Steven Roberts: How to pay for college without student loans


BYU students are missing out on a goldmine of free money because they don’t know where to find it or have no motivation to apply for it. BYU students are eligible for hundreds of scholarships they don’t know about.

On Thursday, April 2, Steven Roberts, author and motivational speaker, addressed BYU students on the topic of how to pay for college without student loans. Roberts unveiled expert advice and techniques on how paying for college can be easier with the help of scholarships and grants.

Roberts explained that he relates to BYU students who are paying for college.

Steven Roberts, author and motivational speaker.

“When I was preparing to go to school, there was just no money, so I had to figure it out,” Roberts said. “It forced me to learn about all kinds of resources to save money.”

He began by recounting a personal story from earlier in his life, which he described as his “biggest mistake.” He said when he was a BYU student studying electrical engineering, an announcement was given to the 800 students in his major about an opportunity for two scholarships that were worth around $15,000 each. He was unmotivated to apply because of the amount of people who were eligible for the scholarship and his demanding amount of homework.

Roberts described his disappointment when he found out that out of the 800 people who were eligible for the scholarship, only three of those students applied, which meant two out of those three students received the $15,000 scholarships.

“Wow, a 66 percent chance of getting $15,000 … what was I doing?” said Roberts.

Out of the three people who received the scholarship, Roberts said, he had the best academic profile; but they deserved the scholarships, because they applied and he did not.

“The biggest mistake you can make is to self-eliminate … to not apply,” Roberts said. “Those who actually take the time to apply will benefit the most.”

Roberts said it is a stereotype that only certain people have the opportunity to obtain a scholarship. He explained three types of scholarships everyone has the ability to apply for:

1. Background-based scholarship

This type of scholarship doesn’t require the recipient to actually do anything. The scholarship is based on the background of the individuals and what they have been born into. This scholarship may include the individuals’ heritage, childhood, school location, living in a certain part of the country, family status, religion, etc.

2. Project-based scholarship

This type of scholarship requires an individual to submit a certain project such as an essay, a video, photography, art, etc. It is based on something that is worked on and submitted to be able to earn the scholarship.

3. Merit-based scholarship

The recipient of this type of scholarship will be decided by an amount of cumulative work performed. An example of a merit-based scholarship would be a scholarship based on the recipient’s GPA.

Roberts said there are a variety of ways to find scholarships that fall into one of these three categories; once students know the type, they can focus in on one of those three points.

The first resource he listed were two websites he has found success with: and He explained how these websites allow students to find out every type of scholarship available for them to apply for. All that is required is for a student to make a profile and answer personal questions about subjects such as GPA, interests, major, etc.

“I made a demo profile on one of these sites and picked random stuff,” Roberts said. “I made a profile of a student with a 2.7 GPA majoring in agriculture and interested in bull-riding. After submitting the information, my demo profile was eligible for 184 different types of scholarships”

In addition to those websites, Roberts suggested that students should look for scholarships through their major’s department head, campus general scholarship advisement and the office of prestigious scholarships.

Roberts reminded students that not everybody applies and that it is worth it to investigate each one of these resources, even the office of prestigious scholarships. He said the amount of time spent looking for scholarships will be worth it.

“Even if you spent 40 hours applying for scholarships and only received $1,000, that’s still $25 an hour,” Roberts said.

He encouraged students to explore other scholarship opportunities like Utah IDA and FAFSA.

Roberts said it is easy to discredit oneself and to generalize when applying for scholarships. He gave an example of when a scholarship required him to write about an act of service he had done. Roberts said he didn’t just write, “I did a service project with my church”; rather, he described in detail how he participated in a 10-person committee that donated more than 20 hours of service to help clean a community center.

Roberts said the difference between a bad essay and a good essay was the description of the results told as a story. He said the presentation of a story as being valuable is what will make a competitive essay for a scholarship.

“If there is someone who can write a fantastic essay, they’re gonna give it to the person with a 2.0 GPA over the 4.0 GPA,” Roberts said.

Another tip Roberts gave for applying for scholarships was to create an Excel spreadsheet with demographic info and previous essays that can be copied and pasted into applications.

“Scholarships ask the same thing over and over again,” Roberts said. “Save time by copying and pasting.”

In addition to applying for scholarships, Roberts explained that some student jobs can act like scholarships. He gave a personal example that when he had downtime on his job working as a student, he would take advantage of his time by doing homework. Roberts stated that he essentially got paid to do homework, because he leveraged his time while he worked.

“If I’m gonna do my homework, I want someone to pay me,” Roberts said. “On campus there are so many jobs where you can do the same thing — parking supervisor, TA, janitorial worker … find somewhere you can spend your time wisely. Don’t just assume it’s OK, though; go check to see if that will be a resource.”

Roberts explained that it is OK to be rejected when applying for scholarships and that the key is to just continue applying.

“No matter how many times you’re rejected, it only takes one to change your life,” he said.

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