Think you can’t afford college? Think again. I’m a college student and know what it feels like to be a bit tight, but with scholarships for low income students, you can find ways to afford a higher education!
Going to college ensures you’ll earn more in the long run.
By 2020, about 65% of jobs will require a college education. In 2015, only 62% of high school graduates from middle-income families and 58% of high school graduates from low-income families enrolled in college, according to the College Board. In addition, unemployment rates in 2015 were 6% higher for those age 25-34 who only had a high school diploma! Plus, those with a bachelor’s degree earn more on average.
Don’t wait or you’ll miss out on valuable opportunities!
My best advice for those saving for college is to prepare young. Your senior year of high school is going to be too late! I have seen other kids wait until the last minute and it is tragic when they realize they missed out on financial aid and college opportunities because they waited until last minute.
Start thinking about paying for college in middle school; it will be the motivation you need to get good grades through high school! Plus, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation gives a 5-year scholarship for 7th graders in financial need. It’s never too early to start preparing!
There are many opportunities and scholarships for low income students!
It is important to realize that every scholarship has specific requirements, so make sure you qualify before you apply!
High School Opportunities and Scholarships
College Possible is an after-school program for low income students their junior and senior years of high school. It connects them with a coach whom they meet one on one with. Part of the curriculum includes touring college campuses and help applying to colleges and financial aid and scholarships.
See the Courage to Grow scholarship under national scholarships for low income college students.
Education First Scholarship gives two $3,000-$5,000 scholarships to low-income high school seniors. They must use the scholarship within seven years of high school graduation and preference is given to first generation college students.
Education Trust works to better the school system by providing equal opportunities for low income students and students of color. They analyze data, look for gaps in equality, and strive to close them.
Equal Opportunity Schools helps low income students and students of color in high school plan for AP and IB courses (AP and IB courses can allow high school students to start getting college credit before they even graduate high school!). Their goal is to help students of all backgrounds succeed in America’s top high school programs.
Imentor connects low income students with mentors who help them succeed in high school, get in to college and succeed there, and achieve their goals.
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship will give 40 awards valued at $40,000 to high school seniors who demonstrate financial need and have high standardized test scores.
OneGoal is a teacher-led program that identifies low income students and helps students achieve graduation and higher education. They help students increase their college options, breakdown enrollment processes, and more.
QuestBridge offers programs, scholarships, and networks to help low income students achieve the same heights as their peers. One of their notable tools is National College Match which helps high school seniors apply to colleges and scholarships and get admissions info and financial aid for some of the nation’s most prestigious schools. They also give awards called Quest for Excellence which could include a free laptop, software, or travel to make college visits.
National Scholarships for Low Income College Students
Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund gives Asian and Pacific Islander Americans from disadvantaged backgrounds assistance with the transition from high school to college and individual advisement.
AFAS General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program is a needs-based grant for low income students with ties to the air force. Grants will be awarded up to $4,000 depending on need.
Courage to Grow gives a monthly $500 scholarship to juniors and seniors in high school and college students who demonstrate their courage to grow. The application is simply a 250-word essay on why you think you deserve the scholarship. And what’s great about this one is if you don’t get it, then you can re-apply every month!
Crane Fund gives scholarships for low income students whose husband or father cannot contribute to their education due to disability or death. There are multiple scholarships available-they generally grant four per year- and amounts vary, but the average amount is $1,300.
The Hispanic Scholarship Fund has scholarships for low income students that are Latino for up to $6,000 a year!
The I’m First scholarship is for low income students who are the first in their family to attend college. They give 8 scholarships a year of $1,000.
The Gates Millennium Scholarhip is for low income students of a racial minority. Several recipients are chosen and the average award is $12,000.
The Patsy Takemoto Mink Education Foundation gives low income mothers a scholarship. Five awards of up to $5,000 each are given each year. There are many other scholarship opportunities for both moms and single parents. I recommend using one of the search engines I listed below to look for more.
The Need Scholarship is for students who still need help paying for college after all other financial aid and any family contributions. Awards for different scholarships vary from $1,000 to $1,500. See if you are eligible on their website.
NHLA Education Fund offers four different scholarships for low income students in federally assisted housing. The amount varies by scholarship and by year.
State Scholarships for Low Income College Students
BAFTX Susan Howard Community Service Award is specifically for Texas residents who demonstrate significant community service and consideration is also based on annual household income. The award is for up to $5,000!
Bruce and Marjorie Sundlun Scholarship is up to $1,500 for residents of Rhode Island for students who are low-income single parents.
Additional Resources for Low Income College Students
MDRC supplements low income students in college by helping them take the stress off of balancing work and school. It works like a paycheck. Every other week, students receive a check with their extra aid after tuition and fees.
Besides scholarships, you can also qualify for federal and state aid!
Always fill out a FAFSA.
According to the College Board, for the 2017-18 school year, the average student (who is going to school in their own state, full-time, at a 4-year college) gets over half of their tuition paid for in both grants and federal tax benefits! In fact, there are four types of federal aid—grants, loans, tax credits, and work-studies. To receive federal financial aid, you must apply through a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid-note that the application is free and you will not have to pay to apply).
Grants are based on income, and if you qualify for them then you don’t have to pay them back (unless you withdraw from school)! You can receive $5,000 or more tax-free for your higher education. It is important to realize that Pell Grants are only for undergraduates.
Loans are also offered based on your income. It is borrowed money that you must pay back with interest. I would advise using loans only as a last resort since student debt can really pile up and follow you the rest of your life. If you do get into student debt, check out some of our advice on paying back student loans.
Tax credits give breaks to taxpayers. For example, you can receive up to $2,500 per student per year in the American Opportunity Credit! In addition, up to $1,000 of that can be refunded directly to you if you don’t owe any taxes! I’d recommend talking to a tax preparer about claiming education tax credit.
Work-Study programs allow you to earn money to pay for school. The program helps you find a part-time job, in your field of study if possible, to help you pay for school.
The Federal Student Aid office has a short video that explains their financial aid. For your convenience, I copied it here.
You can get state financial aid and grants, too!
Each state gives both grants and financial aid just like the federal government for low income students. Some also have tax credits. You can either contact your state grant agency or visit their website to find out what’s available for you.
The Military also has some great education benefits. If you are a veteran, service member, spouse, or dependent, you may qualify for education benefits through the VA. You can also see my other post for more info on military scholarships.
Additionally, you can find hundreds of scholarships for low income students online. Here are a few of my favorite scholarship search engines:
Getting into college is hard. Paying for college is hard. Budgeting with a low income is hard. Despite all that, you can do it! If you use both scholarships for low income students and federal aid you can do it.
Of course, don’t forget to take advantage of student discounts and free stuff! You can get SO much for free and discounted as a college student! You can find a list of free and discount things here.
Disclaimer: There are certainly a lot of scams for scholarships and FAFSA funds out there. Be careful who you give you information to and research the scholarship and grant before applying.