The College Board has estimated the average overall cost of public college education in 2012 to be $22,261 per year, and the cost of a four-year private school is even higher at $42,289 per year.  

Although many students receive grants and scholarships, reducing the average net price of private college to $27,600 per year, these fees are still prohibitively expensive for many students, especially since a cost of living calculator shows that university-filled cities like Boston, New York and Los Angeles have higher living expenses than smaller cities.

Most Hispanic students pay these steep fees by going into debt.  Sixty-seven percent of Hispanic students have to borrow to complete college, and Hispanic students graduate college with an average of $22,886 in debt. When most students nowadays are graduating into a recession with few job prospects and low pay, this level of debt can be crippling.

College is a vital part of career development, and scholarships and grants are crucial to a student’s ability to complete their education, particularly for minority and first-time college students. There are plenty of scholarships and financial aid available, and this is particularly true for prospective Hispanic students.  

The top scholarships for Hispanics are offered by large national organizations.  The most wide-reaching scholarships include those offered by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.  This fund offers a number of scholarships each year, including:

• ALPFA scholarship for Hispanic students who want to study business and finance
• AT&T scholarship for dependents of AT&T employees
• Macy’s College Scholarship, which rewards students enrolled in one of sixteen pre-selected universities

Other organizations offer large scholarships as well.  The United Health Foundation offers scholarships to those enrolled in health-related majors such as nursing, psychology and medicine.

While these scholarships are difficult to obtain, there are several steps Hispanic students can take to increase their chances of obtaining funding.

1. Get involved in extracurricular activities.  Schools and scholarship committees like to see that students are busy and involved in their community. Additionally, extracurricular activities can provide fodder for application essays.

2. Research scholarships and eligibility requirements. A NerdScholar study found that applying to scholarships in your home state and within your potential area of study has more weight than ethnicity and gender in helping your chances of securing funding.

3. Seek out mentors.  Ask teachers, coaches, counselors and other mentors to help you.  Others may know of scholarships, and they maybe willing to write you letters of recommendation as well.

4. Apply to as many scholarships as possible.  Students should make sure to apply to as many as possible to increase their chances of success.  You can apply for scholarships for Latinos as well as scholarships within your area of study.  If you don’t apply, you could be leaving thousands of dollars on the table.

For more from Nerdwallet click here.

Divya Raghavan is an analyst for NerdScholar, a consumer-friendly financial literacy website that offers unbiased resources and advice to help consumers apply to college, navigate their personal finances and find the best CD rates.

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