As students begin to return to colleges throughout the U.S. and abroad, paying for tuition and room and board are top of mind. So should finding ways to help pay those costs.

Most students rely on loans to pay for their education, but only a small percent of them ever apply for “free money”–scholarships. Some feel competition makes the odds not worth the effort, but organizations and individuals providing those scholarships often complain about how few students apply. Sometimes only a handful of students take the time to submit what are often easy-to-complete applications.

“Ironically, I was one of those students who passed on my first opportunity to apply for PRSSA scholarships as a rising junior,” said Maret Montanari, a 2019 graduate of the University of Alabama. “My reasoning? My qualifications and experience likely paled in comparison to other applicants. Fortunately, I had a second chance to apply as a rising senior, and I am glad I didn’t make the same mistake twice as I was fortunate enough to receive three scholarships.” Now a communications specialist at Jackson Spalding in Dallas, Maret says she realized two things from her experience:

  1. You shouldn’t sell yourself short because you truly never know the outcome until you give yourself a shot.
  2. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and neither do scholarship opportunities. When scholarships present themselves, seize the opportunity to apply by confidently advocating for yourself and your qualifications. “If you’re not willing to go all in on yourself in the form of a scholarship application, how can you expect a future employer to want to go all in by hiring and investing in you?”

Joseph Clarkson, a 2012 graduate of Ohio Northern University and now account director at Taylor, said his academic adviser encouraged him to apply for my mentorship scholarship, which he won. “Although I was initially skeptical, she reassured me the application process would be seamless and useful practice as I prepared to enter the job market,” Joe explained. “PRSSA provides a wealth of scholarship/award opportunities for its members. I encourage members to believe in their experience and merit and apply for these awards/scholarships. Like my college volleyball coach used to tell me ‘you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.'”

If you need a jump start on writing an award-winning application, check out these resources — Write an Application Essay for Scholarship and Sample Scholarship Application Template.

Financial aid offices at most colleges often track and suggest scholarship opportunities. Most applications for 2019 were due earlier this year, but this is a good time to research opportunities to pursue. Then, mark your calendar to submit your applications as soon as organizations start accepting them.

In the PR world, there are many scholarship opportunities, including those cited in this list compiled by Top Degrees Online.

25 Great Scholarships for Communications and Public Relations Majors