Two students posing with heaps of books

Dig Into Scholarships to Cover Extra College Costs

Find money to pay for additional college expenses like textbooks, housing and meals.

Two students posing with heaps of books

Several booksellers offer scholarships to pay for textbooks and course materials – two college expenses that can really add up. 

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It’s no secret that college is expensive. According to the College Board, the average tuition and fees for out-of-state, four-year public institutions was $22,203 for 2013-2014.

Those tuition and fees may not take into account other charges like textbooks, housing and meals. Multiply those costs by four years of schooling, and the expenses can add up quickly. If you’re searching for ways to chip away at your college bills, scholarships for extra costs can help ease part of your financial burden.

[Get additional resources on how to pay for college.]

Whether you’re in your first or last year of college, you likely have course materials listed on your syllabi, and that means having to buy textbooks and supplies. The National Association of College Stores reports that students had spent an average of $662 on required course materials in the past 12 months. In addition to alternative options for managing the cost of supplies, such as buying used and renting, you can also search for scholarships that pay specifically for textbooks.

The Akademos/TextbookX Textbook Scholarship Contest is a good place to start. The virtual bookstore offered a Facebook photo contest for last year’s application, asking students to share what textbook affordability meant to them. Last year’s first-place winner won $1,000, and runners-up received $250. Their scholarship cycle typically begins in the summer, so check back for details for an upcoming contest.

The Textbooks For a Year Scholarship is another textbook scholarship worth your while. The essay-based program encourages creativity in the assignment, asking applicants to write a tip to share with college students.

The top applicant gets $1,250, and a runner-up receives $250. The scholarship is offered twice per year and is currently open for application. Apply by May 31 for the spring cycle.

[Check out four ways to get free college textbooks.]

To help cover the growing cost of college housing, you’ll want to research your state’s higher education office for housing-related grants. The Cal Grant B, for example, includes a non-tuition award for living expenses like transportation, books and supplies.

It's an ideal option for easing those extra college costs for qualifying, low-income students at the start of their freshman year. Starting sophomore year, the grant tacks on an additional award to help offset tuition and fees.

If you’re a student in Florida and looking for room and board assistance, check out the Southern Scholarship Foundation. This renewable scholarship is in the form of rent-free housing near the campuses of some of the largest colleges in Florida. The only charge as part of the program is for food and services, which are pooled together with other program residents.

Applications are accepted year-round from students that demonstrate financial need. But if you’re already interested and want to apply soon, priority deadlines are April 1 and Oct. 31 for the fall and spring semesters, respectively.

[Take advantage of your regional scholarship opportunities.]

If a meal plan is draining your budget, take a look at scholarships at your college to see if any of them specifically cover meal plans. The University of Houston’s Dining Services has a unique partnership with the financial aid office to offer meal plan scholarships. Applicants that meet academic requirements can receive an all-access meal plan scholarship, as well as meal plan dollars to use at certain retail locations.

While this list is a start, always follow up with your financial aid office about which scholarships are currently available at your institution. Since awards vary from program to program, it’s best to find out which expenses qualify under a particular scholarship – some of those expenses may apply to those additional college costs as well as tuition. It may require more probing, but the payoff could be worth it.