M.T. of Glen Head, NY writes:

I will be starting my junior year of high school in the fall. Is this a good time to start my search for college scholarships?

The College Whisperer responds:


While most students wait until they are firmly entrenched in their senior year (if then) to begin the critical scholarship search, the earlier the better.

In fact, while scholarships, in descending order of eligibility, are most widely available to high school seniors, college grants and scholarships are plentiful for high school juniors, and, while less so, to sophomores and freshman as well.

The sooner you begin your search, and the wider the net you cast, the more likely you are to catch some of that scholarship (read as FREE) money.

Begin your scholarship search right here and right now, at Fastweb.

Need money for college? Use FastWeb's free scholarship search to find information on more than 600,000 scholarships!

Everyone is aware of Fastweb, recommended by Guidance Counselors and admissions officers alike, and perhaps the most recognized name in the Internet scholarship search engine game. It is, or should be, on every student's list.

Fastweb is a completely FREE service (you're liking it more already, right?). FREE to register. FREE to search. FREE to apply for scholarships. [Be wary of scholarships that charge a processing fee to apply. Most, but not all, legitimate scholarships do not require a payment of any kind.]

When completing the Fastweb registration, take your time and be sure to be as detailed as possible in answering questions about your background, grades, test scores, interests, extracurricular activities, and so on. The more information input by you, and the greater the accuracy, the better chance you have of being matched not only to appropriate scholarships, but with colleges the may closely fit your ideal.

Of course, Fastweb is just a start. The appetizer to the world of finding money to pay for college.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of scholarship search engines online. One or two in addition to Fastweb should suffice. [Hint: College Connection students have unlimited access to College Cafe, with its essential links and resources, including a complete repertoire of links to the most notable and reliable scholarship search engines. And everyone has FREE (there's that word again) access to Campus Cash, with links to money saving, scholarship searching karma.]

Be diligent in your searches. Be prepared to spend a half hour to forty-five minutes, say, every other day (you're already online anyway, right?) scouring the web for scholarships, and additional time, as needed, to actually apply.

You will find potential scholarships of all sorts and sizes. Apply for any, and as many, that may fit the bill, or may even come close. Hey, you never know!

There are straight-forward scholarships based upon grades and test scores. Ones that require essays. And those that require little more than filing out a simple form. Some are contests, with random winners. Others insist on the demonstration of a special talent or proficiency. Then there are the off-the-wall scholarships, like those for left-handed people, students with the last name of Van Valkenberg, kids who are good with Duck tape, and so on. If you've got it, flaunt it!

Think big -- as in the big bucks on the line from some of the national scholarships, but don't overlook the smaller awards. Fewer students tend to apply for the scholarships offering what some may view as chump change, so your chances of seeing some money are likely improved. Besides, $100 dollars here and $250 there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money to pay for college.

Let's not forget about those scholarship resources available offline. In your own community, groups, clubs, organizations, financial institutions, often offer scholarships to local high school students. Don't be shy. Make inquiries. Remember, if you don't ask, you won't get!

Colleges themselves offer scholarships and grants of all varieties, some based upon merit, others on financial need. Always check the college websites for information, or contact the school's financial aid office.

And don't forget about that first line in college planning, your high school guidance office. New scholarships arrive daily, particularly in late fall and early spring. Visit the office daily. Hound your guidance counselor. Tell her The College Whisperer sent you.

Of course, your independent college planning counselor can help you search for scholarships by pointing you in the right direction, ferreting out the good prospects from the bad, developing a strategic plan, and helping you focus on the critical aspects of the scholarship search that may just lead others to show you the money.

$3.4 Billion in Scholarships
Here's a good article from CNNMoney, How to find college scholarships. Check it out.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of The College Whisperer.
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