Scholarship Opportunities for Those Struggling to Finance College

Student loans are one of the largest sources of debt in the United States. And debt, incidentally, is one of the largest sources of stress. People who have significant debt are significantly more prone to depression, anxiety, and even thoughts of suicide than those without debt.

These combined factors leave many people to conclude that college simply isn’t for them. If your students’ parents can’t afford to foot the bill that doesn’t leave them with many options.

Or so your students might think.

In fact, there are many paths to getting their degree. They don’t have to come from a wealthy household to set themselves up for a brighter future.

In this article, we bust common college myths and explore how people from every background can earn their degrees as long as they leverage the right strategy.

Myth: Not Everyone Can Afford to Go to College

You will come into contact with students from every imaginable financial background. Kids from low-income families— particularly those whose parents did not go to college—have a relatively low chance of seeking a degree themselves.

The choice for a child coming from a low-income family to opt out of college is not senseless. The road ahead of them will almost certainly be harder than it would be for someone who does not require college loans.

It’s also harder to seriously consider getting a degree when no one in your immediate family has one. As a counselor, you needn’t see it as your obligation to persuade people to go to college. There are many lucrative careers that wait for people on the other side of trade school. Many of these professionals earn more than college graduates and they might not need to borrow any money at all to make it happen.

You should, however, work to clear up misconceptions. Make sure anyone who sits down in your office leaves with an understanding of how they might achieve their collegiate ambitions.

Scholarships Opportunities

Scholarships do primarily reward academic or athletic achievement. Many subjects offer specific scholarships for those students pursuing that career. Here is one example focused on Social Work Scholarships. However, as you know, students needn’t necessarily be at the top of their class to qualify. Many academic scholarships focus on providing college opportunities to people who might not otherwise have them and there are many that go unused very single year.

When targeting any type of scholarship, it’s good to help set the student’s sights on them early. By senior year, it’s usually too late to make a serious difference in the student’s scholarship eligibility. One or two good semesters won’t be enough to reverse three years of average or below-average grades. And of course, many students will be targeting desirable scholarships as early as the fall of their senior year which means your students should have a good transcript before then.

It’s always a good idea to set expectations and establish goals early. A freshman who knows they can go to college if they take certain steps may be more inclined towards academic achievement than someone who is positive high school is the end of the road for them.

Grant Opportunities

Grants, of course, are not competitive in the same way as scholarships. While there may be some academic requirements for eligibility many grants are focused more on benefitting specific types of people.

For example, would the student in question be considered a first-generation college entrant? There are many grant opportunities targeting that demographic.

Ditto for minority groups or women in engineering. Universities are more focused than ever on providing people who’ve previously been passed up with good opportunities. Make sure the students who meet with you have a firm understanding of all the opportunities available to them.

Quality Submissions Count

Advise even your highest performing students to perfect their submission packet. Everyone applying for highly competitive grants or scholarships will have a good transcript. That alone won’t win the money. Make sure your students submit applications that go above and beyond expectations.

Target Small Awards

Minor grants and scholarships add up quickly for students who can grab enough of them. Even a few $1,000 awards will result in more money in their bank accounts upon graduation. Better yet, small awards are generally easier to get, providing good opportunities for people who might not be eligible for full rides.

Start Local

Many communities will provide grant and scholarship opportunities to high school seniors. Local awards are a great opportunity because there are fewer applicants. Encourage your students to start looking within the community and then branch out from there.

Your students can widen their search for grant and scholarship money almost endlessly, but it’s important not to miss low-hanging fruit in favor of less attainable goals.

Be Sensible

Finally, make sure your students understand that there are many paths toward a college degree. They don’t have to borrow $100K to get an education that will set them up for their dream job. Many students from low-income families start at community college.

This is a great way to avoid taking out serious loans while you knock out gen-eds. Also, emphasize the value of college-level courses that your high school offers. Many students don’t understand that they can save thousands of dollars by knocking out gen-eds while they are still in high school.

Finally, point out that not every university is financially inaccessible. State schools often offer in-state tuition discounts that can literally cut costs in half. The value of prestigious degrees is very relative to the person’s intended career path.

While a degree from Yale might help your students get a job on Wall Street, most people will find the same opportunities regardless of where they get their degree from.


Financing college is hard. Most students will require a multi-faceted strategy to tackle this expense in a way that is financially simple. Make sure your students understand that there is always a path ahead for those willing to seek it.

Very few students are able to pay for college without some sort of financing. Through a combination of loans, grants, and scholarships, any student can access a high-quality college experience.