Whether you are waiting to go up to college or are already in college you will almost certainly need money for college and your starting point should always be to look for free money in the form of grants and scholarships. Here, one often overlooked area is that of credit union college scholarships. But just what is a credit union?
Credit unions were established in the United States during the early years of the twentieth century and today have some 86 million members. In simple terms a credit union is a financial organization or institution which is owned and controlled by its members and provides a range of financial services to its members, including the provision of credit at reasonable rates of interest.
Outwardly credit unions look a lot like banks in that you can open a checking or savings account with a credit union, have a credit union credit card and borrow money from a credit union for a variety of different purposes. However, behind the scenes the differences between credit unions and banks are substantial. For example, a bank is a business owned by its shareholders and managed by a paid board of directors whereas a credit union is owned by its members and run by a voluntary board drawn from those members. Perhaps most importantly credit unions are not-for-profit cooperative organizations which enjoy tax-exempt status. In other words, any money within the union is there for the benefit of the members and is exempt from federal and state income taxes, but not from employment of property taxes.
Okay, so what has all this got to do with college scholarships?
The vast majority of credit unions, like other organizations, are always keen to attract new members and one way in which they do this is to run annual competitions for the award of college scholarships. These competitions vary widely and might come in the form of an essay or video competition which is generally open to any member who is currently attending college or enrolled to start college in the year in which the competition is being run.
The important point to note about the competition is that it is only open to members and so, before you can submit an entry for consideration, you will need to join the union. This however is generally very easy and in many cases amounts to nothing more than opening a savings account, often with a balance of as little as $5.
What sort of award can you get and how easy is it to win?
Awards will vary widely between different credit unions and from year to year and they are unlikely to meet all of your expenses, but they can certainly help. One attraction however of credit union college scholarships is that competition is not always that high, especially for scholarships from the smaller unions, and so it is well worth having a try.