Updated on September 17th, 2021
I am always careful to say “you can GET PAID to go to college” in fear of backlash but, in fact, it is possible.
How do I know?
Well, I was able to do it (receiving an overage check each semester to help pay for room and board, books and other educational expenses).. and so was Nick True, who studied Mechanical Engineering at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Not only was Nick able to get a free ride, but he received money above and beyond his college bill to the tune of $29k.
The best part? It didn’t include any need-based aid AND he doesn’t fit the stereotypes of what most people perceive as scholarship recipients (athletes, females, minorities, etc.) We bust these myths in my free scholarship training (you can learn more about the training here) and I am ecstatic to share how Nick defied these myths and banked money by going to college.
Now whether you agree with this or not, you have to admit that it’s quite impressive. Nick followed all the rules when it came to submitting the information for taxes so please put the pitchforks away and read how this persistent student managed to pull it off.
How much scholarship money did you receive?
I received $85,450.00 during the four years I was in college. More importantly, total cost (tuition plus room/board) was only $56,527.62
That means I put $28,922.38 back in my pocket over those four years.
Bottom line: My scholarships covered 151% of my university cost.
What was the breakdown (grants, merit-based, external, financial aid (need-based), etc.)?
- Financial Aid (need-based): $0.00
- Grants: $0.00
- UTC Merit-Based: $27,000.00
- External Merit-Based: $35,950.00
- State Merit-Based: $22,500.00
UTC = University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
State = TN has the hope scholarship which is merit-based and funded by the TN lottery
What made you want to apply for scholarships?
When I was in middle school, my parents made a joke that if I got a full-ride to college, they would buy me a car. For some reason, that stuck and I worked my tail off in high school trying to get a full-ride to college. My Freshman year I was awarded a “full-ride” to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and I got my car :).Unfortunately, tuition kept increasing at 7% plus a year and my scholarships weren’t keeping pace. By sophomore year I started looking for external scholarships to help fund the rest of my school. I was determined to graduated debt free without using student loans, so scholarships were imperative.
Once I started looking, it began to feel like a game. As an extremely competitive person, I wanted to win as much scholarship money as possible and put it back into my pocket. This game-like view turned out to be extremely helpful because I met a girl during my sophomore year who would eventually become my wife.
We got married during my Senior year, and that wouldn’t have been possible without the extra money I won in scholarships. We lived off mostly scholarship money during our first year of marriage. I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that all of the money gave us.
- Free College Tuition is Actually Possible at These Schools
- Why a Full Ride Scholarship Requires Much More than Free College Tuition
When did you start applying for scholarships? (What year/grade/semester.. did you keep on applying?)
I took my first ACT in the 10th grade and started researching colleges and their scholarship opportunities during 11th grade. At first, my ACT score was low, so I read some test-prep books and ended up re-taking the test six more times. Yes, I took the ACT 7 times and SAT once. Ridiculous, but again, I was motivated to get through college without loans.
Once I achieved the score I needed, I stopped taking the ACT and turned my attention to scholarship applications during the spring semester of 11th grade.
*Jocelyn’s note: This is what we always try to stress when talking about the best times to apply for scholarships. Read more here: When Your Child Should Start Applying for Scholarships.
I applied for scholarships and honors programs at in-state schools during the fall semester of 12th grade and did on-campus interviews during my last semester of high school.
Once I was in college, I started focusing on external scholarships mostly related to engineering.
Most engineering scholarships are awarded in the spring each year and have applications due in Jan/Feb. I spent every Christmas break during college applying for 15 or more scholarships, each with their individual essays and teacher recommendations. It was a numbers game for me. The more I could apply for, the better my odds were at winning.
How did you start the application process? Did you have a mentor? Older sibling? Teacher that guided you at all?
I didn’t have a mentor or anyone showing me the process. I spent hours on google reading and learning about scholarships and different opportunities.
I did have my mom helping me find scholarships. I told her a couple of websites I typically searched on and then she also spent a lot of time on Google. Whenever she ran across something, she would email me the application, and I would take it from there.
Back then I didn’t have anything like The Scholarship System, but I wish I did. It definitely would’ve cut down on the amount of time I spent piecing this all together myself.
What was your favorite strategy for securing scholarships?
The strategy that was the most lucrative for me was joining professional organizations.
Every major has tons of professional organizations based on discipline, gender, state, interest, etc… I joined every possible engineering organization I could find because almost all of them have private scholarships they give out to student members.
My most lucrative scholarships came from these organizations, and it’s absolutely the best thing I did to find scholarships.
What is one tip that you would share with students trying to find scholarships?
Don’t give up.
The single biggest scholarship I received was won on my third try. I applied for a scholarship from the ACEC (American Council of Engineering Companies) during my Sophomore year and didn’t win anything at all. I applied again during my Junior year and won $1,000 from the TN region of ACEC. That was nice, but it certainly wasn’t a significant amount of money. Luckily, I didn’t give up and I applied again my Senior year. This time I won the top state scholarship ($5,000) and went on to compete for the National scholarship by writing another essay. I ended up winning the top national award for $10,000 and a free trip to their conference that year. Oh, and it just so happened that in 2015 their conference was in Hawaii 🙂 *Jocelyn’s note: JEALOUS.
Bottom line: Don’t give up.
It would’ve been easy for me to mark that scholarship off my application list after not winning the first year. But instead, I focused on improving my essay and working hard on my studies. Eventually, it paid off.
Nick True is a married twenty-something from Tennessee and father to four fur-children. Nick was able to cover more than 100% of his college costs via scholarships and by 24 he and his wife had made enough money to start traveling and living full time in an Airstream. Today, he writes and speaks about personal finance and budgeting for young professionals at mappedoutmoney.com
Learn how to do what Nick did by joining our free webinar where I cover our 6 Steps to Securing Scholarships for College. I did it, Nick did it. Many others have done it as well. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and how to do it (which is exactly what I share). So if you have a child that is a junior in high school or older, sign up today at www.thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar.