Mother posing with college-aged daughter on campus

This spring, families across the nation are still waiting to receive the financial aid packages from their child’s dream higher education institute as FAFSA delayed sharing important financial information. If your child is finishing high school and is preparing to continue their education after high school it might be wise to look at applying for scholarships while you wait to hear about financial aid.

Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage, wants to make sure that you have all the information you need to make the best financial decisions for your family. So, we’re including guidance on how to look for free scholarship money.

Free nationwide scholarship websites to search

There are many free online scholarship search sites like Sallie MaeFinAid, SmartScholar, and FastWeb to name a few. On these sites, your child would create a profile with their academic scores; community or volunteer service; and athletic or academic activities. After supplying that information, students will be matched with scholarship applications for which they are eligible. FinAid also created a list of the more unusual available scholarships.

Sallie Mae also offers the Paying For College Resource. The website assembles free tools, videos, and checklists to follow as you all prepare for your children’s higher education. It even shows how to understand your financial aid letters, once you receive them. There’s also a monthly $2,000 scholarship for which your child can register for and they don’t even have to write an essay.

U.S. Department of Labor has a free scholarship search tool and also offer guidance on what sources to tap for more information.

Free Ohio scholarship websites to search

The State Of Ohio also wants to help you search for scholarships. Once your child fills in the online form, the site will match them to over 1.5 million scholarships in Ohio’s database.

Additionally, the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) offers to connect you to multiple scholarships and grants available throughout the state. As the ODHE website states, some financial aid will be decided based on students’ “areas of study (such as teaching, science, engineering, technology, math and medicine), academic merit, financial need, military status, and more.”

To see if there are any local scholarships, do an online search for scholarships offered in your area. Some scholarships are specifically given to a local student in someone’s memory with the same education plans. Also, local businesses could also offer scholarships for students who want to study in a specific area of study or in a certain vocation or technical skill. Local service organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs also offer scholarships. Also, check to see if the business where your student works or any organization at which they volunteer offers scholarships.

Cities and schools can also offer financial aid through scholarships. For instance, the Say Yes Cleveland Scholarships help Cleveland Metropolitan School District graduates can pay for college tuition to attend college, university, or accredited training program. With The Columbus Promise, Columbus City School (CCS) District graduates from the Classes of 2022, 2023, and 2024 can take six semesters of classes for free at Columbus State Community College. The CCS students will also receive a $500 scholarship per semester. For students in the greater Cincinnati area, look to the Cincinnati Scholarship Foundation to find available area scholarships in that part of the state.

As local and statewide scholarships draw from a smaller pool of applicants, there may be less competition and therefore, better odds of receiving these scholarships.

Visit high school counselors

An appointment with your student’s high school counselor would be a good idea. They have access to many resources and scholarship tools to point you and your student in the right direction. They also have access to information on local scholarships for which your child could apply. Counselors also can offer guidance on scholarship essays, and help your child prepare for the scholarship interview process. They can also help your students in finding teachers to ask for recommendation letters to strengthen their applications.

Be sure to apply for small dollar scholarships. If your student earns several of these, their scholarship total will grow. There may also be fewer applicants for these scholarships so your student’s application may stand out in a smaller crowd. 

Remember, you should never have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship. If an organization asks for a fee or credit card number, do not share any information with it and continue your scholarship search elsewhere.

Start a local community college

If you don’t receive the aid package you were hoping for in this round of FAFSA for the 2024-25 academic year, there is another way to save money. Your child can choose an admission deferment to their chosen school and instead start their higher education at a community college.

Usually lower in cost than a four-year program, your child can take required core classes at a community college that, in many cases, will transfer to other schools, or explore different courses in their search for their dream profession. Your student can earn an associate degree or use the community college as a steppingstone to a traditional four-year university.

Since 1989, Ohio’s 529 Plan has been helping families across the nation save for their children’s education. Ohio’s 529 Plan covers qualified costs at any four-year college or university, two-year community college, trade or vocational school, apprenticeship approved by the U.S. Labor Department, or certificate program nationwide that accepts federal financial aid. Learn, plan, and start for as little as $25 today at CollegeAdvantage

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