Every year, thousands of dollars allocated to scholarships go unused because no one applied for them. When it comes to paying for college, think creatively when you search for scholarships, and you might turn up some free money for college from a source you wouldn't normally have considered.
Below are some places where you should definitely look for scholarship money.
Your parents' workplaces: Many businesses and professional organizations offer scholarships, either for the children of their employees or for students who might be interested in entering a related field. What's more, many of these scholarships go unnoticed unless employees inquire. Remind your parents to also check with any professional organizations they belong to, as well as any workers' unions.
Your workplace: Whether you have an after-school job at the local library or other civic institution, spend your Saturdays typing claims for an insurance adjuster, or flip burgers at McDonald's four nights a week, ask about scholarships. (Surprised that McDonald's offers scholarships to its employees? They do!)
Your organizations: If you belong to the local YMCA, Girl Scouts, or Boys' Club, ask about scholarship opportunities.
The Internet: The following list contains some of the most respected Web sites for scholarship research. Start your Internet search by checking them out:
American Education Services (www.aessuccess.org): See the Scholarship Search link in the center of the page.
Collegeboard.com (www.collegeboard.com/pay): See the green tab titled, "Pay for College."
Fastweb (www.fastweb.com): This is the largest and most preferred source of scholarships out there. Don't miss it!
Federal Student Aid (http://studentaid.ed.gov): See the link titled, "Funding Your Education."
FinAid (www.finaid.org): This is a comprehensive source for all types of financial aid.
The Princeton Review (www.princetonreview.com): See the section titled, "Scholarships & Aid."
Scholarship Resource Network Express (www.srnexpress.com): A database of scholarships.
Scholarships.com (www.scholarships.com): Another database that allows you to search for scholarships, offers tips on writing scholarship application request letters, and more.
U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov): Don't forget the government! Check out the Student Financial Aid Information Center in the right column.
If you practice a particular faith, do a Google search (using terms such as "Methodist" and "scholarship," or "Jewish" and "financial aid," for example). Do the same for other things that apply to your life, including sports or musical instruments that you play, activities in which you excel, clubs you belong to, or the subjects you plan on studying in college.
Libraries: Ask the librarian to help you find scholarship information. He or she should be able to refer to you books, magazines, and other media containing scholarship information. College libraries are especially helpful, so if there's a university or college near your town, spending an afternoon there might be time well-spent.
While you're on campus, stop by the Student Career Center or the Admissions Office. Sometimes, they have scholarship information, as well. Wander through the student union and look at message and bulletin boards and you might find even more scholarship information.
Newspapers: Often, the local newspapers will advertise scholarships given by local organizations.
Remember, academic and athletic scholarships usually have the highest payout. Scholarships like the ones you're likely to find at most of the sources listed above are often much smaller. But even if you only get $250 from each source you seek out, it's money you didn't have before.