4 Financial Aid Tips for Culinary School

Creative ways to scrounge up money for culinary school.

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Culinary school costs can range from $2,000 to upwards of $45,000, and that’s just for tuition. You also have to buy uniforms, cooking supplies, books, application fees, travel expenses, and living expenses.

Some schools require that you live on campus for the duration of your culinary school experience. Figuring out how to cover the tuition and fees can be challenging but there are several places you can look for extra money.

Cooking contests are one fun way to raise money for school

#1: Fill out the FAFSA

On their financial aid pages, most schools will note that all students should complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) during the application process. Usually, government aid comes in two forms.

  • Loans: Stafford loans are the most common type of federal loan. One type accumulates interest while you are in school, and the other kind does not.
  • Work-study: Depending on your current income situation, the federal government may deem you eligible for federal work-study. This would give you the opportunity to work part-time and go to school. This option also allows you to boost your resume as you may be able to find work assisting your culinary professors or working in restaurants.

The process for getting federal financial aid can be confusing. To help demystify the process, check out the Department of Education's publication on Funding Your Education.

#2: Start locally

Sometimes scholarship money can be found in your own backyard. Religious organizations and local non-profit organizations (like Rotary Clubs) often offer scholarships to people looking to further their education.

#3: Search general databases

Campus Explorer’s Scholarship search tool allows you to search through 1.9 million scholarships. Each scholarship’s page gives detailed information about eligibility criteria, application processes, and more. You can even search by application deadline, school, major, state, and amount.

Grants are often available to people looking to further their education. If you have a unique circumstance, such as a disability or low-income status, you may be able to find grants specific to your situation. GrantVine is one of many databases that lists grants available to individuals.

#4: Connect with Associations

Culinary associations and foundations often provide scholarships as well. Women Chefs and Restaurateurs (WCR), the James Beard Foundation, and The Culinary Trust are just a few of the organizations offering scholarships to future culinary students. The Reluctant Gourmet, a popular cooking blog, offers an extensive list of other organizations that offer scholarships and other forms of financial assistance.

Quick Tips

  • Cooking contests are one fun way to raise money for school. It could be a large-scale contest like Food Network's "Chopped", a locally sponsored competition, or anything in between.
  • Will Budiaman, editor at The Daily Meal and a culinary school graduate, suggests getting a job (part-time or full-time) working as an entry-level cook before applying to culinary school. This kind of experience can really help you determine if a career as a chef is right for you.

Sources: Allculinaryschools.com

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