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Saturday Morning News

Benjamin Kaplan Discusses 'How To Go To College Almost For Free'

Aired September 16, 2000 - 8:38 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this is not a news flash. College tuition can be expensive, whether you attend a state college or an Ivy League university especially. But there is a way to cut through those costs.

Harvard grad Benjamin Kaplan won $90,000 in scholarships and he is the author of the book, "How To Go To College Almost For Free" and he joins us now from New York to talk about it.

Benjamin, congratulations to you for getting through Harvard, graduating in the class of '99. And how much did you end up doling out of your pocket?

BENJAMIN KAPLAN, AUTHOR, "HOW TO GO TO COLLEGE ALMOST FOR FREE": Not too much, just some incidentals. So my parents were very thrilled, as you can imagine. When we started out in this, we had really no idea how we were going to pay for college. I had been a tennis player before, figured I'd have a tennis scholarship, ended up getting a stress fracture in my back so I was looking for another way to pay for college, discovered of all these merit-based scholarships that were out there, applied for about three dozen of them, ended up winning about two dozen and a massive $90,000. So I'm just thrilled and I really know from my situation that just, you know, thousands of other families can really do the same thing.

O'BRIEN: All right, so how do you begin? I'm going to guess you go to your computer.

KAPLAN: Well, a great way to start is to understand all the scholarships that are out there, to use these free Internet scholarship search databases. What you do is you input personal characteristics -- where you're from, your interests, your background, maybe a career goal or two. You type them into the databases, they're entirely free and they give you a list of scholarships that match that definition.

Now, it's not the whole landscape of scholarships, but it's a great way to start. What I suggest doing is going to the site I help with called winscholarships.com. That's winscholarships.com. There you can link to an interface with all of these free databases.

Another great site, wiredscholar.com, you can understand how scholarships fit in with the overall financial aid landscape and it's a great way to start. It makes it a lot easier to get a good number of scholarship leads.

O'BRIEN: And there's the site right there, winscholarships.com, and who is that handsome guy there?

KAPLAN: I don't know.

O'BRIEN: It'll come to me.

KAPLAN: Yeah, I couldn't afford a real model, you know, so unfortunately I hope it doesn't deter too many people from using the site, but there I am.

O'BRIEN: All right, Benjamin, big question on most people's minds is much of what you got related to a family's income or is it purely merit-based? In other words, does it matter how much money you have?

KAPLAN: That's a great question and actually all of the scholarships I applied for were merit-based and that doesn't take into account your family's financial circumstances, your income, your assets. This is a type of aid that is really important, I think, for middle income families because oftentimes what they discover is a college's assessment of your financial need is very different from the realities of your bank account. So this is a great way to fill in those gaps.

So of the $90,000 I won, you know, all of it was merit-based and I could use it at the school of my choice, which is an important point. So it can be a two year school, a four year school, a vocational school. So sometimes you hear parents say oh, you know, or students say, you know, we really want to go to School A but School B is giving us so much money that we're going to School B and this is, you know, the message is you don't have to sacrifice school choice solely for financial circumstances.

O'BRIEN: All right, Benjamin, we don't have much time left, but I've got to ask you, a lot of people watching this are saying oh, you know, Harvard '99, the guy already has a book out, this kid is an over achiever. How could this relate to the average person?

KAPLAN: Well, there really is scholarships out there for everyone, for every type of interest and background, whether you're interested in arts or music or drama or science or being a TV anchor, whatever it may be, there's scholarships out there. A lot of them don't even look at grades. I'm doing all of these free scholarship workshops across the country. If people check out scholarshipcoach.com or call 800-454-2977, that's 800-454-2977, come out to a free workshop and you'll see that there really are scholarships for everyone.

O'BRIEN: All right, Benjamin, jeez, you're how old now?

KAPLAN: I've just turned 23. I'm an old man.

O'BRIEN: Boy, you're off to a good start in your career. Benjamin Kaplan. KAPLAN: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Who is the author of the book, "How To Go To College Almost for Free," having done just that and now publishing and telling the world about it. We appreciate you being with us on CNN SATURDAY MORNING.

KAPLAN: Thanks for having me.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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