How to Make College Cheaper: Part 1 – Scholarships | College Made Simple

Getting the best education doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Here’s how you can reduce your out-of-pocket college costs.

When applying to colleges, we all want to get the best education we can with our time.

A lot of people forget about trying to get the best bang for your buck as well.

Fact is, the educational opportunities presented seniors are basically equal, once you’ve corrected for academic achievement. But, while your opportunities are similar, the amount you pay for those opportunities can vary wildly.

Some students feel like they can’t afford the best… while others simply are overpaying.

The truth is, if you put in the time to learn all the best strategies, college can be affordable. And, once you’re in a school, it doesn’t matter if you’re paying $40,000 or $4,000 to attend.

With that in mind – let’s take a look at the best ways to lower your costs. In Part I, we’ll focus on scholarships.

Scholarships – When, Where, and How

The Earlier The Better

The simplest part of the scholarship process is figuring out when to apply.

That’s easy – the earlier the better. Some scholarships have deadlines in October – don’t be scared to apply without a school in mind.

The money follows wherever you go. Don’t worry about where you’ll be spending it.

Waiting until the last minute hurts you in two ways:

  • It gives you no wiggle room to correct errors in the application
  • It throws you into the largest pool of applicants with the least amount of money left

Most scholarships are first-come, first-served. So waiting until the last second means you’re competing against everyone who’s applied, for whatever crumbs remain.

Applying early, however, means you’re competing against only a few candidates, while the coffers are still full.

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They’ll help you figure out where you stand… including whether or not you can lower your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) – and maximize your eligibility for financial aid.

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Applying for Scholarships

Scholarships are about seeking matches – and that means it has to be a two-way street.

You can’t simply want the most lucrative offer – they have to want you too.

That means making a list of your best attributes – be they academic, extracurricular, cultural, or athletic.

Once you know what makes you unique, search for scholarships that fit your skills or attributes best. Then, focus all your attention on them.

The scattershot method does you no good – and pits you up against plenty of other students better qualified for different scholarships.

Only choose the grants for which you are best qualified – and then pursue them doggedly.

Know The Rules

Once you’ve got a scholarship, find out how that money will be applied at your chosen school.

Some will let you take the scholarship money off of your expected family contribution – while others will just subtract it from the amount you get in loans. Little differences like that – or the many variations therein – can mean a swing of thousands of dollars for you and your family. Know the rules – and, if you are choosing between a few schools, don’t be afraid to let differences like that sway your decision (or help you put pressure on a favored school for a better deal).

Here’s Part 2 of How To Make College Cheaper, where we look at strategies you can use to maximize your funding.

To your college funding success,

Scott Weingold

P.S. You can find more college scholarship money tips here in our Archives.

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Editor's Note: Scott Weingold has been ranked the #1 “College Financial Aid Expert Worth Knowing About” in the entire country by  He has co-authored the book, “The Real Secret To Paying For College. The Insider’s Guide To Sending Your Child To College – Without Spending Your Life’s Savings.” Scott also publishes a popular free online newsletter, “College Funding Made Simple" which reveals insider’s tips, methods, and strategies for beating the high cost of college.

Scott is the co-founder and a principal of the widely renown College Planning Network, LLC – the nation’s largest and most reputable college admissions and financial aid planning firm. CPN is a proud member of the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of College Funding Advisors, the National Association for College Admission Counseling, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators and the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

Scott, along with his college funding advisory team, helps thousands of families throughout the country with their college planning needs and offers a series of free educational webinars and workshops on “How To Pay For College Without Going Broke In The Process!” He's been featured or mentioned in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Yahoo News,, Voice America with Ron Adams, Crains Cleveland Business, and on Cleveland Connection with James McIntyre.  Scott has published numerous articles and is a professional speaker who has addressed thousands of audiences online and offline throughout the United States.  His actionable insights and candid, open approach have earned him & his team numerous media interviews, citations, and speaking opportunities, and his free online video workshop is one of the Internet’s most widely viewed pieces in the college funding space.