If you went to a student rally on any campus I’ve ever been to and yelled out, “Free Money! Free Money!” You would be immediately swarmed by a throng of students and would very likely be trampled while onlookers shook their heads at the craziness of it all. Amazingly enough every semester there are individuals, businesses, charities of all kinds and representatives of post-secondary institutions around North America that give out free money and then watch as a mere trickle of applicants come in.
My alma mater is the University of Manitoba and I received quite a bit of free money from them. Universities and Colleges have code words for free money like scholarships, grants, bursaries, financial aid etc. The bottom line is that this is money that you would otherwise have to pay out of your own pocket (likely after hours of low-wage labour or humiliating begging from the parents), and you now never have to pay back. After checking the U of M’s Financial Aid website the U of M itself gives out over 3 million dollars in financial aid every year. This doesn’t include the millions of dollars in private scholarships, grants and bursaries that are also out there.
Free Money From Scholarships
In my personal experience I received multiple scholarships/bursaries from Sport Manitoba, two financial institutions, two unions, a provincial grant, my old high school (grad awards), coaching associations, my university residence, a couple from the University of Manitoba, and most significantly a rather large ($5,000) sum of money from the Federal Government under the millennium program. In all, I likely received roughly $15,000 in free money. I achieved good-but-not-great grades (I finished with a 4.0 on a 4.5 scale). I was a decent high school athlete, but nothing extraordinary. Instead, I did build a solid volunteering resume, and was proactive in searching out opportunities to apply for all kinds of financial aid. Anything that required a little bit of extra work, such as a 400 word essay was perfect for me because I knew that would severely cut down on the applicants.
Why Work? Take Advantage of the Free Money From Scholarships
For some reason students find it easier to work hundreds of hours at minimum wage jobs, than to spend a couple hours searching for scholarship opportunities online. I believe this stems from students in general just not making efficient use of their spare time. After writing and reading all day the last thing most students want to do is sit down and type out another 400 words. The good news is that now that you’re aware of this, you can take advantage of it!
Spend some time looking up your University’s financial aid packages. If you have a student loan of any kind you likely qualify for thousands more in funding due to your status as a ‘high needs’ individual. In fact, if I knew then what I know now, I would have found a way to apply for student loans just so I was eligible for many of the bursaries that go with the status. I know so many people who worked their butts off all summer, only to see their less ambitious friends get all kinds of free money thrown at them to even the score come September.
Get Free Money From Your School’s Financial Aid Department
A great place to start looking for all of this financial aid is using that outstanding tool known as a search engine. Check out the pages of your parents’ places of work, they often have bursaries that are designated for employees’ children. Your place of work, where you do banking, any clubs you or your parents belong to, any sports administrations or a hundred and one other entities you might be connected to in some capacity are probably looking to help you with your education. After you look a few of these up, go down to your local Financial Aid office. It is probably located in some deep, dark corner of your administration building. It is likely staffed with underpaid students and will be slightly unorganized. Have patience, new financial aid opportunities arrive daily, and often those in the know are the only ones that make the deadlines. If you show a little empathy and become friends with the people that run things I can guarantee it will benefit you at some point (think of people that serve your food, or the secretaries at various places, you NEED to make friends with these kind of people…Watch the movie Fight Club for further reference).
Wait, If I Fill Out This 10 Minute Form I’ll Get Free Money?
Most of the bursaries, grants, and scholarships will require you to fill out an application and write a short paper to represent yourself. Be creative. The sooner you learn to creatively market yourself (this is adult talk for making yourself sound good no matter what it takes) the sooner you will begin to get rewarded in life. During your post-secondary years and immediately after, you will learn the person that usually gets the job or grant is not usually the most qualified, but the one that ‘jumps off the page’ at the overworked and under-motivated administrator. For example: you didn’t just coach grade 6 basketball, instead you assumed a leadership position in a teamwork setting while giving back to your community. It really isn’t rocket science, just basic creativity. The best part is there are probably free services to help you with application and resume-type of stuff on campus. If you can’t find them, ask one of your starving English major friends, and they will probably help you out for a bottle of their choice. If nothing else, look up that old high school English teacher and bug them. Play up their ego a little bit, they live for that (I’m kind of an authority on the subject, being a teacher and all).
Apply for Free Money Today!
When is the best time to apply? Right now! If you’re in high school, congratulations you hit the jackpot! Most scholarships and bursaries are available right at graduation. If you missed out on that pot of gold, don’t fret, there is free money thrown people at all stages of education. Remember that any organization you have some connection to may have a cheque waiting for you. Do the math (I’m not a Math teacher here so bear with me), if you spend three hours researching grants, and apply for 10 of them (taking about 1 hour each) and you end up with only one measly $500 cheque (I would be willing to bet you’ll get more than this) that’s still over $38 dollars an hour! Past awards look great on the application for new awards, and look even better when your resume hits the desk of future CEOs everywhere, so don’t wait, get started today! Free money is good money!
Do any of you have any great stories or tips about free money in the post-secondary world?