Paying for College

Financial Help for First-Generation Student From Kentucky

Question: I'm a currently a high school senior in Kentucky and I will be the first member of my immediate family to go to college. I looked at the Coca-Cola scholarship, but the form I found is only for Alabama and the links to one of the sites will not open. I'm unsure of what to do because I have no way of paying for college and I need a scholarship. What do I do?

I wish you'd written to me sooner because I could have helped to direct you to appropriate colleges that might have adequate financial aid for you. Often the best aid comes right from the colleges themselves rather than from outside scholarships, but many application deadlines have now passed.

Regarding the Coca Cola First-Generation Scholarships which you mentioned: I wrote an entire "Ask the Dean" column on this topic a while back. You can read it here:

Note that these scholarships are awarded through specific participating colleges, so you have to put the cart before the horse ... that is, you need to decide where you plan to want to go to college and then find out if they participate in the Coca Cola program.

Meanwhile, here are some other suggestions for you:

1) If you haven't done so already, consider Berea College in Kentucky. See

Berea provides FREE tuition to ALL students in exchange for work on campus. The Berea philosophy is that its "Student Labor Program" not only enables them students to get an excellent education without tuition bills and debt but also allows them to learn through their work for the community as well as in the classroom.

Not surprisingly, the admission is very competitive. About a fifth of all applicants are accepted. For median SAT and ACT scores, see:

An interview is also required for freshman admissions. The application deadline is April 30, so you have plenty of time.

2) Fill out the FastWeb questionnaire at This is a free way to find scholarships for which you are eligible. Once you've submitted the questionnaire, you'll get a list of scholarships to consider. Some will require fairly simple applications; others (especially the big ones) may demand more work. You can check out the requirements (and the amount of the award) and decide which ones seem worth the time it will take to apply. Needless to say, the bigger the pay-off, the more competition you'll face.

Presumably, you will also be filling out the FAFSA form and following the financial aid application requirements at all of the colleges on your list. Pay strict attention to these requirements –and to the deadlines—because they can vary from school to school. If you are confused by all of this (and it is indeed confusing), write back.

(posted 1/9/2011)