College Connect: Scholarship Savvy

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By Mariah Hickman

You chose the college of your dreams, sent in what appears to be one of the best and brightest applications along with recommendations, an entrance essay that would knock the socks off of any college recruiter, paid your application fee and received that grand news that you had been accepted.

But there is one major detail the goes unnoticed in your moment of joy and achievement: the price tag.

It is no secret that a college education is expensive, and the cost is increasing each year. In fact “tuition and fees have risen 538% since 1985,” according to Bloomberg Business News and there are no signs that higher education costs will be falling, or even slowing, soon. Supply and demand exists in every market, and higher education is of no exception. There are simple ways, however, to keep borrowing to a minimum and reduce student debt.

Whether you are an incoming freshman, continuing sophomore, or an up-and-coming graduating senior, the search for scholarships should never stop. Loans are convenient, but free money is all the better. By word of US News & World Report, student loan debt is approaching $30,000. So the question is how to avoid that bitter bill at the end of their college.

David Page, vice president for enrollment management at Dillard University, has a few suggestions.

1) If you MUST borrow, ONLY borrow what is necessary. Student debt is unavoidable for many students. Don’t borrow for recreational purposes.

2) Live within your means. There is nothing wrong with on campus housing. Don’t be so quick to sign a lease. Use campus housing to avoid climbing debt.

3) Diligently search for scholarships. You might not be awarded every scholarship you apply for, but the ones you are awarded are worth the patience – and the work.

4) Small scholarships add up; go after them. $500 may seem worth little compared to a large tuition bill, but that $500 may be the difference between getting a biology book for the semester or not. Don’t overlook small-dollar scholarships.

“Any scholarship that is unclaimed is a good scholarship overlooked,” said Page.

Efforts to afford higher education are never in vain. Look for money that is calling your name. The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) grants, scholarships and fellowships site (, which primarily provides support for African Americans but not exclusively; use The College Board’s Big Future scholarships site (, and try college scholarship sites such as Fast Web ( Some local businesses, churches, companies and service organizations have money to give away, too.

The search starts now.

Mariah Hickman is a rising sophomore at New Orleans’ Dillard University, a historically black university in New Orleans, Louisiana. Originally from Minneapolis, MN, Mariah is a mass communications major with a focus in multimedia journalism and a minor in English.

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