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20 Resources Montana Residents Should Know About Paying for College

You might be wondering why Montana is called the “Treasure State.”

Maybe it got it’s nickname from a group of pioneers who buried treasure in the vast plains.

Or perhaps the treasure is referencing the beautiful landscape that makes Montana so precious.

Well, we’ve got a new theory. The financial aid available to Montana residents is a treasure itself! And as a student of Montana, you have so many opportunities to take advantage of this funding.

From full scholarships to a Montana college, to financial assistance for students studying STEM subjects, there are so many chances for Montanans to make paying for tuition a reality.

So let’s go on our treasure hunt!

Step 1: Apply for Federal Funding

When guidance counselors and schools talk about applying for financial aid, they probably start by mentioning the FAFSA. The FAFSA, also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, is the best place to begin because it’s how the federal government gives out need-based financial aid to students like you every year.

The FAFSA is a great resource for students, however, it is known for being a lengthy and confusing application. That’s why we created a step-by-step guide to completing the FAFSA questions, so that you can ensure you are getting any federal financial aid you may be eligible to receive without any headaches.

Another reason to apply for the FAFSA: it’s one-stop shopping for other forms of aid. Applying for FAFSA automatically qualifies you for federal loans, and some state and institutional scholarships as well. Skipping the FAFSA may mean that you’re leaving free money on the table. Why would you want to do that?

Step 2: Apply for Institutional State Funding and Scholarships

Montana may have a small population, but there are still plenty of opportunities for residents to ensure that they can make paying for college a reality.

Montana is unique because all of the state-sponsored financial aid is administered through the Montana University System (MUS), rather than the state’s office of higher education.  

Let’s take a look at some of the statewide scholarships available to Montana residents.

Montana scholarships include:

Additionally, the Montana University System maintains a scholarship search of over 500 scholarships that you might be eligible to receive, so be sure to look to see if any apply to you.

There are also many grants that are offered to Montana residents.

Montana grants include:

Tuition Waivers are for students with special circumstances to receive aid to a Montana university. Examples include tuition waivers for students whose parent is a university system employee in Montana, or for students who are one-fourth American Indian blood or more.

Step 3: Apply for Local and National Scholarships

As a resident of Montana, you are lucky that you have a university system that is committed to making college as affordable as possible. Many colleges and universities in Montana provide unbelievable opportunities to obtain financial aid.

Let’s look at the University of Montana (UM), which uses a website called Raise.Me to provide students with “micro-scholarships.” The University will grant you financial compensation for accomplishments in high school, such as getting an A in a class, taking the PSAT or ACT Plan, participating in extracurricular activities, attending a college fair, and even visiting UM. You can  receive scholarships towards UM through the Raise.Me website throughout high school.

When students apply for admission, the University of Montana automatically considers them for certain scholarships. Take for example the Montana Academic Achievement Scholarship (MAA), which is a merit-based scholarship that ranges from $1,000-$3,000, given out to students for the first two years of college.

The university also offers the Presidential Leadership Scholarship (PLS) to about 25 high-achieving incoming freshman each year, which covers the cost of tuition as well as a living stipend.

The university has other scholarships available through their scholarship portal, which can be applied for after being admitted to the university.

UM’s Davidson Honors College (DHC) also offers scholarships through summer fellowships, student/faculty research awards, study abroad opportunities, and other offerings.

If you’re still in high school, your guidance counselor can be a valuable source for local scholarship info. Be sure to make regular appointments to find out about new offerings.

You should also spend some time doing your own searches online. Sites like (or any number of other search engines) allow you search for scholarships by defining personal characteristics, such as ethnicity, interests, talents, etc.

Step 4: Apply for a Private Loan

While Montana residents have many options to receive financial aid for college, sometimes students need to take out loans to cover the rest of tuition. Check out our picks for the best banks for private student loans as a first step in your loan shopping.

You can get a good idea of what your personal financial situation will be post-graduation with our NitroScore tool. This tool will take into account your college, major, loans, savings, and financial aid to predict what your finances will look like once you graduate.

Now that you have an idea of all the financial aid opportunities available to Montana residents, you should be confident that financing your future will be much easier!

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