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The Search for Scholarships

Kara Lilly

Students who are about to graduate from high school are already looking ahead toward planning for their first year of college. With this comes the concern for paying their way through college and the search for scholarship opportunities.

So what are scholarships, where do you look to find them, how do you apply and what do you need to watch out for so that you don't get scammed?

There are a variety of scholarships offered. A scholarship is a gift to a student, one that does not have to be repaid, and is usually given do to the student's grades, achievements or the student meeting other eligibility requirements. There are popular scholarships that attract a lot of attention and that are quite competitive and there are the off-beat scholarships that require a little more digging to discover, yet are less competitive.

One myth about scholarships is that you have to have a perfect grand point average. There are many scholarships for average students that focus on qualities besides academic merit. There are also many community service scholarships.

To start your scholarship search, first make a list that includes all of your hobbies, clubs and extracurricular activities. Having this information at hand will help when it comes time to ask for letters of recommendation during the scholarship application process. Teachers and counselors can better sell students to selection committees if they have thorough resumes and background information.

You can now match your specialties to eligibility requirements. Don't waste your time and the institutes by applying for a scholarship you are not eligible for. For instance, if the scholarship is for children of veterans of war, be sure you have proof of this.

There are many small scholarships out there. There's no scholarship that's too low to apply for. The $200 and $300 scholarships add up.

Another way to search for scholarships is to contact schools that you are interested in and inquire about their scholarship programs.

When applying, save your applications so that you can revise them each time rather than having to recreate them. This applies to essays as well. You can make minor tweaks to essays and then use them to apply for multiple scholarships.

Where are the obvious places to start looking for scholarships? To name a few: Online; banks and credit unions; churches, alumni associations at schools the student's parents attended; local Rotary, Elks and Lions clubs; departments that offer the student's intended major, since they may have awards not handled through the university's financial aid and scholarships office; any fraternal or community organization to which the student and immediate family members belong; college and university foundations and student's and parents' employers.

And last, if a particular scholarship sound too good to be true, it usually is. Learn how to recognize and protect yourself from the most common scholarship scams. The number one tip: If you have to pay money to get money, it's probably a scam.

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