Image from Stocksnap.

Image from Stocksnap.

Community college has slowly transitioned in the minds of Americans from a shameful place full of “dumb” people, to a smart place of transitioning into a four-year university. As a result, more and more students are choosing community college for their post-secondary education option. However, the lower cost is still an issue for many students, believe it or not. Tuition, books, supplies, transportation, and additional student fees can all add up to a heftier sum than expected.

Whether you come from an underprivileged family or a slightly more well-to-do family, it’s important that you know the whole cost of your education. If your financial aid falls a little short, there are scholarships that can help you fill in the gap.

Your local community college will probably have a rolling scholarship application open for all students on its Financial Aid website. For example, Mt. San Antonio College offers a wide variety of scholarships you can apply for on one general application portal. Awards are based on need, major, and/or education goals. There is definitely something for every student.

It’s also a smart idea to join and be an active member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, the premier honor society for two-year college students. When you join PTK, you are instantly eligible to apply for member-exclusive scholarships amounting over 87 million dollars.

There are a number of great scholarships community college students can apply for outside of campus, believe it or not. Here are three prestigious picks from the bunch:

1. The Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team

This scholarship, administered by PTK, is an option for students who demonstrate academic excellence and community service. According to Coca-Cola’s website, 200 stipends amounting up to $237,500 are awarded annually across four tiers of recipients in varying amounts: Fifty New Century Gold Scholars are awarded $1,500, fifty Silver Scholars are awarded $1,250, and fifty Bronze Scholars are awarded $1,000.

2. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

This scholarship makes it possible for approximately 85 JKCF scholars to pursue their bachelor’s degree at a four-year institution. Although the award won’t apply as long as scholars are still enrolled in community college, it will be a huge help in the long run. The award is intended to cover a significant share of the student’s educational expenses – including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees. Details and specific eligibility requirements can be found on the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation website.

3. Hispanic Scholarship Fund

If you are a community college student of Hispanic heritage with firm plans to transfer to a four-year institution to earn your bachelor’s degree, this might be the scholarship for you. Awards range from $500 to $5,000, and only full-time students in pursuit of their first degree are eligible to apply. Students pursuing a degree in the STEM field are highly welcomed.

There are many more options open for community college student than these three I have listed. On a side note, you don’t have to be a straight-A student to net scholarships. Many scholarship sponsors consider various qualifications besides an outstanding GPA as their award criteria. As a matter of fact, there are a handful of unconventional scholarships offered, such as ones for charity work, photography, dance and speaking. Plus, community college students are eligible for most scholarships out there anyway, so go on ahead and apply for the ones that best fit your grades, needs and talents. Who knows, you can be attending community college without pulling a single penny out of your pocket.

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