Students can lower the cost of their college education with the help of scholarships and grants. These are sources of free money that never need to be repaid, making them the most desirable form of financial assistance. As the cost of tuition continues to rise, so does the importance of finding them.
Conducting a successful funding search takes time and effort, so start early and investigate all possibilities. The information below provides guidance to candidates seeking assistance specific to the counseling field. You will find scholarship and grant options for different specialty areas, as well as information on alternative funding sources.
Before you begin your search, it is important to know the difference between a scholarship and a grant. They both provide students with tuition money that does not have to be repaid, but the qualifications for each differ significantly.
A grant is typically awarded based on financial need, while most scholarships are merit-based. This means that they are awarded to students based on academic achievement, class rank, demonstrated leadership, and other selection criteria.
However, there are scholarships out there based on financial need too. These awards, often called need-based scholarships, are designed to help financially disadvantaged students by considering family income, the number of siblings in school simultaneously, and cost of living.
Merit-based awards are often referred to as school-based individual scholarships. These awards are based academic achievement, leadership potential, personal accomplishments, and other selection criteria. Contact each school’s financial aid office to learn more about campus-wide and departmental scholarships options.
Scholarships and grants are competitive, and the application process is time-consuming. The research process alone takes time. That’s why it’s important to start your search AND the application process sooner rather than later to avoid missing out on funding opportunities. By starting the process early, you’ll also avoid the stress. Paying for college is already expensive — and costs continue to climb each year.
Before you start your search (and the application process), it’s important to address scholarship and financial aid scams. Unfortunately, scams are common, and target college students looking for aid. But you can protect your wallet by knowing what to look for and staying informed.
Keep these red flags in mind when searching for scholarships:
The steps outlined below will help you streamline your search, and make the application process both easier and faster.
Many companies and professional organizations offer scholarship and grant programs for qualifying students. The key to finding these programs is to think broadly:
It’s also a good idea to ask your teachers, school counselors, and current employer(s) for scholarship leads. Sometimes employers offer some form of tuition assistance. Tuition reimbursement is often a contractual arrangement between employer and employee, with the understanding that the employee successfully completes an approved program and remains on active payroll.
There are additional scholarships programs available for graduate study in counseling. By navigating the Internet and contacting colleges and universities, you’ll learn more about funding opportunities as well as work-study programs that will help alleviate the cost of higher education.
In addition to general scholarships, financial awards for areas of specialization in counseling are available. There are awards for rehabilitation, addiction, marriage and family therapy, and many other counseling-degree programs:
Make sure to contact the schools you wish to attend to inquire about potential funding opportunities. And if possible, meet with an advisor or financial aid counselor to determine what you qualify for and how to apply.
The Pell Grant is the most common grant distributed by the federal government. This award is given only to undergraduate students working towards their first bachelor’s degree. Other sources of funding are available for graduate students, and it is in your best interest to find those sources.
To qualify for a grant, you’ll need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines your eligibility for federal grants, and some schools do not participate in the program. The FAFSA also determines the amount of money you’re expected to contribute toward the price of attending a postsecondary institution, and whether you qualify for work-study and other federal aid programs. You’ll need to complete a FAFSA for each year that you’ll be enrolled in school.
If you’re starting to feel discouraged about the rising costs of education, the good news is that with an advanced degree, doors will open. Your chances for professional growth will only increase, along with the potential to earn more. To better illustrate our point, check out the graphic below, as it shows average earnings and unemployment rates by education level: (Source: Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education.)
As you can see in the graphic, there’s the potential to earn over $80,000 a year with a master’s degree. What’s more, the chances of unemployment are much less.
Additional information about grants and scholarships can be found by visiting Student Aid on the Web. There you can read about other government funding programs as well as search and apply for several financial awards.
If you do not qualify for scholarships or grants, loan forgiveness programs offer many debt elimination options for graduates. School counselors, mental health therapists, and many other fields can apply for these opportunities through various foundations and organizations.
Licensed professional counselors may be eligible for up to $50,000 in student loan repayment under the National Health Services Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment Program.
Under the Federal Perkins Loan program, a portion of a loan can be cancelled for full-time service as a school counselor in a designated elementary or secondary school serving students from low-income families. Students who become full-time counselors, and meet specific criteria, may qualify for cancellation.
These scholarships, grants, and loan forgiveness programs are by no means exhaustive. Additional funding options are out there, and through diligent research and hard work, your efforts will “pay off.” Finding free money helps close the gap between the financial aid package and your personal financial contribution.
The first step is done for you – our list of accredited schools will help you find the right program to advance your career.
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