7 Places to Find Money for College

College can be a big expense. Unless you have parents who saved for your tuition and agree to pay, you will likely have to figure out how to finance your college education yourself. If you get creative with your financing, you can minimize your need to borrow funds for college.

1) Complete the FAFSA

Completing the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is your first step in looking for free money for college. Often, there are grant programs or scholarships that work in conjunction with this federal application. You may also be eligible for grants that you were not aware of. The FAFSA can help you automatically apply for these grants.

2) Win Scholarships via Alumni Clubs and Religious Organizations

Check for scholarships offered by alumni clubs or religious organizations that you or your parents belong to. I applied for a scholarship that was awarded by a club that my mother was a member of. It was a small scholarship of $500, but every little bit helps.

3) Apply for Grants via the Federal Government

One of the most popular places to get free money for college is the federal government. Yes, they supply funds for direct loan programs, but they also have grant programs. Grant money does not have to be repaid and can help you pay for tuition, fees and supplies.

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is awarded based on financial need. The grant is awarded to low­ income undergraduate students. In some cases, graduate students may qualify.

Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant

The Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant is also awarded by the federal government based on need. Priority is given to students who demonstrate exceptional financial need.

4) Ask the College

You may qualify for a scholarship directly from the college you plan to attend. Often the college will have donors that provide scholarship money. At my college, completing the FAFSA was the first step in applying for these scholarships. Some scholarships require a short essay or demonstration of interest in a particular major.

5) Serve with AmeriCorps

Serving for 12 months in AmeriCorps will qualify you for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. This award may be used to pay education costs at eligible post­secondary educational institutions (including many technical schools and GI­-Bill approved educational programs), as well as to repay qualified student loans.

6) Qualify for the GI Bill

Serving your country will qualify you for the Montgomery GI Bill. You can also qualify for funds if you have a parent or spouse in the military with unused Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. These funds do have to be repaid and can be used for tuition, fees and supplies, as well as housing.

7) Try Professional Organizations

There are professional organizations that offer monetary awards if you demonstrate interest in a particular career path. For example, the American Marketing Association Foundation awards several scholarships, and the National Association of Black Journalists awards scholarships to foreign or American-born students pursuing careers in journalism.

There are many ways to secure free money for college. It will take a little effort but it is worth it. Take the time to research these ways to finance your college education and chase the degree you’ve been dreaming about.

Disclosure: This post was written as part of the University Of Phoenix Versus Program. I’m a compensated contributor, but the thoughts and ideas are my own.