Scholarships and grants can slash the cost of attending a private university by nearly half. They also can reduce the average cost of attending a state college by almost 40%, on average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Colleges and universities routinely offer students “financial aid” packages that include some scholarships and grants, but big loans as well. Scholarships and grants are much better because they are gifts that don’t have to be paid back, unlike loans.

Before signing up for a student loan, exhaust all opportunities to secure as many scholarships or grants as you can. There are thousands of them out there, ranging in size from $250 to $40,000, but they can be hard to find because they come from a multitude of sources — community groups, employers, individuals, nonprofits,…

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