It’s no secret: college tuition these days can be spendy. According to Trends in Higher Education, the average in-state student at a four-year university paid more than $17,000 for tuition and room-and-board during the 2012-13 academic year; for out-of-state students, this amount exceeded $30,000. And contrary to popular belief, online college degrees are not significantly cheaper when compared to brick-and-mortar credentials; in fact, e-learners often pay the same tuition costs as their on-campus counterparts.
Fortunately, there are plenty of scholarship opportunities to help online students mitigate the high costs of education. Thousands of scholarships are available to students in the U.S., and they vary by the amount of money awarded, as well as their criteria for eligible recipients. Here are some of the most popular scholarships currently awarded to U.S. students.
AFA Teens for Alzheimer’s Awareness College Scholarship | The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America created this fund for students who produce the best essays about the everyday impacts of Alzheimer’s Disease. The best writer will receive a $5,000 scholarship, while the second- and third-place essays receive $2,500 and $1,000, respectively.
Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest Scholarship | Every year, the Ayn Rand Institute sponsors a series of essay contests for prospective college students. More than 600 awards (collectively worth $100,000) are handed out to entrants who submit the best work.
AXA Achievement Scholarships | Every year, 52 high school students (one from each state, plus Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico) are selected to receive this merit-based scholarship. While all of them will automatically receive $10,000, 10 finalists go on to receive $15,000 and the grand-prize winner takes home $25,000. AXA has partnered with two other organizations, U.S. News & World Report and Scholarship America, to present this award.
Burger King Scholars Program | The Fast Food giant awards several non-renewable scholarships per year; most are worth $1,000, but some can provide as much as $4,000 toward college expenses. Online students who wish to apply for the Burger King scholarship must be enrolled at a not-for-profit institution.
Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation | Every year, Coca-Cola awards more than 300 merit-based scholarships to high school students that demonstrate stellar academic abilities. Monetary amounts vary from $1,000 to $1,500 per recipient.
Foreclosure.com | Since 2009, this real estate-centric website has hosted an annual writing contest, and handed out more than $35,000 in scholarship money to high school students who submit the best work. The grand prize winner will receive $5,000, while those who place second through fifth will each earn a cool grand.
Frank Lanza Memorial Scholarship | Designed for individuals who plan to pursue a career in medical service, this scholarship is reserved for community college students enrolled in an associate-level program for nursing, respiratory care, or emergency medical services. Up to 20 awards of $2,500 are handed out on an annual basis.
Generation Google Scholarship | This award is exclusively reserved for computer science students who attend school in the U.S. and Canada. Each recipient will be given $10,000 for the academic year on the condition that they attend Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute.
Get Educated Online College Scholarship | Designed specifically for distance learners enrolled in accredited programs, this scholarship awards recipients $1,000 per year. In addition to respectable grades, students must demonstrate their aptitude by responding to an essay prompt, “What an Online College Degree Means to Me.”
Guistwhite Scholarship Program | This scholarship is reserved for community college students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher who are on track to earn a bachelor’s degree. Twenty awards, each one worth $5,000, are distributed every year.
Horatio Alger Scholarship Award | The Horatio Alger Association offers this need-based award to any student who is in the process of earning a bachelor’s degree at an accredited institution. Preference is given to students whose annual family earnings fall below $50,000.
The Lowe’s Scholarship | Each year, 140 students receive $2,500 in scholarship funds from this hardware giant, while an additional 50 students will be awarded the Carl Buchan Scholarship (worth $5,000 per recipient). Only high school seniors with a GPA of 3.2 or higher will be considered for these scholarships.
Media Fellow Program | This award from the Washington Media Scholars Program is granted to any student pursuing a degree that prepares him or her for a career in public policy (accepted majors include journalism, business, mass communications, and marketing). Roughly $30,000 is distributed among 20 students each year.
Milton Fisher Scholarship for Innovation and Creativity | This award is reserved for high school juniors, seniors, and college freshmen who demonstrate a stellar ability to think outside the box. Up to six scholarships, each one worth $20,000, are handed out each year.
Most Valuable Student Competition | The Elks National Foundation awards 500 scholarships every year; two grand prize winners receive $50,000, while the remaining receive awards worth anywhere from $4,000 to $40,000. Each applicant is judged on their academic record, demonstrated leadership abilities, and financial need.
Nordstrom Scholarship | Every year, the Seattle-based clothier provides up to 80 students with a $10,000 scholarship. Recipients will receive their money in $2,500 annual installments during the course of their four-year degree; for this reason, they must attend an accredited institution.
Roger K. Summit Scholarship | Any student (worldwide) who is pursuing a degree in library or electronic information science may apply for this $5,000 award. Applicants must demonstrate a strong working knowledge of common information science practices and provide references from faculty members.
Scholarships.com | First created in 1999, this site has amassed information about more than 2.7 million aid opportunities, making it arguably the web’s most complete scholarships and grants resource. Additionally, the site includes admission statistics, tuition rates, and financial aid opportunities available through more than 7,000 colleges and universities.
Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Scholarship | Sodexo is one of the world’s largest food distributors, serving hundreds of college campuses across the United States. The Sodexo Foundation offers the Stephen Brady STOP Hunger Scholarship to students who demonstrate their concern for poverty in America through volunteer service. Scholarship recipients are given $5,000, and a grant matching that amount is submitted to a hunger-related charity of the student’s choice.
Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship | This award from the Jack Cooke Foundation is reserved for community college students who not only have a great financial need, but have also earned a cumulative GPA that falls between 3.5 and 4.0. Hundreds of students are nominated every year, and roughly 60 receive financial support.
Voice of Democracy Scholarship | This award of $30,000 is presented by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Candidates must draft an original speech that addresses a singular theme, and then record themselves presenting a speech about this particular topic. Judges evaluate each submission based on originality of the speech, content, and delivery.
In addition to the individual awards listed above, these online resources provide detailed information about different scholarships offered across the country:
Big Future by the College Board | Visitors to this massive resource can search more than 2,000 scholarships totalling roughly $6 billion. The site also features plenty of advice for first-time students about how to choose a major, foster a relationship with faculty members, select the right course-load, and otherwise get the most of of the college experience.
Cappex | This site takes a tailored approach to scholarship searches. Each user creates a profile that includes intended major, as well as his or her level of interest when it comes to online classes and vocational programs. Based on this criteria, the site will email information to each user about their scholarship eligibility.
CollegeNet.com | There are plenty of scholarships contained in this site’s directory, but the usefulness of CollegeNet is contingent on how detailed your user profile is. CollegeNet emails profile-holders about available scholarship opportunities — so the more specific you get, the more likely it is that you’ll receive information about awards and grants relevant to your situation.
Do Something | Rather than earning stellar grades or submitting well-crafted essays, this site hands out scholarships to students who enter drawings after performing public services. For example, the $3,000 Teen Pregnancy Education Scholarship is given to applicants who send a text message about this topic to six friends; other scholarships are awarded to individuals who bring their fathers to the doctor to receive a blood pressure check-up, inform their friends about the cruelty of puppy mills, or spread the word about global warming.
FastWeb | One of the most comprehensive scholarship resources out there, FastWeb provides important information (including amount of money awarded and deadlines for submission) for thousands of scholarships and grants, as well as links to other sources of financial aid.
Merit Aid | This directory, which is owned by the aforementioned Cappex, is a directory that exclusively provides information about merit-based scholarships. More than $11 billion in student aid is represented on the site’s database.
Scholarship Points | Like Do Something, this site determines scholarship winners using an unconventional set of criteria. Visitors essentially accrue ‘points’ by taking quizzes, reading blogs, participating in online surveys, or engaging in other site activities. The points a visitor earns can be applied to scholarship drawings; the higher the number of points, the larger the potential winnings.
U.S. News & World Report — Scholarships | Considered one of the finest online academic publications, USNWR provides plenty of scholarship-related information for readers who are looking to pay for college with alternative means. ‘The Scholarship Coach’, a resident blogger on the site, is particularly helpful.
Zinch | Essentially designed to make every aspect of college easier for students, this site provides information about thousands of scholarships, as well as tips for selling back books and locating schools with the lowest tuition rates.
We hope these scholarship resources have helped you in your quest for financial aid that doesn’t add to your debt. The Internet is one of your greatest allies when it comes to locating and securing scholarships. The more intensive your search, the greater your potential rewards.