Creative ways to pay for college

College Financial Aid & Scholarships
And you'd be surprised at who is offering to give what. Sharon Williams, college counselor at Elgin Academy is known to help her students find a way to pay for college.

It's probably more important than ever to talk about all the different ways to find financial aid. Tuition continues to go up, and there's a really tough economy right now.

In addition to the government loans, you'll want to use the Internet to check what else is available. We have a list of website that Sharon uses with her students:


There are also unusual scholarships out there, including one for tall people.

Paramount Tall Club of Chicago -- $750 to a student who meets height requirement (males 6'2", females 5'10")

Scholar Athlete Milk Moustache of the Year Award -- $7,500 scholarships with essay on "How milk has helped in my academics and/or athletics."

Gates Millennium Scholarship -- full tuition for students with 3.3/4.0 GPA, leadership skills and significant financial need

Suggestions / tips for families searching for scholarships and financial aid

Broaden college search to include second or even third tier colleges that still offer merit scholarships

Check with colleges they've applied to or are planning to apply to see what institutional or departmental scholarships are available

Peruse school bulletin boards, communicate frequently with counselors and teachers to learn about local, community, school-based scholarships

Use on-line sites like

Pay careful attention to deadlines, especially if applying for federal aid programs

Don't wait to see if your child will be accepted before communicating with financial aid offices

Consider beginning at a community college or a commuter school

Avoid scholarship scams and read the fine print on loan applications. General rule – you don't have to pay for good financial aid information

Are things still tight or have loans loosened

Federal loans: The type most people have even if the loan comes from a bank, everyone will get the loans they are eligible for. The biggest issue that some will experience is that the lender they used last year is not making loans this year. In those cases, students will have to choose a different lender. Banks like to make student loans because the federal government guarantees the loans -- there's no danger that the loan won't be paid back, even if the economy gets worse and the borrowers are unemployed. That makes federal student loans an especially desirable investment in today's shaky economy.

That said, the current lack of liquidity in the credit markets, if it goes on for too long, would effect more and more lenders. Fortunately, Congress has taken action to provide liquidity to the federal student loan program by allowing the U.S. Department of Education to purchase loans made by banks. Furthermore, if an eligible student at an eligible school can't get a federal loan, there are intermediaries empowered to make "lender of last resort" loans. In addition, students and parents can get the loan funds directly from the federal government through their school's participation in the Direct Loan program.

In short, while some lenders are scrambling to fill a financing gap, the system is quite secure for students. That's why we can say with confidence: everyone who qualifies for and wants a federal student loan will get one.

Private loans: About eight percent of undergraduate students take out private or state-sponsored loans that are not federally guaranteed. Borrowers with good credit records are not likely to experience any problem in getting an education loan, except that the number of lenders is fewer, and the interest rate will be higher.

Students or parents with no credit history or a poor credit history will have more difficulty getting a private student loan than they did in the past, especially at certain types of schools.

Alternative / Interesting scholarships

Hispanic Scholarship Fund -- several scholarships, many with internships

Gates Millennium Scholarship -- full tuition for students with minimum 3.3/4.0 GPA, demonstrated leadership skills and significant financial need.

Phi Theta Kappa / International Honor Society of the Two Year College -- about 650 4-year and senior colleges offer scholarships to students who earned acceptance into this organization

Paramount Tall Club of Chicago - $750 scholarship to a student who meets their height requirement and plans to attend a 2 or 4 year college -- males 6'2", females 5'10"

Illinois AMVETS Scholarships:
-Service Foundation Scholarship- $3000
-Sad Sacks Nursing Scholarships - amount varies
-Junior ROTC Scholarship - $3000
-Ladies Auxiliary Scholarships - $500

Auxiliary of Good Shepherd Hospital - amount varies, must attend an Illinois college and plan to major in medicine or a health-related field

Scholar Athlete Milk Moustache of the Year (SAMMY) Award - $7,500 scholarship based on athletic excellence, academic achievement, leadership and citizen/community service, essay on "How Milk Has Helped In My Academics and/or Athletics."

Patrick Kerr Skateboard Scholarship - $1000 - $5000 scholarship for skateboard activists with a 2.5/4.0 gpa.

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