Where Your Teen Should Search for College Scholarships

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Searching for college scholarships can seem like a daunting task for both you and your teenager. But by staying organized and committing a little time to research, you should be able to find scholarships that are suited for your college-bound kid. Don't wait until the last minute to begin making a list of scholarships; these awards tend to be highly competitive and most have hard deadlines, some as much as a year in advance.

Know what material you'll need to complete each application before you sit down to fill out forms.

Start With the FAFSA

First, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, to see what grants or loans your student may qualify for. This is also a good way to organize all your financial information for scholarship applications.

Use the High School Guidance Office

Any college scholarship search should begin with your teen's high school guidance office. Here you can ask about local grants and scholarships that are awarded to students at your teen's high school annually. Your teen's guidance counselor should be able to help with narrowing the choices of schools as well, based on past experience with how much scholarship money they typically give, and to whom.

Check Your Membership Organizations

If parents or grandparents belong to any civic, religious or professional organizations, there are likely scholarship options available.

Sometimes scholarships are offered to children of company employees, so be sure to ask the human resources department at your workplace about them.

College Admissions Office

Next stop is the college admissions offices of schools where your teen plans to apply. Check to see what scholarships are available for students planning to attend the college and the list of qualifications for each.

Again, don't wait until the last minute, and apply for scholarships even if your teen isn't totally committed to one school in particular. Better to apply for an opportunity than not; your teen can always decline any award that isn't a good fit, or for which they don't qualify.

Check Online

There are a few reputable companies that will assist with scholarship searches for parents and teens. CollegeBoard.com and FastWeb.com are two websites that have been around for some time, and have a lot of reliable information available. The U.S. Department of Education has resources on its website, as well.

Watch for Scams

A word of caution: Be alert for college scholarship scams. You will start to receive these in your email, in your snail mail and may see them advertised. Go over the signs of college scholarship scams before you apply for any. Verify that the source of the scholarship is reputable before supplying any personal information.

If your child "wins" an award he or she didn't apply for, be wary.

While some services will charge a fee to help track down scholarship awards, be on your guard against these as well, and make sure you know what recourse you have if such services don't deliver what you pay for.

And finally, don't be shy about asking alumni associations, acquaintances, or college students in the family about opportunities you may not have heard of. College tuition at top schools is unlikely to get less expensive, so every little bit can help.

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