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College for FREE?

Yes, you can go to college for FREE! Typically, this ‘free’ money comes in the form of scholarships, fellowships, or grants, all of which the student does NOT have to pay back (unlike student loans). Most of you are familiar with academic, merit-based, or sports scholarships, and I'm sure you always hear about that "full-ride scholarship" that everyone is shooting for. According to author Mark Kantrowitz, who is publisher of FastWeb and FinAid, less than 20,000 students a year receive a completely free ride to college. And Lynn O'Shaughnessy has noted that "among full-time college students at four-year colleges, just .3% received enough grants and scholarships to cover the full cost of college. These lucky students received a full ride through any combination of money from the colleges themselves, federal and state grants and outside private scholarships. The odds of receiving a full-ride private scholarship is even more remote. According to Kantrowitz, there are less than 250 private scholarships in this country that provide enough money to cover all college costs."

So, if this is the case, what is one to do?

That's where my two favorite ways of earning money come in: cash scholarships and contests. Students can get money for a million different reasons and can probably qualify for dozens of random cash contests if they keep their eyes open. Did you know that there are scholarships for Prom's Cutest couple, or for tall or short people, or for the best dress made out of duct tape? What about the one for the best survival plan in case of a zombie apocalypse? Or by being a Pokemon World Champion? Or $1,000 for just filling out a form and getting your name randomly picked? These are just a few of the wild and crazy opportunities out there! All it takes is a little bit of time and research.

The first thing we did was establish a goal: my son was to apply to 4 or 5 scholarships or contests a month while in high school and as he was earning his college credits. Some were more labor intensive while others were just writing a paragraph or filling out a form so it was doable each month. The next thing we did was go to the library and check out scholarship books to see which ones he qualified for. Google became our next "go-to". We researched every kind of scholarship and cash contest out there! (see below for a few to get you started) As we went about our normal routine we'd keep our eyes open for contests being held. Many times the grocery store or a lunch out would reveal another opportunity. Once eating at Ci-Ci-s we heard about a $10,000 scholarship that a lucky student could earn just by taking a picture of himself by the Ci-Ci-s pizza bar and explaining why he deserved a scholarship. My son cranked that one out during lunch!

(Side Note: One tip that helped us tremendously was to keep a calendar with all the rules and deadlines clearly noted for each scholarship or contest. The calendar notes kept us on track and able to submit everything on time.)

Other places to find college cash are throughout your community and through company sponsored scholarships. Many places like the Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, the Lion's Club, etc... offer scholarships, as well as homeschool groups, volunteer organizations, and companies. Find out what community service organizations offer. Check out private companies, or the companies you work for to see if they offer any type of college funding. My son went to my husband's boss to see if they offered any type of financial aid for college. He laid out his whole plan (about College Out of the Box and earning his degree in a nontraditional manner) and even though the company did not have any college scholarships, the boss offered to pay for all of his testing fees and any cost associated with getting his credits! So any CLEP or DSST he took, any proctoring fees, any classes he took online- all paid for! Other things to look for are cash contests. My son must have entered over 100 of those- poetry and writing contests, video contests, ones online or on instagram, grand openings, dog photo contests, caption contests, etc... As he started winning a few, the money started coming in. A few times we even spent days listening to radio stations when they had days like "the 100th caller gets $500 in cash!". (And we won- twice! $1,000 for about 15 minutes worth of work- not too bad!) And, as always, make sure you keep checking the College Out of the Box FaceBook page where I weekly post other scholarship opportunities as well.

Though many of these will not be for THOUSANDS of dollars and may only be $25 here or $100 there, don't discount them. A little bit of money adds up in a BIG way. Just ask Kristina Ellis. For four years,while in high school, she applied to as many scholarships as she could (no matter the amount) and at the end of that time had not only enough in scholarships for a free ride at Vanderbilt University, but enough to pay for her Master's degree! She earned over $500,000 in scholarship money! (For her full story check out Confessions of a Scholarship Winner on Amazon) And, personally, I can say that this works. My son was able to pay for his bachelor's degree all with cash money that he earned either through scholarships or contests.

So it is possible to get your college degree FOR FREE- and not be one of those with a full ride scholarship. With a little bit of research, some time, and some patience, pretty soon the award letters will start rolling in. And little by little the cash will start adding up- free cash that you don't have to pay back (unlike student loans!) Not a bad deal if I say so myself!

Check out College Out of the Box website, FaceBook page, You Tube videos, and EBook for more information on how you can get your college degree in less time, for less money, and with NO student debt- no matter your age!

Below are a few websites to get you started on your scholarship and contest hunt: