips on tracking down scholarship opportunities meant for community college students.
Community College Scholarships: Finding them
Scholarships you can use toward your community college tuition fall into a couple of different categories. Fortunately, you search for and apply for them the same way you would any other scholarship. Your first step will depend on how far along you are in your education.
- Current high school students should speak with their school’s guidance counselor as early in their application process as possible. Not only will they be able to give you advice and information you might not be aware of otherwise, but you’ll also be putting yourself on their radar. That way, you’ll be one of the first people they think of when new scholarship opportunities are announced.
- Students returning to school – whether after spending time in the workforce, in the military, or raising a family – will do well to start by visiting the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool. You can search their website for opportunities based on your current education level, where you live, and a whole bunch of affiliations. (We’ll discuss these in a bit more detail in just a second.)
- The U.S. Department of Education’s financial aid website is a fantastic resource. It has links to state and federal grant and scholarship opportunities, including those meant for students planning to become teachers, for military service people and their spouses and children, and for those who performed public service through AmeriCorps.
- Lastly, you should browse the links at FinAid.org, which lists a variety of different scholarships. This can be a valuable resource for those with the time to sift through the many offerings available.
Unique funding opportunities
Going after certain scholarships awarded only to smaller groups of people has its pros and cons. They attract smaller pools of applicants, but many still draw enough competition to make them no sure thing.
If you know what you plan to study, you can find some great and often overlooked opportunities with just a bit of digging.
Area of study
Many students will be eligible for scholarships awarded to students focused on certain areas of study, or reserved for students with particular life experiences. Some of these are even open only to community college students. For instance, there are scholarships exclusively for students studying:
Personal scholarship opportunities
Scholarship opportunities also exist through various advocacy groups. Eligibility can be based on ethnicity, membership in certain community organizations, or connection to other interest groups. Some of these include scholarships available to:
- Hispanic, African American, Asian American and Pacific Islander, and Native American students
- Survivors of domestic abuse
- Women looking to make a mid-life career change
- Individuals who have experienced and overcome hardship in their life
- Members of civic and community organizations like American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary
The real, best answer
In reality, the best option is this: once you’ve decided on the community college you’re going to attend, thoroughly research that school. There are two steps that you cannot and should not overlook:
1. Visit their website
Like their four-year counterparts, many community colleges have a whole range of scholarships and grants. Many of these are created through endowments and other donations made to the school, and are available only to their students. As an example, the Scholarships page of Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachusetts, lists 35 different scholarships.
Once you know what college you’re going to attend, searching their website for scholarship and grant opportunities should be your first step. Are you fortunate enough to live in an area where you have multiple options? Make this step part of your decision-making process – which school offers more opportunities for you to earn a scholarship?
2. Speak with someone in their financial aid office
As another example, the Los Angeles City College Foundation lists 45 separate awards on their scholarships website. Think about that – even after you’ve read through your available options, odds are that there’s still too much information for you to realistically learn about every last opportunity. Relax – that’s a good problem to have!
The best way to solve it is to ask for help. Contact the college’s financial aid office and schedule an appointment to discuss your options. For those with busy schedules, don’t worry – most of this can be done by email or over the phone, although meeting in person will help you stand out in the counselor’s memory.
Ahead of your appointment, take the time to prepare. Make a list of any civic or community organizations you belong to and any past or current employers (and those of your parents, if you’re a high school-aged student). Be prepared to discuss your personal story with the counselor. The more information you can provide, the more they’ll have to work with in tracking down funding opportunities for you.
There are plenty of scholarships out there for community college students. The good news is, because the tuition is much more reasonable compared to the price tag for a private four-year college, even a small award can take a big bite out of your bill. Using the tools and resources linked to in this article, and being targeted in asking for help at your future college, will give you a great chance at earning a scholarship – moving you that much closer to your dreams!