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Kids & Money: When to Look for Scholarships

If you plan on sending your child to college, you know that it’s expensive. The cost of an education rises each year. And, while you are hopefully saving up for college with the help of a savings account or a 529 plan [3], it doesn’t hurt to look for other ways of paying for school.

Scholarships can provide a way for your child to get free money for college. A scholarship can reduce the burden on you, as well as reduce the burden of student loan debt for your child. If you want your child to get a scholarship, though, you both have to start preparing ahead of time.

It’s important to work hard for decent grades, as well as to consider extracurricular activities and involvement. If your teenager starts at the beginning of high school to prepare to be eligible for scholarships [4], he or she is more likely to find success down the road. You can also start looking around at different scholarship options so that you know what your teen needs to work on.

You also need to start applying before your teen goes to school. Applying late in the junior year of high school, and in the early part of the your teen’s senior year, is often a good idea. Check scholarship deadlines to make sure that you are on track, and make sure to fill out the applications in order so that you don’t miss options.

Where to Look for Scholarships

There are a number of opportunities for scholarships. You can start by looking in your own community. Many civic organizations, retailers and even banks offer scholarships. Find out about the eligibility requirements, and what tasks (some scholarships require that certain items be accomplished) are needed. You might be surprised at what is available in your own hometown. These types of local scholarships are a good place to start.

Also, look at the schools that your teen has been accepted to. If your child has decided to enroll with a particular school, call the financial aid office and find out what scholarships are available. There are usually different scholarships, based on need, merit or even offered to those who will study in a certain field. Get a list of available scholarships, and apply through the university.

You can also turn to the Internet. There are a number of web sites online that compile different scholarships that you can compete for. Two of the most popular sites you can visit for information on scholarships from around the country are:

  1. Scholarships.com [5]
  2. Fastweb.com [6]

You should also visit the FAFSA web site [7]. This is the federal government’s student aid web site. It features information about grants, and work study programs, as well as information about federal student loans. If you want to apply for federal financial aid, you need to fill out one of these forms. Visiting this site is a definite must, in addition to checking into your other scholarship options.

These days, it’s harder to just get one big scholarship to cover everything. Instead, you will likely need multiple funding sources. The more scholarships your teen applies for, the more likely he or she will be be to get the help needed.

(Photo: Christopher S. Penn [8])