That’s helpful. A couple of people asked about how to find the $3,000,000,000 in scholarships.

Well, one of the questions was about the billions of dollars in scholarship money that supposedly goes unclaimed. That’s an urban myth. The number of unused scholarships is actually quite small.

Yes, there are billions of dollars in scholarships out there for the taking. Start at fafsa.gov, which stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It’s grant money the federal government will give you if you meet certain income qualifications.

Next try blackstudents.com, a free scholarship search geared for African American students. Fastweb.com is currently the largest scholarship search engine on the internet. Its database contains 1.3 million scholarships worth over $3 billion, so you can’t afford to NOT look here. Scholarships.com, collegeboard.com and collegeanswer.com are also great resources.

As you search, you should be sure to look in your own community at churches, synagogues, and even parents’ employers who might sponsor college scholarships. This is one of those times when all that community service can pay off—Sponsors like students who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to volunteering.

“Are there scholarships for grad school?”

There are! Scholarships for graduate students aren’t as common, and most of them are a lot more specific, concentrating on specific industries and/or students who meet certain criteria, but with some perseverance, aspiring graduate students can find opportunities. Start with your alma mater, then talk to the financial aid office at the school you’d like to attend. Next look into career-specific scholarships—from nursing to architecture, there’s someone out there who wants to help. Professional organizations you belong to could also help. And there are unique grant opportunities for women, the military and minorities.

Many grad students rely heavily on research fellowships or assistantships. Finally, if you’re employed, check with your employer to see what kind of financial assistance your company may offer employees who want to pursue an advanced degree. Some firms will cover up to 1oo% of tuition fees.

Mellody is President of Ariel Investments, a Chicago-based money management firm that serves individual investors and retirement plans through its no-load mutual funds and separate accounts.  Additionally, she is a regular financial contributor and analyst for CBS News.

All Your Student Loan Questions Answered Here!  was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

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