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Guide to Finding College Scholarships

Find Scholarships and Free Money For Your Child's College Education

Let's face it: College is expensive. Before you plunge into financial depression, rest assured that there is money – free money – out there, waiting for your teen. Now, all you've got to do is find it.

On the Internet

The Internet is making it easier for college-bound students to find scholarships that fit their needs. Many Web sites offer easy access to information about colleges and universities located throughout the United States. Information can be found on college scholarships and financial aid, and various sites offer tips on SAT and ACT test preparation for students. Whether it is financial aid, admission information or criteria for qualification, it is literally at your fingertips.

Some great scholarship resources online are:

On the Home Front

Your state may be holding the key to your teen's post-high school education.

"Some states like Iowa, offer two free college classes a semester to high school students," says Hilary Evan of Fort Dodge, Iowa. "That is a very easy way to save money, and it gives you a leg up when it comes to applying for scholarships."

Students in Georgia have another opportunity. HOPE – Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally – is a unique scholarship program that offers financial assistance in degree, diploma and certificate programs at any of Georgia's eligible public and private colleges and universities. This scholarship rewards students who meet the eligibility requirements. A graduate is eligible for the HOPE scholarship once they have completed the necessary hours of study with a final 3.0 cumulative grade point average.

Students who have recently obtained their GED in the state of Georgia and meet the grade point average requirements will receive a $500 HOPE GED Grant to be used toward their first year of college. It is also possible for GED students to qualify for the HOPE Grant for Certificate and Diploma Programs, which covers tuition, fees and a $300 book allowance.

At public colleges, the HOPE scholarship provides full tuition, approved mandatory fees and a $150 per semester book allowance. At private colleges, the HOPE provides $3,000 per year. Students may also qualify for the Georgia Tuition Equalization Grant of $1045 per academic year.

This opportunity is available for all legal Georgia residents who have not yet earned a bachelor's degree, who first entered college in Georgia as a legal resident and are entering their sophomore year or later.

The HOPE is a unique scholarship that is largely funded by the Georgia Lottery for Education. Since its induction in 1993, there have been more than 600,000 students who have received more than $1.5 billion through the program.

In Books

There are wonderful resource books available at bookstores, libraries and in the high school guidance offices.

Money for College is an easy-to-understand guide that provides college-bound students with complete college scholarship, financial aid and college admission application strategies.

Another very detailed guide to financial aid and scholarship information is The Financial Aid Book: The Insider's Guide to Private Scholarships, Grants, Fellowships, Internships, Competitions and Loans. This thorough, step-by-step book guides students through the directory listing of scholarships and grants. It also provides information on scholarship matching services. There is a complete section about the application process with helpful instructions that explain how to write winning essays, application letters and how to fill out all the paperwork involved.

At the back of The Financial Aid Book, there is a personal data form which will aid in pinpointing your teen's key areas of interest. This will make it easier to match their personal profile with all available scholarships. There are more than 3,000 listings in this book for college financial aid.

In Person

High school guidance counselors have a wealth of information and contacts for college scholarships, grants and other funding. Some scholarships require a nomination from a school official, so it is often best for students to set up an appointment to talk about scholarship options with their counselor early in their senior year.

"This is probably obvious, but my son's guidance counselor was the biggest help of all," says Pat Evans of San Jose, Calif., about her experience with the scholarship process. "She submitted his name to a couple of scholarships that require nomination by a teacher or counselor, and he won one of them. It was a scholarship for a scholar-athlete who has overcome adversity. Sometimes the obvious is the best place to start."

Evans was thrilled to discover her son won the local scholarship from the Wedemeyer Foundation. "One of the nice things about local scholarships is that they can have a quick turnaround time," she says. "Guidance counselors receive a lot of information, but they may not know that it applies to your child."

William C. Nelsen, president of the Citizens' Scholarship Foundation of America (CSFA) in Minneapolis, Minn., encourages parents to get their teenagers searching for scholarships by their junior year of high school. "Even as freshman they should learn about the qualities and achievements necessary to compete for scholarships: good grades, volunteer activities, leadership, meaningful summer jobs and other valuable experiences," he says.

Nelsen agrees that the place to start the search is with the high school guidance counselor. He also believes that the Internet has become a good way to do initial research.

Students should also look in their own community," says Nelsen. "Fraternal and service clubs, such as Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary or American Association of University Women, as well as religious organizations sponsor scholarships for youth in their community."

There are so many opportunities for teenagers to find scholarship money to fund their college education. It takes only a little work for a lifetime of rewards.

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