Scholarship Search Time

11/19/2017 09:51 pm ET

It’s deadline time for college applications, and soon it will be crunch time for figuring out how to pay for college if you’re accepted. That’s why you should start your search for FREE money now – well before the scholarship money for the 2018-2019 school year runs out early next year.

Set aside some time in the holiday season to search online for scholarships that can make all the difference in college affordability. High school sophomores and juniors should search, too. Starting early to build credentials required for some of these scholarships -- or practicing essay-writing -- can pay off when it comes time to apply.

By now, high school seniors (and those in college) should have already filed the FAFSA forms required for Federal student loans, along with need-based assistance such as grants and work-study programs from the colleges to which you are accepted. But it’s unlikely those programs will pay for the entire cost of your school year. That’s where scholarships can be very helpful.

The Internet has made the search easy – and free. Fastweb.com, Scholarships.com, TuitionFundingSources.com and the are sites that let you search for millions of dollars in scholarships.

Start by filling in an online profile at each site, detailing your family history, ethnicity, area of study -- from technology to nursing to journalism. Then with a click they can search their vast databases to find any scholarships for which you might qualify – and a direct link to each.

The more information you give them about yourself, the more matches they can make. This is one area where racial profiles, ethnicity, religion, and family history can provide a positive contribution to your success.

The sites are free because they are supported by online ads. They also share your info with colleges recruiting potential applicants, or financial services firms offering private student loans. Importantly, you can opt out of receiving email pitches.

Unusual Scholarships

Here are some of the most unusual offerings you’ll find among the many that are accessible to a much wider pool of applicants:

· The Duck Tape Prom Dress/Tuxedo Scholarship. No kidding. Here’s the official description: “By fashioning prom attire entirely out of Duck Tape, students have a chance to win one of two $10,000 Grand Prizes (one for best tux and one for best dress), totaling $20,000 in scholarship dollars.” Entries must be submitted between April 1 and June 2, 2018.

· The National Potato Scholarship. The $10,000 award is provided annually to a graduate student with a strong interest in research that can directly benefit the potato industry.

· The Zolp Scholarship is available to pay toward tuition to any Catholic student by the last name of Zolp who attends Loyola University in Chicago.

· The “For the Love of Chocolate” Scholarship. This is my personal favorite! Alas, it is only offered to students at The French Pastry School.

Again, the odds are that you will find dozens of scholarships for which you can easily qualify –many worth a lot of money.

Early Bird Scholarships

Kevin Ladd, COO of Scholarships.com, says: “Junior year is the new senior year.” He offers examples of huge awards for which students can compete and win in grade and high school, with the money held for their college education.

· Toshiba/NSTA Exploravision Science Competition. This competition provides $10,000 grants and is open to students at every grade level for project-based science competitions. They’ve already awarded over $6.7 million in grants. Deadline is February 8, 2018.

· Davidson Fellows Scholarship. Win $50,000 for turning in the best application (or $25,000 and $10,000 for runners-up). Deadline February 14, 2018.

· Ron Brown Scholars Program. Scholarships for African Americans (applying in any year of high school) to “pursue higher education and become leaders in their community.” Winner gets $10,000 per year over 4 years for college. Requires a 1,000 word essay, with citations and five sources. Deadline January 9, 2018.

· John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Scholarship. This contest is open to all high school students, requires a 700-1,000 word creative essay that demonstrates an understanding of political courage as described by John F. Kennedy in Profiles in Courage. Award amount is $10,000. Deadline: January 4, 2018.

Please refer to the detailed application requirements for each of these programs at Scholarships.com.

You could win a lot of college money by using your winter break wisely to work on these applications and essays. In this case, it’s the early bird that gets the money. And that’s The Savage Truth.

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