Fact or fiction: Unless you’re extremely wealthy, there’s no way to pay for college without severe debt hanging over your head when you graduate.
Answer? Fiction. Although the sticker price of college can be intimidating, schools and organizations across the nation are offering more sources of funding than ever to make college a reality.
Consider South Dakota State University, the largest public university in-state, which offers in-state tuition to children of alumni no matter where they currently live. Augustana University, South Dakota’s largest private college, offers a minimum scholarship of $13,000 renewable annually to students with a 3.0 GPA and 24 or higher on the ACT.
No matter where you want to go to school, there are grants and scholarships that will help you get there. Here are four steps all South Dakota residents should take to put a substantial dent in the cost of attending college.
The first thing that ALL United States students should do to be considered for financial aid is complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known in its abbreviated form as the FAFSA.
The FAFSA is a lengthy but necessary form for all students seeking federal and state financial aid. Our nifty FAFSA guide goes through the FAFSA item-by-item to help you fill out the form as carefully and accurately as possible.
There are several upsides to completing the FAFSA — once you’ve finished, your eligibility will immediately be determined for:
It’s important to complete the FAFSA sooner rather than later. Some private grants and scholarships with early deadlines require the FAFSA from their applicants. Fortunately, you don’t need to know where you’re going to school to fill out the FAFSA, so it’s best to play it safe and get it out of the way now.
As we mentioned before, completing the FAFSA will evaluate your eligibility for a number of different grants and scholarships (read: free money!). In addition to a variety of federal grants, South Dakota residents can also apply for a number of state-sponsored scholarships.
South Dakota scholarships include:
Most scholarships have a couple of specific requirements. By taking a look at grants and scholarships now, you can be sure that you have all of the materials you need ready in time to apply.
In addition to federal and state-funded programs, there are an overwhelming number of scholarships available for students starting their college careers.
The best way to stay on top of the latest and greatest scholarships is to make a regular appointment with your guidance counselor. They often serve as the primary contact between your school and scholarship-granting organizations, so it’s your responsibility to stay in touch with your counselor and ask lots of questions about what scholarships could be a good fit for you.
A lot of schools also offer scholarships specifically for their students. The University of South Dakota offers scholarships based on academic merit, field of study, and talent in the arts or athletics, but almost all of their scholarships either require a separate application or contact with a specific department.
The best way to find out about school-specific scholarship opportunities is to search the admissions websites of the schools you’re applying to or call their financial aid offices directly.
The following resources may also be useful during your scholarship hunt:
While the resources listed above can serve as a starting place, you will probably find it most useful to search for scholarships that fit your unique set of qualifications online. Websites like scholarships.com and Sallie Mae’s Scholarship Search will allow you to search by state, ethnicity, academic major, extracurricular interests and more.
We also are proud to offer our Nitro Scholarship for students and Nitro Parent Scholarship. Each scholarship grants $5,000 to new winners each quarter. You can even win $1,000 just for referring a friend to apply.
If you feel that you’ve exhausted all available options for grants, scholarships, and federal loans, but still need some help paying for school, a well-researched private loan could be the answer for you. Check out our list of the best banks for private student loans here.
Before you decide to take on a private student loan, try our free NitroScore tool to see if a private loan is a feasible idea for you. Simply type in the name of your college and intended major to find out the cost of your degree and your projected salary after graduation. You’ll receive a score that tells you how easy it will be to pay your loans off based on the funds you already have from scholarships, grants, and your own contributions.
The sticker price of a college education shouldn’t scare you away. South Dakota residents can save more now than ever through grants, scholarships and low-interest federal loans. Get the most out of the resources available to you and start planning today.