How to Go to College Almost for Free: The Secrets of Winning Scholarship Money

How to Go to College Almost for Free: The Secrets of Winning Scholarship Money

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by Ben Kaplan, Benjamin R. Kaplan

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Make your educational dreams come true!

Worried about how to pay for college? Afraid of drowning in a sea of student debt? Sure, Ben Kaplan once felt that way too. But that was before he discovered that there are billions of scholarship dollars out there for students with all types of interests, skills, and backgrounds. After winning enough college cash to cover


Make your educational dreams come true!

Worried about how to pay for college? Afraid of drowning in a sea of student debt? Sure, Ben Kaplan once felt that way too. But that was before he discovered that there are billions of scholarship dollars out there for students with all types of interests, skills, and backgrounds. After winning enough college cash to cover virtually the entire cost of his dream school, he's written an indispensable guide that shows you how to stake your own scholarship claim.

Now in this fully revised and updated edition, Ben distills his proven step-by-step game plan that positions you to win big money for college — regardless of your age, GPA, financial situation, or family background. With humor and insight, he reveals insider secrets for successfully finding, applying for, and winning lucrative scholarship awards — empowering you with the information, inspiration, and know-how to afford the college of your choice and realize your educational dreams.

Special Note: As a valued reader of this book, you also receive access to the Coach's Locker Room at Ben Kaplan's website. The Coach's Locker Room provides a wealth of bonus material, updates to information contained in How to Go to College Almost for Free, question and answer postings, and other helpful resources.

Editorial Reviews
Middle-income parents, take note. Although this resource book addresses all types of students, it focuses in on the vital unrestricted, merit-based scholarships that are not based on need. It's never too soon or too late to take advantage of grant opportunities. Kaplan counsels students to start early -- even the seventh and eighth grades -- lining up grants, but also shows how to get grants if you are already enrolled in college or graduate school. Packed with tips, such as how to present yourself if you are not a stellar student, and straightforward advice, How to Go to College for Almost Free is a financial lifesaver for students.

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Read an Excerpt

Let The Games Begin

In the twentysomething movie Reality Bites, a jobless and penniless college valedictorian named Lelaina Pierce (played by the charming Winona Ryder) discovers, among other things, just how much mini-mart food she can buy on her father's gas card. And back in early 1994, when the movie was in theaters, I found myself in a related predicament. No, it wasn't that I shopped at the corner gas station. Nor did I regularly eat Chevron cuisine.

Rather, it was that, as a junior in high school, reality had just bitten me -- and bitten me hard. It happened one day, as I was leafing through glossy college catalogs with dreams of wild collegiate adventures dancing in my head. All of a sudden, I felt the reality of having to pay for my undergraduate education sink its ugly teeth. I hoped to attend a top university, but how would I ever pay the sixfigure tab at the college of my choice? Even if I could somehow cover the cost, was I destined to be buried alive beneath a mountain of student debt?

Granted, this wasn't a memorable scene from a slick Hollywood movie, but still, it was my life. And unlike Lelaina, I didn't have my father's gas card... and even if I did, the corner Chevron station didn't have any diplomas for sale.

Reality Bites... But It Doesn't Have To

A magical gas card never did come to my rescue. But I suppose, in a strange way, a benevolent credit card did save the day. You see, one day at my high school's career center, I came across an application for a nationwide scholarship contest sponsored by the Discover Card corporation. As I held the application in my hands, my mind raced withquestions. Were there a lot of merit-based scholarships like this one? Could I win them? Did a kid from a public high school in Eugene, Oregon actually have a chance? There was probably some child prodigy out there who had mastered calculus at age 5, been an Olympian by 9, and discovered a cure for cancer before hitting puberty.

Despite my doubts, I decided to enter the contest. I diligently filled out the forms, rounded up several letters of recommendation, and crafted some essays. And to my amazement, I actually won! And I won BIG -- to the tune of $17,500. Then I made another fantastic discovery: Plenty of other organizations can't wait to give money away!

So I entered other scholarship contests. I won again! And again! Now don't get me wrong: it wasn't as if I had Just written a couple of essays and suddenly money began magically falling from the sky. In fact, it was a lot of hard work, and I lost my share of scholarship competitions, too.

But through a process of trial and error, I formulated winning strategies, developed foolproof procedures, and concocted "guerrilla tactics." When the dust finally settled, I had amassed nearly $90,000 and had paid for virtually the entire cost of my Harvard education.

Biting Back

So is entering scholarship contests worth the effort? Most definitely! I'm living proof of it. Can you win these contests? You bet! All it takes is a little knowledge and a bit of elbow grease. What's the best way to get started? Read this book!

A few years ago, when I faced the daunting task of trying to pay for my college education, there wasn't anyone out there to show me the ropes. But when I discovered that thousands of organizations give away hundreds of millions of dollars in scholarship prizes, I saw rays of financial hope beckoning meto take up the quest anyway.

Now I can't guarantee that you'll pay for all of your college expenses by winning scholarship contests (for to do so also takes a bit of good luck), but with my guidance plus your hard work and determination I know that we can make a significant dent 1 your financial burden.

Reality may indeed bite, but winning college scholarships can help enterprising students bite back.

I may not have a Ph.D. in Scholarship Science hanging on my wall, but through the process of accumulating my own pot of gold, I have become somewhat of an expertat winning the college scholarship game. And, as you read a few pages ago, winning money for higher education is indeed a game. To succeed you must learn the rules and understand the players. You must internalize the principles, strategies, and guerrilla tactics that lead to victory. It then becomes a matter of preparing, practicing, and perfecting: enhancing your record in key areas, strengthening your self-promotional skills, and refining your application materials. The book you are now holding teaches you how to master this important game.

There is, however, a very odd thing about this particular game: As important as the game is, the referee never even bothers to explain the rules. Sure, scholarship administrators publish formal Judging criteria, but this only scratches the surface of what it really takes to win. There's another entire set of "hidden rules" that govern the outcomes of these contests. So how do you succeed in a game when you're not even sure how to play?

Like any other game, you could try to teach yourself through experimentation. But why "reinvent the wheel" when you don't have to? You can save yourself plenty of time, energy, and grief by learning from the high scorers -- the students who have played the game well. Of course, tracking down enough of these students on your own and convincing them to let you "pick their brains" would be a daunting task in its own right. So I've made it much easier by doing all of the work for you.

As a result, this book not only distills the core secrets learned from my own scholarship quest, but also adds to the mix many valuable insights from dozens of other scholarship winners I've interviewed. (As simple as it sounds, surveying top winners is a task that has never been done before by an author in the field.) By following the advice contained in these pages, you can avoid many of the mistakes these scholarship winners (including myself) have made, and can learn from our greatest successes. Winning scholarships may be a game, but it's a game that can be learned -- and learned quickly, too.

How To Go To College Almost for Free. Copyright © by Ben Kaplan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are saying about this

Mark Victor Hansen
College offers the keys to the kingdom, and Ben's brilliant book offers the keys to winning college scholarships--and even going to college for free! This is a must-read book.— (Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of the bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul series)

Meet the Author

Ben Kaplan won more than two dozen scholarships — amassing nearly $90,000 in unrestricted college cash for use at any school. In 1999, he graduated from Harvard debt-free, with virtually the entire cost of his education covered by his scholarship winnings.

In addition to writing The Scholarship Scouting Report, Kaplan is the author of How to Go to College Almost for Free and Scholarship Seeker’s Toolbox — the three books forming an essential paying-for-college trilogy for students of all ages. Kaplan has also written numerous articles on winning scholarships, including columns for The New York Times and U.S. News & World Report, that have been syndicated in publications nationwide. He has been featured on hundreds of television and radio programs, including appearances on Oprah, NBC, CBS, and National Public Radio.

Known internationally as "The Scholarship Coach," Kaplan has served as the resident scholarship adviser at some of the Internet’s most popular scholarship search websites, and is the founder of, the leading online scholarship advice portal.

Kaplan currently resides in Portland, Oregon, and can be contacted at via e-mail.

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How to Go to College Almost for Free (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
There is a lot of fantastic information packed into these 300 odd pages. I have already begun my quest for free cash with Kaplan¿s strategies as my guide. What I liked most about this book is the straight forward approach and practical advice that can only come from real experience. Kaplan has truly done for scholarships what those 2 other Harvard graduates (Jim Good and Lisa Lee) did in helping me get into college (Get Into Any College: Secrets Of Harvard Students) and I think this shows how much superior advice from actual students is over that from so-called ¿experts.¿ Maybe the highest complement is that all of this praise for these Harvard authors comes from me ¿ a student at archrival Yale!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was everything I hoped it would be and more. It is full of information, strategies, examples from winning essays, and is actually fun to read. I've already won a few scholarships, and I'm using the book to win more. This book is the closest thing to a 'school' for winning scholarships, and unless you want to spend countless hours of frustration banging your head against the wall, I suggest you get a copy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a parent in need of help in paying college tuition bills for my two children, I was really fortunate to hear about this book. Our whole family has joined in the scholarship search and we're already seeing results. This book has been essential to our efforts because it takes us step by step through the entire process. Without it, we would have missed out on so many scholarship opportunities. I wholeheartedly recommend it for both students and parents.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book wholeheartedly. I picked up a copy after hearing the author on the radio, and the book has turned out to be definitely worth every penny. What's great about it is all of the examples from winning scholarship applications. It shows you exactly how winning applications are crafted and specifically what to do to maximize your chances. In fact, it was a lot of help in filling out my college applications too. All guidance offices should get a copy of this book, and it should definitely be required reading for anyone planning to attend or already enrolled in college.
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MotherEarthLY More than 1 year ago
With our first kid going off to college, we were worried how to pay for it. Our kids are very close in age so cost is a big factor. We also don't think we will be eligible for much financial aid so when we looked at this book, it was a huge relief to us. This book clearly described where, how and when to apply for scholarships, grants and resources for obtaining money through all four years of undergraduate admission. Much of this has to do with persistence and diligence on the part of the parents and the student in finding and maintaining the scholarships but if you are willing to put some elbow grease into getting the money, you could walk away with quite a sum. This book does not describe easy money. You will not get a four year free ride. You have to work for the money but just knowing where to go and the best way to get there is sometimes all you need. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with kids in college.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a great book! I am seriously short of cash for college, and How To Go To College Almost For Free was exactly what I needed. It's extremely informative, easy to follow, and shares advice and tips that I wouldn't of thought up on my own. This is one book that totally lives up to the hype.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a mathematic student from Grand Junction, CO. I am presently attending Palisade High School. I will be attending Mesa State College in fall of 2000. I will be walking on to the Mesa State College's Softball Program, however, I will not be scholarshiped for playing. I will be studing mathematics and computer design.