According to the College Board's Trends in Higher Education study, the estimated yearly undergraduate budget* for the 2009-10 school year went as follows:
• $7,020 at a public, four-year, in-state, on-campus school
• $18,548 at a public, four-year, out-of-state, on-campus school
• $26,273 at a private, not-for-profit, four-year, on-campus school
* budget includes tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, transportation and other expenses
From 2007-08 to 2008-09, total education borrowing increased by approximately $4 billion (a five percent increase). The median debt for all bachelor's degree recipients in the 2007-08 year was $11,000 and the median for the two-thirds who borrowed was $20,000.
Scholarships can help students fund their college career while decreasing their loans. There are scholarships for anything you can think of, from ethnicity to field of study to quirky interests. If you're looking for scholarship opportunities, keep reading for the best sites that give advice on finding the perfect scholarship and how to win scholarships.
These sites provide easy explanations and insider tips for those just starting their research:
• College Board is for both students entering college and those wanting to stay financially organized throughout their college careers. For beginners, the site offers basic information on where to start when it comes to scholarships and how financial aid really works. Then make sure to look at the step-by-step instructions on how to apply to scholarships and how to complete the FAFSA and PROFILE applications. The extensive site also provides a bunch of useful tips and tools for understanding and staying on top of your financial situation. Read the "Spot a Scam" and "Myths" articles before starting your scholarship search so that you know what to look out for. The "Questions for the Aid Office" is another practical article to check out before meeting with a member of the college financial aid staff. The following applications do the math for you: the EFC Calculator helps figure out your expected family contribution; College Calculators add up college costs, savings and loans, and the Compare Aid Awards allows you to plug in and calculate how much you would pay in costs and receive in financial aid at various schools.
• Scholarships.com is another helpful source for overall scholarship advice. The basic guidelines section lets you know what to remember while searching for awards. The site also offers a ton of scholarship application strategies, such as application planning, essay-writing info and techniques, letter of recommendation tips and more. Get inspired by reading the success stories, stay organized with calculator tools and read up on the latest national scholarship news with the site's RSS feed.
• ScholarshipHelp.org offers step-by-step categories for anyone looking to understand scholarship basics and the correct process in which one should go about achieving a scholarship. First, read over the different types of scholarships available, then how winners are chosen. The Personal Assessment worksheet is a useful way to start breaking down your possible niches for specific scholarship searches. To get you started with scholarship searches, the site includes a list of the best search engines and other accommodating sites. Once you have found potential scholarships, check out the Evaluating Scholarship Opportunities section for a breakdown of factors you should look for when deciding whether to apply or not and when comparing different awards. After deciding which scholarships to apply for, make sure to go through the following sections for tips on preparing for the following steps: application, essay, letter of recommendation and interview.
• FastWeb.com is best known for its scholarship search engine function, but it also includes a Parents section that contains articles on financial aid, budgeting and scholarship information. The Scholarship Spotlights page features the basic lowdown on countless scholarships, each rated by site members. Check out the insightful video "Paying for College: What You Need to Know" via The Wall Street Journal and sign up for the site's newsletter that lets you in on the latest scholarship news.
• FinAid.org offers an extensive scholarship bio section, which is divided between prestigious scholarships, scholarships for average students, unusual scholarships, colleges that offer full tuition academic scholarships and scholarships for children under 13. Before starting the scholarship search, bone up on some scholarship search terminology and scholarship statistics information. Once you've picked out which scholarships you would like to apply for, see the site's suggestions on ways to maximize your chances of winning and the article on common scholarship scams. The site also goes over some other types of aid and frequently asked questions, has a financial aid glossary, allows you to ask an aid professional a specific question and provides a bunch of calculators.
• ScholarshipExpert.com features scholarship advice, financial aid info, parent pointers and scholarship tips for international students. Read up on scholarship basics, myths debunked, how to find scholarships online, a list of what to submit with an application, tips for letters of recommendation, how to win a scholarship and special scholarships. Other articles include planning for taxes and scholarships and a high school checklist. Parents can also refer to the article on how to motivate your children to look for scholarships.
There are a myriad of scholarship search engine sites that can help you narrow a search and find the right scholarship for you. For starters, check out our UniversitySpot scholarship section in Resources for a list of scholarship sites divided into categories like state, minority, women, sports and other special scholarships. For more general opportunities, check out the sites below:
College Board: Check this site for "2,200 sources of college funding totaling nearly $6 billion in available aid."
Peterson's: Browse more than 1.68 million awards totaling $7.69 billion. The site also features an international scholarship search for those looking to study in the U.S. with more than 420,000 awards totaling close to $2 billion.
BrokeScholar.com: This site lets you match your criteria with more than 850,000 different opportunities totaling $2.7 billion.
Scholarship Blogs and News
Stay in the know with the following sites that offer scholarship updates and news:
Scholarships.com Blog: Updated typically once a day, this blog runs the gamut of anything college-related but specializes in scholarship news. Make sure to read the Scholarship of the Week posts for in-depth info on possible opportunities.
CollegeScholarships.org Blog: Started in July 2006, this financial aid blog features tips, recent related studies and government news. Tip: Read this interesting post about how to search for scholarships on Google.
ScholarshipPoints.com Blog: Read up on new scholarships, scholarship news, winner announcements and scholarship contests here.
FreeCollegeBlog.com: This self-explanatory site is all about how to fund school and covers ways to both obtain scholarships and adopt budgeting techniques while in school.
Scholarship-Guide.com Blog: This site's mission is to help students find and win scholarships. There are plenty of tips and features on new scholarships.
StudentLoanNetwork.com Blog: Though mainly focused on student loans, this site offers a ton of info about scholarships and ways to pay for college.
ScholarshipNews.org Blog: This site features basic info on international scholarships from more than 35 countries. Search for scholarships or browse the recently posted ones.
FinancialAidNews.com: This site has been around since December 2004 and covers everything you need to know about current issues regarding financial aid, scholarships and student loans. It also has a podcast and newsletter for further info.