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A poor economy and dwindling resources for student loans may have you worrying more than ever about funding your child's college education. But there are still scholarships available for those who pursue them and take the all-important step of applying long before the school year starts.
Applying for scholarships should be one of the first steps in your search. However, scholarship myths continue to flourish and need to be dispelled.
Myth 1: Billions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed.
In reality, the number of unused scholarships is minuscule. You'll need to do your research and apply early to have a chance at getting your share of available funding.
Myth 2: Scholarships go only to the best students.
Many scholarships are awarded based on elements other than academic achievement. Some scholarships are based on the student's major field of study, involvement in extracurricular and community activities, ethnicity and geographic origin, as well as other factors.
Myth 3: Scholarship searches are worth paying for.
This myth eventually will die as people discover the many free resources available on the Internet or in the print media.
So how do students and their parents sort through the myths and get to the facts? Start the process early--in December or January for the next school year--and utilize the resources around you. To find scholarship opportunities start with your high school guidance counselor and local library for a list of possible resources. Next, check with your college financial aid office. Most states and many colleges offer scholarships, so students should also inquire about them. Finally, the Internet and organizational Web sites are excellent places to search. Remember, this information should always be free.
Don't count yourself out just because you are not the valedictorian, class president or star athlete. There are scholarships available for many interests, backgrounds, and abilities. The bottom line is apply now, and, the more scholarships for which you apply, especially local and regional opportunities, the better your odds are to be selected.
Though the scholarship application process can be time consuming, most scholarships require similar information. Once you complete your first application, you can easily re-use the same information for additional scholarships.
Scholarships come from many sources, but the student may have to do some detective work to uncover them. For example, at www.usbank.com/studentbanking, you can apply to be one of 30 high school seniors to receive a $1,000 U.S. Bank Internet Scholarship. Over the past 12 years, U.S. Bank has awarded more than $320,000 in scholarship funding for this program. Scholarship award recipients are selected through a random drawing process. There are no essays to complete or minimum grade point average requirements. You simply need to attend an accredited two- or four-year college full-time next fall.
The U.S. Bank web site also features a powerful scholarship search engine. In partnership with Peterson's, it offers students a free scholarship search. Peterson's database contains nearly two million awards valued at more than $7 billion.
Scholarship Search Tips
* Start Early--Experts recommend college-bound students and their parents start looking as early as their freshman year in high school. By identifying potential awards, students can choose classes and activities that will increase their chance at winning a specific award in the future.
* Use the Internet--But be wary of scams posing as scholarships. If a scholarship is reputable, you should be able to find information about it through multiple sources. Try to use two sources, make sure the profile submitted is accurate; paying fees does not increase your chances of winning.
* Think Small--Competition can be tough for large awards. Smaller awards ($1,000 and less) typically have less competition and are easier to obtain.
Additional free scholarship Web sites you may want to visit include:
Courtesy of ARAContent