The many places to look for college scholarships

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For high school seniors, this time of year brings excitement and trepidation. One of the greatest sources of the excitement is gaining your independence and deciding where you’ll continue your education next year. On the other hand, figuring out how to pay for that education can be a great source of worry.

The cost of a college education has risen sharply over the years. The most recent government estimates put the average annual cost of tuition and room and board at a four-year public university at $13,424, while a year at a four-year private college costs $30,393. Student loans and other financial aid programs are in place to help students foot the bill while attending college, but the best source of payment is scholarships, since they don’t have to be repaid.

College scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, so finding the ones that might work for you is not always simple. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few logical places to look when applying for scholarships:

Online: Many Internet sites, such as, offer a free database for students to search the Web for scholarships for which they qualify. Look for sites that sort scholarships by categories to simplify your search. Never pay for help searching for scholarships, as these types of sites are often not legitimate. Scholarship sites may also provide helpful insight on what types of scholarships to apply for.

Your college: Depending on the college, you may qualify for some of the scholarships offered just by applying. However, be sure to check if there are any additional scholarships available. Find someone in the financial aid office who can direct you to opportunities that might be a good fit for you.

Your high school: Talk with your guidance counselor to see what types of scholarships are available to students at your school.

Your parents’ place of employment: Many employers offer scholarships to children of employees. Students should ask their parents if they’ve explored this option.

Local organizations: From your church to your local American Legion, faith communities and philanthropic organizations frequently offer small scholarships. No matter how small, any scholarship can make a big difference, especially if you win a few of them.

Initially, searching and applying for scholarships might seem like a lot of work. But later on, when your student loan payments are at a reasonable level, you’ll thank yourself for finding these sources of funding for your education.