As a college student living on campus, your dorm is your place of solace. You want it to be uplifting and comfortable, a room where you feel calm and collected, and space where you can recharge your batteries on low-energy days.
The decor you choose for your dorm room shapes the overall vibe. Personal preferences and needs vary greatly, but generally, you want it to look pretty and stylish.
So in this article, I’m sharing the top trendy dorm room ideas for decorating this year.
Made infamous by Coachella, the bohemian style embraces eccentricity, individualism, and creativity.
The laid-back aesthetic incorporates natural elements, bold colors, elaborate patterns, and second-hand pieces. The color palette ranges from earthy tones to vibrant, eye-catching shades.
At its core, boho style could be summarized as electric.
It's perfect for free spirits with an artistic streak. And for those who feel inspired to follow their heart when choosing decor pieces!
Let’s look at some specific decorating ideas that will help you capture this ambiance in your college dorm.
Influenced by the macramé crazed '70s, bohemian style and macramé accents go hand-in-hand. They're practically synonymous.
The beauty of macramé is in its versatility. With an incredible array of patterns, materials, and color combinations—the possibilities are endless. There's nothing you can't macramé!
Decorative wall hangings and hanging planters are but a few of many groovy ideas.
Should you ever find yourself in a crafting mood, macramé is not only easy to learn but also fun to DIY!
An area rug can do WONDERS to transform an uninviting, move-in-day dorm room into a space that feels like your home away from home.
If you're seeking a grounding presence you may lean towards a rug made from a stylish natural material, such as jute. But if you want more pep in your step, a colorfully designed rug bursting with personality might be the energetic aura you're after.
Wherever you land, a rug will add texture, warmth, and much-needed coziness.
Rugs can be pricey, buuuut you can save some coin by shopping around.
Stay under budget by cruising flea markets, garage sales, swap meets, vintage shops, and local online marketplaces (OfferUp is popular in my area). HomeGoods is another great place to check, their selection of rugs is always changing and I find their prices are usually reasonable.
Decorating your walls with vinyl records is very trendy among the college crowd. It's a fun way to let your artistic side out to play!
This type of decor appears straightforward, but there are many ways to go about it.
Will you express yourself by showcasing your taste in music, or will you curate records based upon a particular look? Do you want to display the record, the record jacket adorned with the album art, or both?
You could even paint them for added personal flair!
Don't worry about messing up or changing your mind later because vinyl records are plentiful and inexpensive. Find some at a local record store, a thrift shop, stored in your parent's attic, at a garage sale, on eBay, or on Etsy.
Round mirrors are very much in right now. This fact of interior design cannot be understated.
From statement to accent pieces, the addition of a circular mirror (or three) adds softness to an otherwise angular space. The curved, organic shape helps balance the sharp lines and edges found in your average college dorm.
Including a round mirror in your decorating plans is an easy way to brighten your room and give it a sense of airiness.
Boho style is essentially a reflection of what makes you happy. So I'd say this decor idea fits the bill. (;
The plant parent aesthetic is centered around all things plants. Acquiring them, raising them, and basking in the joyous rays of plant parenthood!
As far as decorating, neutral tones and earthy colors comprise the foundation of the color scheme. Shades of yellow and blue are often present to compliment the greenery of the foliage.
Below are some decor ideas to help inspire all you aspiring plant moms and dads out there.
Faux vines are easily one of the biggest dorm room trends of 2021.
Also referred to as ivy garland, decorating with these babies is a simple, yet highly effective way to enhance your space.
You might hang curtain vines at the head of your bed for a nature-inspired headboard. Or you could strategically hang some in the corner to create a dreamy overhead canopy.
You can get as creative as you want with them! With decorative vines, your bedroom at college will have the feel of a fresh, tranquil oasis–minus the hassle of controlling actual vine growth.
I really love the faux vines that integrate fairy lights!
The appeal of a dorm room full of greenery goes way beyond just the aesthetic.
Learning how to take care of your plant children and watching them grow is a rewarding experience in itself. So not only do they liven up your space, but they also have positive effects on your personal well-being!
Here are some low effort, high reward houseplants to consider as a student…
#1 - Succulents - SO hot right now. And with so many different types and their ease of care, they're an obvious choice for any fledgling plant parent. Here are some tips on how to successfully care for indoor succulents.
TIP: If, for whatever reason, live plants aren't in the cards–take a trip to your local dollar store. You can usually score cute little faux succulents there!
#2 - Pothos - touted as a plant that's almost impossible to kill. These plants are very tolerant of all types of lighting conditions, even artificial lights, making them perfect for dorm life. See this care guide for more info on this trailing, leafy plant.
#3 - Tradescantia - richly colored and beginner-friendly! Also known as the wandering jew plant or inch plant, this flora is fast-growing and easy to look after. This article will show you how to best care for one.
#4 - Air Plant - no dirt required! Ever since I stumbled upon the existence of air plants I've thought they're just the neatest thing. They're extremely low maintenance and so fun to style as decor. See this care guide for all the details on air plants.
Gotta have somewhere to store and display all those plant babies!
Because as your plant collection grows, your options for placement shrink. Open space becomes a scarcity and it would be helpful to be able to use your desk sometimes.
The solution: a trendy, dedicated plant shelf.
Are there any unused corners in your dorm room? Fill the blank space with a ladder-style shelf or a more compact multi-tiered shelf like this. The pop of concentrated greenery will instantly declutter your bedroom and refresh the space.
The flower garland is another botanical motif to have on your radar this year.
Cheerful and pretty, this hanging decor is perfect for injecting different colors and textures into your college dorm. Adorned on even the blandest white walls flower garland is a bewitching statement piece.
Best of all:
It’s dead simple to make your own decorative flower chain using fresh or faux blooms. This article will show you what I mean, it walks you through the steps to create a beautiful flower wall like the one pictured below.
Imagine how beautiful something similar would look in your room!
As I’m sure you noticed, there’s an overlap between the boho aesthetic and plantcore aesthetic. Decorating isn’t a science, so go with whatever’s calling your name!
Lean into decor pieces you like and ditch the rest. Stick to one style, mix and match, or come up with your own look altogether. The choices are all yours to make and that’s the fun of it.
I hope these trendy college dorm ideas helped awaken your inner interior designer!
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Pell Grants, let’s first clarify some of the basics.
What is a Pell Grant, anyways?
Pell Grants are subsidies given out by the U.S. federal government to help students from lower-income families pay for college. Unlike normal loans, Pell Grants usually do not have to be repaid.
However, there are a few reasons why your Pell Grant may have to be repaid, such as if you withdraw from your program early or if you receive outside scholarships or grants that reduce your need for federal student aid.
The purpose of the Pell Grant is to ensure that “higher education remains accessible to all”; therefore, Pell Grant recipients must prove that they fall into a specified level of financial need.
To determine your level of financial need, you will be required to fill out the FAFSA (free application for student financial aid). For reference, the FAFSA should get filled out the first time when you are a high school senior, and you must reapply for every year you are enrolled in college in order to receive funds.
The process of filling out the FAFSA will then determine your eligibility for the grant.
Generally, the majority of Pell Grant recipients come from households with total incomes of less than $25,000 per year.
The amount of the grant can vary from year to year; for the 2020-2021 year (July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021), the maximum amount any student can receive is $6,345.
According to Studentaid.gov, the amount you can expect to receive depends on a number of factors, such as:
For more information on how the amounts are determined, visit this link to view the tables for the 2020-2021 award year (calculated by the U.S. Department of Education).
Once you receive a Pell Grant, in order to maintain it (aka, keep the money!), you must maintain your enrollment in a U.S. undergraduate program.
Additionally, you must make sure to fill out the FAFSA form each year you are in school, which ensures that you are still eligible for federal student aid.
More information on the FAFSA is available here.
Now that you know everything there is to know about the Pell Grant, if you believe you may be eligible, follow the steps below to apply!
With that, I'll leave it to you. Happy applying!
Luckily, you've come to the right place!
In addition to the resources on my blog about all things financial aid and paying for college, I also have a great scholarship search engine tool that you can use to find awesome opportunities to apply for.
There are scholarships out there of all kinds (ranging from easy to competitive), for students of all years (think: high school juniors to graduate students), and for all amounts (from $500 awards to full-rides).
Also, if you want to stay updated on the latest scholarship opportunities, I recommend you check out and throw me a follow on Instagram, where I post about awesome scholarships on the reg!
Studying abroad, which basically means studying in a country at an institution that is not in your home country, is a great way for college students to experience new cultures, lifestyles, and places while still having the opportunity to take courses to move closer to earning a college degree.
Before I even enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I knew that studying abroad for a semester was something that I wanted to do. And luckily, I was able to find a program that fit my major and my needs, and ultimately make it happen!
In the spirit of optimism that COVID situations start to mitigate and consequently, study abroad programs resume, below you will find my guide, which answers the most common questions on studying abroad and on everything that you need to know to do it successfully.
Note: This Q/A and guide was written specifically from the perspective of a US resident/student relocating out of the US. If you are a non-US resident looking to study in the US, check out this post!
Junior year is the most popular year for college students to study abroad.
This definitely makes a lot of sense, considering you will probably spend your entire freshman year and at least part of your sophomore year taking general education classes. This means that by the time junior year rolls around, you will have not only likely completed most of your general credits, but you will also at that point have chosen a major, allowing you to get specific with the program and courses that you take while you’re abroad.
The other “pro” of studying abroad as a junior is that you have the first two years of college to get acclimated, spend time on campus, and go through the process of researching and preparing to actually go abroad.
Personally, I studied abroad during my second semester of junior year, and I think it was just the right time. I was beginning to take more classes that were specific to my major, and I had been on campus for just over two years, so a semester away studying in and exploring a different place sounded appealing.
Plus, the majority of my friends who were also planning on studying abroad were going during that semester, so it made sense because then we would all be away together and all come back together - much easier for coordinating leases and things like that!
Junior year isn’t the only year that you can study abroad, though. I have heard of students enrolling in programs during their senior year, sophomore year, and surprisingly, even for the first semester of their freshman year!
To me, the clear downside of studying abroad in your first or final year of school is that these are the semesters where you are respectively just getting used to and wrapping up your college experience. So, they are probably going to be the ones where it would be easier to be physically on campus so you can figure everything out.
Ultimately, the time (and semester) that you go abroad will likely become more clear for you once you have researched the programs that you are interested in and read more about how the courses that are offered will fit into your path for completing courses required to graduate.
Speaking of researching those programs...
This is a very valid question. I remember at the beginning of my first semester of sophomore year, I had started speaking with friends who were telling me that they were starting to look into program options for studying abroad the following spring.
And I was like, “Um, what? Where do I find this information?!”
Now that I am a veteran with the study abroad process, I can share with you the two main options you have in terms of finding study abroad programs to apply for.
Option one is to do research on the programs that are offered directly through your school. To find these, you can start with a simple Google search such as “[Insert School Name] + study abroad programs”.
For me, since I was in the business school, I knew that I wanted to look at study abroad options that were available directly through the UW-Madison School of Business. So, this is what my initial search looked like (and you can of course modify it to accommodate your major/area of study):
While studying abroad is an experience that will surely enrich your life in many ways outside of just academics, the most important thing that you will want to get squared away is finding a program that is a good fit for you in terms of offering the classes (or equivalents) that you will need to graduate.
The last thing you want is to go abroad for a semester, take a bunch of classes, only to return to find out that none of them translated into valuable credits to put towards your graduation!
One major upside of choosing a program that runs directly through your school (which is what I did) is that you can enroll with a higher level of certainty that the program (and its courses) will translate into valuable credits that you can add towards helping you graduate on time.
Notice though that I said “a higher level of certainty”. I want to be clear that there are programs that might be offered through your school that are not necessarily compatible with your specific area of study and course track.
So, even when you’re researching the programs that are offered through your school, you will need to do some additional research to make sure that the classes that are offered through that specific program will translate into credits that you can use.
If you’re not totally sure about the specifics of a program and whether it is the right fit for you academically/course-wise, my best suggestion is to reach out to the contact or person who is the representative for the program to inquire further.
Option two of places to look for study abroad programs are programs that are outside of your college or university. You can locate these types of programs by just googling “Study Abroad Programs + [insert your major or desired study location].
One example of an external study abroad program is Spanish Studies. They offer programs in Spanish-speaking countries like Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Argentina.
From my experience, the most common reason why students choose to go this route is when they know that they want to study in a specific location, but their school doesn’t offer its own program to send students there. So if, for example, you really want to study abroad in Argentina, but your school doesn’t have a program that goes there, this is where you would seek out Spanish Studies.
However, my advice if you go this route is to be aware of the extra legwork and potential risks that might come with ensuring that an external program aligns with your academic requirements.
The answer to the question of where you can study abroad is that it depends on which route you go in the section above.
Are you only interested in studying abroad through the programs that are offered by your institution? If so, then your options of where you can go will be limited to those destinations.
Keep in mind though that most school’s study abroad programs will have partnerships with universities in the most popular destinations. So, if you have your heart set on Florence, Italy, and you attend a school with a decently robust study abroad program, the odds are in your favor that you will be able to go there.
Back to the topic at hand! If, conversely, you're okay with researching programs and options that are offered outside of your school then the options are endless!
Now, the question of where you should go is a whole different ball game.
If I was pretending to be a college sophomore and approached anyone I know who studied abroad to ask their opinion of where I should go, chances are, they would say the name of the city that THEY studied in.
What I’m trying to say is that if you start asking around talking to students who have done certain programs, you will most definitely get some biased answers.
So, my advice on how to navigate this process is as follows:
From my experience, the places that were the most popular among the people I knew included England, Ireland, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Germany, and Israel,
However, I also knew people who went to Argentina, South Africa, Japan, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands.
I know that a little ways up the page, I told you that you should steer clear of choosing a study abroad destination based on someone else’s opinion because they will likely be biased for any number of reasons.
However, once you have narrowed your list and are looking to choose between a few places, this is a point in which I would actually recommend reaching out to anyone you may know who studied in those places.
When I was doing study abroad research myself, I got coffee with a mutual friend who had studied abroad in Copenhagen, to learn more about his experience living and attending school there, and to get insights on what was great and what wasn't.
In my opinion, there are quite a few benefits of studying abroad apart from the obvious pro of getting to take classes in a new and cool place.
Starting with some of the benefits that I personally can relate to…
When I went abroad to England (through a Wisconsin program), I had a few friends who were on it too, but no one who I was extremely close to. So, there were plenty of days on my program where I took it upon myself to go out solo and explore places that I wanted to see and experience.
If you have any experience using LinkedIn, or if you’ve read my eBook, you probably know about the alumni tool and how cool it is. Being able to add another school to your LinkedIn profile will help you to have a reason to connect with people who work at companies you’re interested in that also attended that school. Plus, if you are ever looking to move/work abroad, having previous abroad experience on your resume/LinkedIn can be helpful.
While I was abroad in London, which is arguably one of the most American-like abroad destinations (especially given that there is no language barrier) I still was able to learn about and adapt to a more European way of life while I was there and traveling around to various countries. I met people in classes who were also international students (but not from America) so that was another cool part of the experience.
Because I was abroad in London on a program that was specific to UW-Madison students, it gave me the opportunity to expand my friend group of people who were actually going to my school back home that I hadn’t even known! If you are like me and you go to a big school, this can be pretty funny and cool.
I know I already mentioned becoming more independent, but with this I mean that by being in a new place, I was more willing to try new foods, explore new places, and adopt new hobbies. Before I went abroad, I didn’t like shopping that much, but now I’m a big thrifter!
One POTENTIAL setback that you might encounter from studying abroad is if the classes that you take while you’re there don’t transfer easily back to your home institution. However, with enough careful research and double-checking, this is something that you can easily avoid.
On top of that, the only other possible setback to studying abroad is that it can be expensive. Similar to the cost of attendance for your home institution, you will have to pay tuition and fees and room and board.
But on top of that, it’s likely that while you’re studying abroad you will want to eat out at restaurants, take part in fun experiences and excursions, and travel around or outside of your country to visit the sites. Unfortunately, these things all cost extra money on top of the normal costs that you would have in a semester.
You definitely don’t want to fly all the way over somewhere only to then figure out that you don’t have any extra money budgeted to spend on enjoying yourself while you’re there. So, before you bite the bullet and sign up for a program, you will want to compare the different program’s costs so you can see which ones fit your budget best.
This leads me to the next common question...
You’ll find that some study abroad programs are more expensive than your home institution, some are cheaper, and some are just about the same. Depending on the amount that you currently pay in tuition, the cost of a program might surprise you in a good way or in a not-so-good way.
According to Education First, most study abroad programs cost between $10,000 and $15,000. However, this doesn’t include things such as flights to and from the destination, meals, and pocket money.
Luckily, to answer the second part of this question, YES! There are tons of scholarship opportunities of all kinds that are available for students who are looking for money to study abroad. A few of the most well-known scholarships that are specific to study abroad include the Boren Awards and The Gilman International Scholarship Program.
However, there are so many more scholarships out there that you can find by searching through the Access Scholarships database, looking on Google, and of course, doing research on your school’s website to see what scholarships they offer for study abroad.
Overall, in my opinion, studying abroad is a great experience that has a ton of benefits in addition to giving you the opportunity to take classes and study in a different country. While the process itself may not always be straightforward, hopefully, this guide has cleared up some of the major questions that you may have been wondering about the process!
If you’re even slightly curious about or interested in potentially studying abroad at some point during your undergraduate academic career, I highly encourage you to just start by doing some research. This means going onto your school’s website, and reaching out to your academic advisor to see if you can make it align with your goals.
If you’re reading this, it’s more likely than not that you have committed to college, so, congrats! It was only a few years ago (okay, maybe like 6?) that I went through the college admissions process for myself, and I can still remember how excited I was to finally commit to my top school, The University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Like many processes though, once you have made the decision to commit to a school, the work and planning certainly doesn’t end - there’s more that must be done! So, in this post, I’m going to outline the 8 things I did, that you should definitely do, once you’ve committed to college.
This was definitely the first thing I did after committing to UW.
I was so excited, that before I had even put down the deposit, I had ordered a hoodie and hat from the bookstore to celebrate!
This step is of course not totally necessary, but I think it’s a fun way to celebrate your decision to commit to college because it gets you in the spirit!
This is one thing that most students, in their excitement of having finished the application process and committing to a college, tend to forget about.
However, it’s an important (and courteous) thing to do. Why? Well, since your commitment to your college of choice solidifies that you are not going to attend the other schools you were accepted to, by letting them know that you won’t be attending, they can open up your spot to someone who was waitlisted.
The process for declining acceptances looks different for each school.
Some schools may include information in your acceptance letter or on your online portal about how to decline admission, whereas others may have a form somewhere on their website that you can fill out. If you’re unsure of where to look, I suggest googling something along the lines of “how to decline admission for [insert school name]”.
Naturally, now that you have verbally committed to the school of your choice, you also are going to have to make a deposit to confirm your enrollment to officially solidify things. Similar to #1, there is definitely information on how you can go about doing this in your acceptance letter and/or on your application portal.
Enrollment deposit amounts vary, and can be anywhere from $100 to $1,000. Keep in mind that this deposit is usually non-refundable after a certain point, so if for any reason you decide to back out after your school’s deadline, there’s a good chance that this money won’t get returned to you.
Once you have confirmed your admission and officially committed to college, at some point in the spring or summer, you can expect to receive information about taking placement tests. Each school has a different policy for when these tests get taken and which ones you must take. However, if you are attending a 2 or 4-year college, it is likely that you will be required to take at least one.
These placement tests are used to help your school determine what level you are at in subjects such as math, English, foreign languages, etc, so that they can figure out which introductory level classes you should be starting out in.
After I committed to UW-Madison, I was sent information to sign up for a time slot to go to a local testing center and sit for a few different placement tests. If I remember correctly, I took one for math, English, and Italian. I am NOT good at math, so my score there did not place me out of absolutely anything. However, my English score, along with my AP scores, allowed me to place out of certain introductory-level English and writing classes, so that was ideal!
One other thing I should note about these placement tests is that they are not tests that you are expected to prepare or study for. While your score matters in terms of helping the school determine which classes you can start out in as a freshman, your scores aren’t used to determine scholarships or anything like that, so you can take a deep breath and chillax!
Things are certainly looking a bit different this year because of COVID, but usually, orientation is a time where incoming students gather on campus to start to get acquainted with everything you will need to know to have a successful transition from high school to college.
Orientation usually takes place over the summer and can be anywhere between a few days to a week long. Every school’s orientation is different, but most of them include advising sessions, informational Q&A sessions, and the chance for you to, of course, meet and interact with other incoming students.
I remember flying out to Madison, Wisconsin around the end of my senior year (I think it was in June or early July?) for orientation. I met a lot of people, which was definitely a little bit overwhelming, but the experience was definitely helpful because I had the opportunity to explore a bit more around campus when it was emptier (summer break). I also made my initial first-semester schedule during orientation.
Regardless of whether or not you can actually get on campus for orientation this year, I’m sure that your school will have lots of accessible resources and people that you can reach out to to have a valuable, albeit a different, orientation experience. Be sure to utilize everything that they send your way.
Now that you’ve committed to college, if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking about the next steps in terms of what life on campus is going to be like. And, a big part of life on campus for a lot of students is the dorming/roommate experience. If you have already decided that you want to go random, then you can probably skip this step, but if not, keep reading!
After I decided on UW, I joined a bunch of Facebook groups, GroupMe chats, and other online forums for the Class of 2020. These were a great way to meet incoming students who were in the same boat as me. Recent advancements in technology can certainly be used to your advantage to help you find a roommate.
Also, if you aren’t on it already, I recommend joining Zeemee. It’s an app designed to help high school seniors connect with other students (both high school and college level) and with schools themselves to learn more about them in a unique way. The app is basically a combo between Discord and a dating app, so you fill out your unique profile and you can mention on there if you are looking for a roommate. Super easy and fun!
I remember just chatting up different people, asking about their interests and what they liked doing in their free time, and other basic things like that. I eventually connected with a girl through some mutual friends, and since we both lived in NJ, we were able to meet up before confirming our decision to room together.
Along the same spectrum of searching for a roommate, I was also very eager to get to planning out what my dorm room would look like and how I wanted to decorate it. This part of the process, if you enjoy designing and online shopping, will probably be very fun and exciting for you, just as it was for me!
Before you go ahead and start ordering things galore, I suggest making some sort of spreadsheet or word document where you can write down all of the things you need and the things you already have, so that you don’t go buying things you don’t need. Lots of websites out there have checklists for moving to college, which are definitely helpful in making sure that you buy and pack everything that you need to live comfortably.
Also, one additional thing that you will want to consider is the logistics of buying things and moving in. Are you attending school somewhere where you can drive there and back, and easily fit most of the stuff in your car or a U-Haul? If you are attending school somewhere that is a long drive or flight away from where you currently live, then you will also want to keep that in mind.
Since I flew out to school (15-hour drive, no thank you!), I got a lot of my freshman year dorm things shipped directly to campus so that I wouldn’t have to pay additional shipping costs. I highly recommend you do the same, and plan in advance for this!
Back to the dorm room shopping. I recently updated my student deals page, to feature things such as dorm room essentials, and other fun stuff like that. Be sure to check it out so you don’t miss any of the must-haves!
This wouldn’t be a productive blog post if I didn’t plug the importance of still applying to scholarships even once you’ve committed to college! Depending on the financial aid package you received from your school, you may find that there are some gaps in terms of how much you were given and how much you are left to pay.
Luckily, scholarships are available to you even after you’ve graduated from high school and basically until you graduate from college or grad school! Be sure to head over to my scholarship search to find some great scholarships that you can apply to to help you shave some off of what you owe in tuition + fees.
Pro-tip: Get ahead by reading through my blog post on 50+ college scholarships!
I can still remember how relieved I was to be done with the college prep and application process because it was definitely a stressful time that felt like it would never end. I’m here to tell you that, at one point (whether it’s sooner or later), it WILL end, and then you can take some time to relax and enjoy yourself before jumping into a new chapter of academics and life!
Again, if you’re like me, you may feel the need to get going at warp speed to start working on the next big chapter/preparing for it after you’ve finished the admissions process. I highly suggest, if you can, to take a bit of a break if you can before jumping right into all of the college prep/dorm room things. You have been working so hard to get to where you are now, and you deserve a break!
On the opposite end of the spectrum, be sure that you don’t put important things off until too late during the summer. It’s all about finding the balance between giving yourself a rest and making sure that everything that needs to get done, still gets done, so that you can start off on the right foot.
A gap year is when a student takes a year off of school to pursue something that is generally not related to advancing their education through a degree. Students often choose to take them after graduating from high school but before enrolling in a higher ed institution.
However, there are also other times in which students might take a gap year, such as while in college, or after graduating from college but before enrolling in a master’s program or starting a full-time job.
In this post, I highlight everything you need to know about taking a gap year, from what goes down during it, to pros and cons, to common questions, and even a mini-interview with someone who is currently on one!
Also, read until the end to hear a little bit about my own thoughts on gap years, and to get more information on additional gap year-related reading.
There are lots of possibilities for things you can do to get the most out of taking a gap year.
A few of the most common activities that students choose to take part in include independent or structured traveling, volunteering, adventure activities, and obtaining work experience.
There are several reasons why a student might choose to take a gap year at any given time.
One popular reason students cite for taking a gap year from their education is to be able to gain unique life experiences. This could be through backpacking across a continent, performing service or volunteer work with an organization, learning a new language, or a myriad of other experiences.
With these types of life experiences, of course, comes learning about new cultures, meeting new people, and gaining life skills that can be helpful for future success.
Another common reason for taking a gap year is that it can be a great opportunity for students to gain work experience in the field they are interested in pursuing. This could be through a local apprenticeship, an internship abroad, or anything in between.
Students may also choose to take one for reasons other than personal and professional development; taking time off between high school and college to work a full-time job can be a viable option to earn some cash to help you out financially in terms of paying for your education.
Taking a gap year has proven to have positive effects on students’ development, academic performance and motivation, and maturity and independence.
In fact, according to the 2020 Gap Year Association survey of nearly 1,800 gap year participants, students indicated that the top three impacts of being in a program included:
A few additional pros include:
Another major benefit of taking a gap year is that it can allow you to recover from academic burnout, open you up creatively, and leave you feeling more motivated to get on campus (or return to campus) and hit the ground running.
Federal data from 2017 shows that at least ⅓ of college students choose a major and then change it at least once within three years.
What does this mean?
Well, if you’re someone who is perhaps indecisive about which major or career you want to pursue, then taking a gap year to get some work experience could be a great way to help reduce the likelihood of changing majors and running into problems with having to do extra semesters.
There are many pros to taking a gap year, as I have pointed out above. But, I’d be remiss to write a fully informative post on them without mentioning the cons.
I definitely think that, in order to be successful in taking a gap year and assimilating into an academic environment, you have to really have the motivation to do so. I know plenty of people who would take a gap year and never want to go back to school! You have to be the type of person who wouldn’t lose momentum after taking some time off.
A potential con of taking a gap year is that, if you don’t plan it out correctly, you could potentially end up wasting your time. The last thing you want is to take a gap year and end up not doing anything with it.
While this is certainly not always the case, taking a gap year has the potential to be an expensive endeavor. If you choose to go down the route of going with an organized program, or, if you don’t plan out your travels or endeavors in enough detail, you can easily end up spending more money than you originally planned. Watch out for this!
Q: If I want to take a gap year between high school and college, how does that impact the college admissions process?
A: Most schools will accept you and then give you the opportunity to defer your admission to the following year.
Because of this, and because it is much easier to go through the college admissions process as a senior in high school than having to do it during your gap year, most school counselors and higher ed admissions officers will encourage students who are planning on taking a gap year to apply for college before going on the gap year.
If you get accepted into a college or university and want to defer your admission, you usually have to send a letter to the admissions office discussing your request to defer admission and outlining what you plan to do during the gap year.
Q: Can I still be eligible for financial aid/scholarships if I take a gap year?
A: Yes! If you fill out the FAFSA and then decide to take a gap year, all you have to do is fill it out again the following year when you do get on campus. In terms of scholarships, some scholarships offered by the colleges and universities themselves can be deferred along with admission private scholarships, however, this definitely varies.
Many private scholarships have rules such as “student must be currently enrolled or planning to enroll within X months” - if this is the case, then if you do win a private scholarship, you can save it for when you go back to school and start paying off your tuition.
Q: What do college admissions committees think of gap years?
A: The phenomenon of taking productive gap years is becoming increasingly more popular nowadays. Because of this, you shouldn’t worry too much about a college admissions office frowning on your decision to take a gap year. In fact, lots of top schools encourage gap years, and some even have specific programs for students interested in taking them.
Let's be real. I can do all the research, write a whole post on everything you need to know about taking a gap year, and even give you my own thoughts and opinions on taking one.
However, I truly think that the most helpful perspective one can get when covering this topic is the perspective of someone who is actually currently on a gap year herself.
So, I briefly interviewed my friend Jess. She lives in England and graduated from high school last year. Here's what she had to say on the topic of:
When she decided she wanted to take a gap year...
"Probably when I was 14, but I definitively decided around 16. In the UK, you take your main exams at 16 and 18, so if you don’t want to go straight from high school to college, or if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, around 16 is the time that you would generally start to solidify the decision."
Why she decided to take one...
"You don’t want to end up with a degree that is something you don’t actually want to go into. Your education is a big investment of both time and money, so you want to make sure that it’s what you want to do.
For me, the area I wanted to study last year is not at all what I want to study now. A lot has changed, so I’m happy that I’ve had the opportunity to have a shift of perspective and take a step back and think about what I actually enjoy and want to do.
Also, sometimes you need to have time off to be able to take a step back and give yourself a break. I think it's important to have time to recharge because your last two years of high school can be really intense."
What she's been up to during her gap year...
"The pandemic has obviously made taking a gap year in 2020-2021 a lot different than what it would've been like if I had taken it during a "normal" year. However, I have still had the opportunity to travel, go on a service trip, and hopefully get some more fun stuff in over the summer before starting at university in September!"
What ideas she has for making a gap year productive...
"Traveling and backpacking-type trips are definitely popular. You can also do more volunteer/service work projects, for either a few months or a whole year.
Ski seasons and summer seasons are good options as well because they're really fun and you get paid, so you can make money instead of spending it.
Au pairing, which is like nannying, can also be a unique option and opportunity to get abroad experience while also getting paid."
Advice she has for students who are thinking about taking a gap year...
"I definitely recommend a gap year for anyone who is thinking about it. More than anything, it's a good opportunity to work on adjusting to being around new people in a new environment, which is something that you would experience when first getting to college anyways.
A gap year can also be a good prep stage for helping you develop socially. If you’re not sure what subject you want to study, this can be a good time to help you work it out before you’re in your degree.
Also, it's a great life experience in general. Having been able to get work experience, travel, and volunteer has definitely helped to create a less intense and stressful shift from high school to college."
Other things students should know about taking a gap year...
"Gap years can be expensive, but they don’t have to be. It can be inexpensive and accessible if you go about it the right way, travel to the right places, and get the right type of work experience. Don’t be put off by the fact that some programs out there can be expensive.
Also, lots of people say that they will do a gap year after graduating from college, but it doesn’t always work out. So, if you can do one between high school and college, I recommend it!
When I was in high school, the idea of taking a gap year had honestly not even crossed my mind. I didn’t know anyone who was doing anything similar, so I never considered it. It was only when I got to college that I met other students (not many, though) that had taken gap years in between high school and college.
Having friends in the UK, Australia, and other parts of the world, I have learned from them over the years that in countries other than the US, taking a gap year is quite common.
If I had the chance to rewind on my high school/college experience, I personally would definitely consider taking a gap year before starting college. As it has done for lots of students, I think it would have been a great way to help me build up life skills, confidence, and independence before going back and settling into academics.
In general, I do think that our society tends to put too much stress and emphasis on students going through the motions of graduating high school, moving on to the next step of education, and then graduating and going out into the world to get jobs.
From my own research, I know that the number of students taking gap years is on an upward trend, which I think is awesome. I hope that this post, along with some of the resources I have provided below, can help to illuminate more about gap years and help you decide if it's the right choice for you!
Ultimately, this question is one that only you can answer. I do personally think that the potential pros outweigh the potential cons.
But at the end of the day, taking a gap year is a big decision that will have a significant impact on your future, so you need to sit down, do some research and thinking, and decide if it is the right choice for you!
Countless numbers of studies over the years have shown that college graduates experience lower levels of unemployment, and earn more, than their non-degree earning counterparts.
In addition to these statistics, there are also several other “pros” of obtaining a degree, such as increased access to job opportunities, personal growth, greater opportunity to build a professional network, and higher levels of job satisfaction, just to name a few.
While this information is good to know, it is also worth noting that obtaining a degree can be expensive. And by expensive, I mean very expensive.
So, for many students across the globe, the conundrum becomes “Is obtaining a degree worth the investment and debt that it is likely to incur?”
This may not be the answer that you want to hear, but the answer that I have for you is that it depends on a few different things. Most careers don’t require you to have a Ph.D., a greater portion will require that you have a bachelor’s degree, yet others might say that an associate’s degree or even a Professional Certificate is just the ticket.
So, before you dive right into a four-year college, or make the decision to go back to school to get your master’s degree, start with a little internal digging, or what I like to call, “soul searching”.
Ask yourself these questions to try to figure out if there is a career path or specific field that you know you want to pursue:
1.What are my interests?
In answering this question, you will want to consider some of the things that you are always game to learn more about and get involved in.
Now, not everyone is able to take the things that they are interested in and turn them into full-time jobs or careers. For example, I love to cook, but you won’t catch me leaving my day job to become a chef! However, depending on where your interests truly lie, taking those interests and incorporating them into your career might be feasible. Maybe you love helping children, in which case, there are tons of jobs and career paths out there that focus on that.
2.What skills do I have?
This question can usually be answered best by thinking back to past experiences that you have had, whether in specific jobs, your academic career, or in your everyday life outside of those areas.
You’ll want to try to come up with a list of both hard skills (i.e. web development, writing, mathematics) and soft skills (i.e. leadership, patience, agreeableness), since skills in both of these areas are key to success in most jobs.
3.What are my dreams?
This is the final question you will want to ask yourself. Think about if there is anything in particular that you have always said “Wow, I would love to do that for a career”.
Keep in mind that while some people know what they want to do early on in their lives, a lot of us do not, and it might take time to experience a few different options (and learn from them) in order to narrow down what it is we are actually passionate about.
In asking yourself these questions, and hopefully answering them in as much detail as possible, you are helping to illuminate the way in terms of getting to the bottom of determining which career path is the right one for you.
If this soul-searching activity has led you to make the decision that you will, should, or want to obtain a degree beyond your high school diploma, that’s great! However, you still may be wondering which type of degree is the right one for you.
Below, I have highlighted the main types of degree options that are out there, including key information on what type of student/career each degree is most-suited for and cost considerations to keep in mind.
What it is: Unlike an undergraduate degree, which often requires students to take courses that are not always 100% focused on their established major, a trade school degree or program is one in which you will likely focus solely on learning and becoming good at the trade in which you plan to pursue.
Trade school programs are generally significantly cheaper (usually between $5,000 and $15,000) and shorter than undergraduate degree programs (most can be completed in less than two years).
Who it’s designed for: If you are planning on entering a technical field in which you must have a very specific set of skills, then this could be the option for you. In fields such as HVAC, contracting, massage therapy, and hairstyling, employers put less emphasis on your degree credentials (i.e., where you got it from) and more emphasis on your skillset.
-If you know exactly what you want to do and are simply looking to develop the skills you need to become certified for that specific trade, then this route will definitely save you time and money.
-These degrees focus less on giving you the “overall package” in terms of learning about lots of different topics and meeting people who are pursuing degrees in other areas.
-By going the trade-school route and obtaining those specific skills, if you ever decide later on down the line that you want to sidestep into a different type of career, you may have to go back to school.
An undergraduate degree, which is typically the next-in-line degree that students will go for after earning a high school diploma, comes in a few different forms.
Usually, an undergraduate degree will consist of “general education” classes (which are broad) and major-specific classes (which are more narrowly focused on what area you want to pursue).
The two main types of undergraduate degrees are Associate (2-year) and Bachelor (4-year).
What it is: The associate degree is a 2-year degree that is normally obtained through community college. As of 2019, there were approximately 940 community colleges all across the United States. Despite this, there are some 4-year colleges and universities and vocational schools which also offer Associate degrees.
Who it’s designed for: The ideal candidates for an associate degree are 1) someone who is looking to approach the college process in a more economical way, and 2) someone who is looking to jump right into the job-world as soon as possible.
Associate degrees are more economical than Bachelor's degrees because the cost of attending a community college is generally much cheaper than attending a four-year college or university (because it is a shorter program and just because of the nature of the schools themselves).
-If you are looking to save money and get into the job market ASAP, but you want to earn a degree and pursue a career in a field that is not covered by a trade school certification, then this might be a good option.
-Students can also use an Associate degree as a stepping stone into the Bachelor degree to save LOTS of money (see “Transfer degree” below)
-Depending on where you go for your Associate degree, you may find that the selection for majors is limited.
-Associate degrees (aka, community college) can sometimes be seen as less prestigious than a Bachelor's degree. Unfortunately, prestige is still something that most (but not all) employers consider when looking at your resume to determine potential prospects of employment.
-If you attend a community college, you may find that the atmosphere is not as vibrant or “happening” in comparison to if you were on the campus of a four-year college or university. This could be because many of the students who attend community college choose to commute. While this is great for saving money, it can mean that you will be getting less of the “traditional college experience”.
What it is: The bachelor's degree is the type of college degree that is most commonly referenced when people talk about “going to college”. According to US News, there are over 4,000 colleges and universities across the US in which you can possibly attend to complete your bachelor's degree.
The bachelor's degree generally takes about 4 years to complete and is a required prerequisite to attending graduate school.
Most bachelor's degrees are composed of three different types of courses: general education, major-specific, and elective.
Who it’s designed for: Unlike associate degrees, there are generally a lot more options for majors and areas of study when you pursue a bachelor's degree. While there are MANY different types of bachelor degrees, the two most common are B.A. (Bachelor of Arts, which is usually liberal arts-focused) and B.S. (Bachelor of Science, which is usually more science-focused).
Most four-year colleges and universities offer hundreds of options for majors that students can pursue. These range from mechanical engineering to economics to psychology to textile and fashion design (just to name a few!).
-The bachelor's degree is usually considered to be the degree that employers look for when you are applying for entry-level jobs after graduation.
-When you obtain your bachelor's degree, it generally places you in a higher potential earnings range than if you were to obtain a trade school or associate degree, which can lead to more opportunities for professional advancement, a greater level of job security, etc.
-Whether you live on campus or not, the majority of students who obtain bachelor's degrees from four-year colleges and universities tend to be involved in other activities and organizations that happen on and around campus, which can make it seem more vibrant.
-Oftentimes, there are lots of opportunities to network and meet students from different places who are pursuing degrees that can be vastly different from your own.
-Rather than just taking classes that are relevant to what you want to pursue, the bachelor's degree requires you to take general education classes first, which can be helpful if you are not completely sure what you want to do for your career (I know I wasn’t!).
-The most obvious and biggest con to obtaining a bachelor's degree is that it is oftentimes extremely expensive, and has the potential to leave you with a fair amount of debt, depending on your situation.
What it is: The transfer degree is obtained when you start out attending a community college and, once you complete your associate degree at a community college, you can then transfer to a four-year college or university to attend for your junior and senior year.
Who it’s designed for: The transfer degree is designed for students who want to graduate with a bachelor's degree but do not want to pay the full sticker price of attending a traditional college or university for four or five years. Once you complete your associate degree at a community college, you can then transfer to a four-year college or university to attend for your junior and senior years.
-The main benefit (and the reason why students will transfer) is because it can save you money since you will not be paying the price of attending a four-year school for all four years.
-If you are not sure if a four-year degree is right for you, starting out at community college and obtaining an associate degree might be a smart move, both for your career and for your wallet.
-The only potential con to the transfer degree is that there is risk involved when it comes to transferring from a community college to a four-year college or university. This move can require a significant amount of time and effort spent into researching the process and figuring out which schools you are interested in are “transfer-friendly”.
A graduate degree is next-in-line degree after you obtain your bachelor's degree. Obtaining a graduate degree is by no means the norm, but depending on what field or career you are going into, it may be necessary.
The length of time to complete a graduate degree can vary immensely, with a time investment ranging from one to eight years. In terms of competitiveness, graduate programs tend to be more rigorous than bachelor programs, with more of an emphasis on individual research.
Some professions that require a graduate degree include physician’s assistant, social worker, and psychologist. For a more robust list, click here.
What it is: The master’s degree is a common type of graduate degree and can be pursued anywhere from directly following the completion of the bachelor's degree to later on in life. Master’s degrees do not have general education requirements and are focused specifically on helping you to gain more knowledge and advance your skills in the field that you intend to go into.
Most master’s degrees take between one and two years to complete. There are around 100 different concentration options for master’s degrees, but some of the most common areas of study include business administration (MBA), social work, engineering, and education.
Personally, I feel like the relevancy of obtaining a master’s degree has been contested in recent years. Some professionals that I have spoken to have advised me that it is not always worth the investment and that you can gain similar skills and experiences through a job in your desired industry. However, this is still largely a personal preference in terms of what you think will be the best for you.
Who it’s designed for: If you are looking to get an additional “leg up” in terms of looking good to potential employers, then having a master’s degree might be for you.
-Greater earning potential than if you have just an associate or bachelor degree
-Makes you more marketable to employers
-Can be very expensive!
What it is: The doctoral degree is one step up from the master’s degree. In order to be eligible to apply for a doctoral degree, you must have obtained your bachelor’s degree. Depending on the area that you are going into, you may or may not also need a master’s degree.
Doctoral degrees are the highest possible type of degree that a student can earn in a specific area of study. The two types of doctoral degrees are the Ph.D., which has an emphasis on research-based study, and the applied degree, which has an emphasis on teaching.
These degrees can take up to six years to complete, depending on the concentration.
Who it’s designed for: The doctoral degree is designed for people who want to enter into the “upper echelon” crew of higher education.
-Having a doctorate degree typically means that you can expect to be paid more
-Often leads to greater job security
-People with doctorate degrees are pretty dang respected in their field! There is a significant amount of credibility that comes with obtaining a doctorate due to the amount of time and effort that goes into the process.
-The fact that they can take anywhere between four and six years to complete makes them a significant investment of time.
-They tend to be especially challenging (since they are at the highest degree level)
-More money spent on education
So, I know that I have thrown a TON of information at you in this post. The main takeaway that I want you to get out of it is that there are so many options in terms of types of degrees that are out there for you to pursue. I am not saying this to overwhelm you, but rather to remind you that there is a path out there that is right for you.
Ultimately, the type and/or the number of degrees that you earn is dependent on factors such as your intended career, how much time you want to commit, and how much money you have or are willing to invest in your education.
Generally speaking, the higher the degree that you are able to obtain, the greater level of prestige you will be met with, which often comes with more money and more opportunities.
However, if, in order to obtain those degrees, you will have to set yourself back significantly on the money front, this is definitely something to consider ahead of time and factor into your decision-making process.
At the end of the day, regardless of what type of degree you are going for, the great news is that there are scholarships out there for you to apply for to help reduce your costs!
Head over here to our search tool to get started with your scholarship search.
The Common Application is an online application that allows students pursuing an undergraduate degree to fill out one singular application to apply to over 900 colleges and universities across the globe. This application makes it easy for first-year applicants to apply to multiple schools without having to juggle the different pieces of completely separate applications.
Just like with any college application, when you prepare to apply to colleges using the Common Application, you will need to get a few things put together before you go ahead and hit "submit."
Some of the key components to your application include your high school transcript, letters of recommendation, activity and involvement lists, and academic honors and achievements. While these are all super important pieces of the puzzle, today we are going to focus in on a completely different section of the application, which is the essays.
On the Common Application, you may notice that there are a few different sections of essays that come up: the personal essay, college-specific questions, and writing supplements. Most colleges and universities that use the Common Application will require you to write the personal essay. The college-specific questions and writing supplement requirements vary across schools; some may require them, others may make them optional, and others may not have any to begin with.
I know I said earlier that this post is going to focus on the essay-portion of the Common Application, but when I said "essay", I meant, more specifically, the personal essay!
Usually there are around 6 prompt options for the personal essay, which is great because out of the 6, you can pick the one that resonates with you the most and write your essay in response to that prompt. For the 2021-2022 year, the Common App added a 7th prompt.
Here is the full list of the 7 Common App prompts for 2021-2022. Underneath each prompt, I have also bulleted some ideas and suggestions on how to respond to or approach each one.
Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The lessons we take from obstacles we encounter can be fundamental to later success. Recount a time when you faced a challenge, setback, or failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome?
Reflect on something that someone has done for you that has made you happy or thankful in a surprising way. How has this gratitude affected or motivated you?
Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.
Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?
Share an essay on any topic of your choice. It can be one you've already written, one that responds to a different prompt, or one of your own design.
There you have it, the 7 Common Application prompts for 2021-2022, accompanied by some brief thought bubbles, dissections, and things to think about!
I know that the process of writing your Common App essay can seem daunting (I wrote mine not too long ago!), but ultimately, after spending some time brainstorming, refining topics and ideas, and chatting with friends and family, I can guarantee that you will come out of the process with an awesome and unique essay that is bound to WOW those admissions people!
If you're looking for more fab resources specifically on writing those college essays, I highly recommend heading over to the College Essay Guy Blog!
Other recommended reading:
Listen up! I, Ayden, will be the first person to tell you that private scholarships can be of great help when it comes to paying for your higher education, given that you have your strategy and put in the time and effort.
However, it is super important to also be aware of the other various forms of aid that you might be eligible to receive so you don’t miss out on any opportunities to lessen your college costs. So, in this post, I am going to discuss another common form of aid that tends to get overlooked: State-based aid!
Every state within the US offers its eligible residents at least one, if not multiple, opportunities to get some help in paying for school. While the majority of these state-run programs only require you to have filed your FAFSA in order to be considered, there are some that have additional application requirements and guidelines, or may even ask you to complete a separate application altogether.
Speaking of the FAFSA, have I mentioned the importance of filing early? As I mentioned, a lot of these state-based aid programs require you to have filled out the FAFSA in order to be considered.
In addition to this, state programs sometimes also operate on a first-come, first-serve basis. This essentially means that it is of the utmost importance to complete your FAFSA on time, if not as early as possible, in order to maximize the amount of aid you can possibly receive.
Below, I have outlined most, if not all, of the state-based aid programs and resources that are available to students all across the US. Simply search for your state, and click around to read more on the various forms of aid that you might be eligible to receive.
The COVID-19 pandemic has successfully inserted itself into essentially every aspect of our lives at this point, and unfortunately, it has mostly not been for the better, although any optimist will likely be quick to highlight those few gold nuggets and silver linings.
One particular area of the population that has been struggling to navigate these turbulent times is the area containing prospective, current, and recently graduated college students. With the costs of higher education only on the rise and the rough circumstances of the pandemic leaving millions of people jobless or furloughed until further notice, families are struggling to come up with the funds to pay for or pay off college-related expenses.
Enter all the news on newly-elected president Joe Biden’s plans and proposals to both provide some much-needed relief to those being weighed down by the burden of thousands in student loans while also lowering the costs of tuition for many current and future college students.
In this post, I will highlight several areas of Biden’s currently enacted and proposed plans as they relate to student loans, college tuition, and higher education in general. Keep reading for the tea!
During his first day in office, President Joe Biden made the move of extending student loan payment forbearance to September 30, 2021, a decision made primarily due to the pandemic and its detrimental impact on millions of Americans.
Essentially, this means that the majority of federal student loan payments are on pause, and any new interest on loan balances will be waived.
In addition to this push back on the date, Biden and his team are also pushing for an immediate canceling of $10,000 of student loan debt for all, a move which would “wipe out debt completely for nearly 15 million borrowers who owe $10,000 or less” (Nerd Wallet).
Along with the immediate $10,000 cancellation, Biden has also recommended that federal student debt should be completely canceled for borrowers who attended a public college or university and currently earn less than $125,000.
One important thing to note about this recommendation is that it does not apply to graduate school tuition.
Essentially, Biden’s revised plan proposes that borrowers would not have to start paying back their loans until they earn an annual income of over $25,000.
Once borrowers earn over this number, their repayment plan would then cap at 5% of disposable income, a much more reasonable number than the current options, in which the minimum is set at 10% of disposable income.
Not only is Biden proposing to make monthly student loan payments more reasonable, but he is also pushing to make it so the remainder of your student loan balance will be automatically forgiven after 20 years of payments.
This is in comparison to current repayment plans, which offer forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments.
Students whose family incomes are less than $60,000 per year are eligible for either some or all of a Federal Pell Grant, which is currently worth $6,345.
While this is a great help, it still leaves quite a bit of tuition and expenses on the table for the majority of students attending four-year colleges.
Biden hopes to increase this number while simultaneously loosening the eligibility rules so that Pell Grants can be given out to more “middle-class” students.
Perhaps the most noteworthy part of Biden’s plan is his proposal to make undergraduate tuition-free for students who fall into the following areas:
1) if you attend a public college or university and your family income is below $125,000 (4 years tuition-free)
2) if you attend a community college (2 years tuition-free), and
3) if you attend an HBCU or a tribal college or university (2 years tuition-free).
Students should note that these free college tuition plans do not include non-tuition expenses such as room and board, textbooks, and other fees.
So, I’ve covered quite a bit of information regarding Biden’s current and potential future plans of action as they relate to student loans and college tuition.
I’d be remiss to end this post without quickly elaborating on exactly how these current and future plans can actually impact you! Here’s the lowdown…
If you are a college graduate and you have debt - congrats! Well, not about the debt, but because Biden’s extension of student loan payment forbearance means that if you are not currently in the position to be paying off your student loans, then you can put that worry on the back burner for a few more months.
Lots of people have been asking questions along the lines of “If I am still in a position to be paying off some of my student loans during these difficult times, should I be doing so?”.
Since I am very admittedly no financial expert, here is a little nugget of advice that I found while perusing Student Aid’s section on Student Loan Payment Forbearance:
“Continuing to make payments during the payment suspension could help you pay down your loan balance more quickly because the full amount of a payment will be applied to principal once all interest accrued prior to March 13, 2020, is paid.
You may either leave your loans in the “administrative forbearance” status (meaning the requirement to make payments is suspended) and make payments anyway, or opt out of the administrative forbearance/suspension of payments and continue to make payments.”
If you’re looking for a more in-depth answer, I highly suggest clicking the hyperlink above and reading through all of the Q & A’s on COVID Forbearance and how it all works. If you have any other questions that Student Aid has not covered, be sure to reach out to your specific student loan servicing company to get those clarified.
If you are a current college student - Now, if you are still enrolled as an undergraduate student at a college or university, unfortunately, Biden’s current plans and hopeful proposals in relation to paying off student loans don’t quite impact you just yet.
Usually, you are not required to start paying off student loans until an average of 6 months after you have actually graduated, so even if you’re a college senior graduating this May, Biden’s extension likely won’t impact you too much either, unless it gets extended again of course!
If you are a future college student - Pay close attention to the latest news and updates on Biden’s plans to hopefully expand the eligibility rules for students qualifying for federal Pell Grants as well as information on actually transitioning to making college tuition-free for students under certain circumstances.
So, quite a bit of information has been unpacked here! At the end of the day, it is crucial to ensure that you are keeping up to date with these plans (both ones that are in effect and future ones) and how they might impact you, on an immediate level but also for months and years to come.
In the spirit of it being a NEW YEAR, I have compiled a list of awesome college scholarships to apply for this year.
These scholarships vary in terms of eligibility and area of study. Some are open to high school students who are looking forward to college, whereas others are open to current undergraduate students.
Wherever you stand, I can guarantee that if you’re a student and you’re reading this, you will definitely find a few scholarships in this post that are a good fit for you!
Before diving right into the list, be sure to read through our frequently asked questions about college scholarships:
College scholarships are scholarship opportunities that you can apply for to help you cover your college costs.
Some college scholarships can be used for anything, whereas others may specify that they can only be put directly towards your tuition.
While you certainly can and should apply for scholarships throughout your time in college, you do NOT need to be a current college student to apply for college scholarships.
There are tons of scholarships (some are even featured in this post!) that are open to high school students looking to reduce their future college costs. Check them out!
Great question! Here are a few of my top tips on applying for scholarships:
Deadline: September 30, December 31, March 31, June 30
-Open to high school, college, and graduate school students of all years
-Must be a US citizen/permanent resident, a student with DACA status, or an international student studying in the US.
PS - this is one of our very own easy scholarships. Head over to our no-essay scholarships post for more!
Deadline: Last day of each month
-Open to high school seniors and undergraduate students
-Must be a US citizen
-Must be currently attending, or planning to attend, a college in the US
-Must be a US citizen or permanent resident
Deadline: End of each month
-Open to legal residents of the US who are 13 and older.
-Open to high school students who are interested in attending a Catholic college or university
Deadline: End of each month
-Open to students ages 16 and older
-Must be a current high school or college student
-Must be a US citizen
Deadline: Varies, but usually the last day of each month
-Open to high school and college students
Amount: $10,000 (renewable for up to 4 years)
Deadline: January 5
-Must be a high school senior and resident of the US
-Must have a minimum 3.0/4.0 GPA
-Must have financial need
Amount: Varies by scholarship
Deadline: January 8
-Must be a high school senior or current college student from one of the following states: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington
-Must either identify as LGBTQ or be a straight ally
-Must have demonstrated financial need
Deadline: January 11
-Must be attending an accredited US college or university
-Must be a US citizen
Amount: $500 - $5,000
Deadline: February 14
-Open to the following students: high school seniors, undergraduate, transfer, and graduate students
-Must be of Hispanic heritage
-Must be a U.S. citizen, permanent legal resident, or have DACA status
-Minimum of 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent) for high school students; minimum of 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale (or equivalent) for college and graduate students
-Must submit the FAFSA or state-based financial aid forms
Amount: Full-tuition (doesn't include books or room and board)
Deadline: February 15
-Applicants must be living in the United States and the college or university they attend must be located in the United States, however, US citizenship is not required
-Minimum 3.7 GPA
-Open to high school seniors and students currently attending four-year colleges and universities
Deadline: February 18
-Completed a computer science course in high school
-Plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science
-High school senior in the US
-US citizen or permanent resident
-Employees and immediate family members of Amazon.com and its subsidiaries are not eligible to apply
Amount: $5,000 - $10,000
Deadline: February 20
-Must be a graduating high school senior
-Must promote vegetarianism in your community and show a commitment to a vegetarian diet/lifestyle
Deadline: February 28
-Open to US high school seniors
Deadline: March 11
-Must be between 17 and 35 years old
-Must attend a 2-year or 4-year college or university
Amount: up to $5,000
Deadline: April 1
-Any legal U.S. resident who will be a full-time student at a U.S. college or university is eligible to apply
-Applicants must create their own original piece of work centered around the theme, This Is How I Frame My Future
Deadline: April 1, November 15
-Any legal U.S. resident in high school or college who will be attending an accredited university or college is eligible to apply
Deadline: April 1
-The scholarship program is designed to provide opportunities to groups that are traditionally underrepresented in STEM: women, people of color, people with disabilities, individuals who identify as LGBTQ, and those that are or will be first-generation college students
-Must have financial need
-Must be a high school senior with a 2.5 or above GPA OR a freshman or a sophomore undergraduate student with a 2.5 or above GPA
-Current or planned 4-year degree enrollment in the following majors: Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, or Physics
Deadline: April 30, August 1
-Open to current students in an eligible undergraduate program, or graduating high school seniors in the U.S., working towards a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree
-Open to international students studying in the US, as well as students with DACA status
Deadline: May 3
-Open to college sophomores, juniors and seniors majoring in Criminal Justice or related discipline such as social sciences, public administration, computer science, finance, linguistic arts, chemistry, physics, etc., leading to a four-year degree
-Must be a US citizen
-Minimum 3.0 GPA
Deadline: May 15
-Must have 2.5 or higher G.P.A. (unweighted)
-Must be a high school senior, incoming, or current college student to qualify for scholarships.
-Must be majoring in one of the following areas: Culinary Arts, Baking/Pastry, Hospitality Management or Agriculture
-Must attend college/university in the U.S.
Deadline: June 15, December 8
-Open to students pursuing education in a science-related field (Life Science, Medical Science, Health Science)
-Schools/Colleges/Institutes within the US, Canada, and European Countries only
Deadline: June 30, December 30
-Open to students pursuing degrees in nursing
-Must be a resident of one of the following states: Arizona, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin
Deadline: July 1
-Must be a student of Asian / Pacific Islander descent pursuing a 4-year degree
-Must be a U.S. Citizen or Permanent U.S. Resident
-Can be pursuing any major or degree
Deadline: July 16, December 17
-Student in good standing and enrolled at an accredited college or university
-Declared STEM major
-Open to international students
Deadline: July 20
-Be accepted at, or enrolled in, a full-time degree program at a U.S. or Canadian school that MPOWER supports
-Be an international student allowed to legally study in the U.S. or Canada (or a student with DACA status)
Amount: up to $3,000
Deadline: July 30
-Open to current freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors, graduate students, or students attending a military academy
-Minimum 3.0 GPA
Deadline: August 1
-Must be a high school senior or undergraduate, graduate, or postgraduate student about to attend or currently attending an accredited college or university in the United States
-Must be a citizen or a legal resident of the United States
Deadline: September 15, March 15
-Open to female high school and college students who want to start their own online business
Deadline: September 18
-Open to all U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents OR students, regardless of citizenship, currently attending high school in the United States
-Open to high school seniors who have shown outstanding academic ability despite financial challenges
Deadline: September 30
-Applicants for this scholarship should be enrolled at a public community college, junior college, technical college, or city college, and working towards a certificate, diploma, or degree at the associate’s level or a first-time bachelor’s level
-Must be a US citizen
Deadline: October 31
-Be a student who is currently studying at or has been accepted to an accredited college or university in the United States.
-Be currently enrolled in a Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics (STEM) degree-granting program OR demonstrate plans to pursue a career in the field of technology after graduation.
-Identify as a woman.
-Have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
Deadline: November 12
-Must be a high school senior and resident of one of the following California counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, Lake, Marin, Monterey, Napa, Sacramento, San Benito, San Francisco, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Yolo
-Must have demonstrated tremendous leadership potential despite their own economic circumstance
Deadline: November 30
-Open to college students attending 2-year and 4-year schools as well as trade/technical schools
-Minimum 2.5 GPA
-Must be a US citizen
Deadline: December 10
-Open to college students residing in the US, identifying as members of the LGBTQ community
-Applicants must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents
Deadline: December 31
-Applicants must be under the age of 30
-Applicants must be U.S residents
Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
-The Student-Caregiver Scholarship provides financial assistance to students who are caring for an elderly loved one while enrolled in college
-Applicants must be full-time college students at an accredited two-or-four-year college or university in the United States
Deadline: December 31
-Open to high school and college students
Amount: Varies ($1,000 - $20,000)
Deadline: Varies by scholarship
-Scholarships open to Asian/Pacific Islander students in the US
-Minimum 3.0 GPA
-Applicants must be the first in their family to attend college (more details on APF website)
Deadline: Varies, but the general application closes annually on March 31.
-Open to students enrolled full-time and attending UNCF member Institutions
-Must have a demonstrated financial need
-Minimum 2.5 GPA required
-Open to full-time students enrolled in two-year, four-year, or graduate programs
-All majors welcome
-Must be a US citizen or permanent resident