The day you knew was coming may be upon you, or at least visible on the horizon: the arrival of that first college tuition bill.

Upon receipt of that first bill, many families are stricken with an overwhelming case of sticker shock and hang their hopes on a search for last-minute scholarships.

The bad news for these families is, by the time the tuition bill is received, the deadlines for most scholarships for the fall semester have already passed. It’s likely that they’ll be on the hook for that first tuition bill, and will need to come up with the balance due using some combination of savings, a monthly payment plan, and/or a college loan. Still, all hope is not lost on the scholarship front. Scholarships can continue to be applied for and won throughout the college years. And while it may be too late to access funding in time to reduce an immediate bill, the good news is that most students don’t think about pursuing scholarships once enrolled in college—that item somehow disappears from to-do lists with the onset of freshman orientation—leaving less competition for the many continuing student scholarships that are out there.

Here are some helpful resources to aid in your last-minute and on-going college scholarship search:

  • Your college’s financial aid office: Many college aid offices post listings of both endowed institutional scholarships (funding donated by alumni) and private scholarships on their website. If you don’t see information on the website, feel free to contact the aid office for resources.
  • Your major department: Some academic departments within colleges and universities have scholarship money that they specifically reserve for returning students who have already proven themselves in that major, as opposed to incoming freshman. Reach out to your department office to check.
  • Student organizations: Get involved on campus, and check in with your Student Activities Office, as well as any national student organizations, like the National Student Nurses Association or Armenian Students’ Association, that you may belong to or can join.
  • Professional associations: Likewise, once you have a career path in mind, visit the website of professional associations affiliated with that career field, such as the Society of Women Engineers or American Institute of CPAs, to explore any scholarships they may offer.
  • Your employer: And a job doesn’t have to be in your long-term career field to lead to a scholarship. If you’re working part-time or full-time while enrolled in college, check with your employer about any funding opportunities. Large national employers of lots of young people, like Walmart and KFC, offer scholarships to employees, and many employers offer tuition assistance programs. Parents’ employers may offer scholarships for dependents as well.
  • An online scholarship search engine: Fill out a profile on a scholarship search site like to find scholarships that might be a good fit for you.
  • Loan forgiveness programs: While not technically a “scholarship,” loan forgiveness programs that repay some or all of your educational debt are similarly valuable sources of free money to look into. If you’re planning on entering a high need field, such as health care, social work, or teaching, explore any applicable loan repayment programs offered by your state, along with the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

As we often say here at Bright Horizons College Coach, it is never too early or too late to start planning for college costs. Start looking for scholarships today, whether you’re a freshman in high school or a freshman in college, and your next college bill may be a little easier for you and your wallet to handle.

About Bright Horizons College Coach

Bright Horizons College Coach® is the nation’s leader in educational advising. We help students and families across the country navigate the path to college, with a team of experts—all former admissions and financial aid decision-makers at top schools—who know the process from the inside. Collectively, we’ve helped more than 32,000 families successfully manage every aspect of college admissions, from choosing schools, to creating stand-out applications, to economically saving, and financing it all. Visit the Bright Horizons website.