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Students can save time in their search for tuition funding and other information by visiting scholarship databases.

— Submitted Photo

1. Time-saving databases

You could Google until your fingers go numb and still not uncover a fraction of the legitimate scholarship opportunities that have been pre-screened and neatly packed into the following easy-to-navigate databases:

CollegeBoard.com highlights 2,300 scholarships collectively worth more than $3 billion.

Fastweb.com lists 1.5 million scholarships and prides itself on being updated daily.

CollegeNET.com is a user-friendly site which lists scholarships for everyone from freshmen in high school to graduate students.

2. Start the search early

Many students make the mistake of waiting until the middle of senior year to pursue scholarship opportunities when a good number of scholarships are available only to high school juniors, sophomores or even freshman. The websites mentioned above all have a search feature that will allow you to view scholarship opportunities available specifically for students in your current grade.

3. Play to your strengths

Only apply to scholarships that are right in your wheelhouse. If you are a top-notch violinist who pulls C’s in chemistry and bio, don’t waste your time applying for a scholarship in the sciences. Pour all of your time and energy into pursuing areas of genuine interest and accomplishment.

4. Beware of scams

By sticking with our recommended websites, you’ll avoid illegitimate scholarships. However, as a general rule, avoid any listing that requires an application fee or seems to have no genuine criteria for eligibility.

5. Do your research

Many institutions count scholarships against students when awarding aid, because they view the acquisition of extra funds as causing a reduction in financial need. It is important to know which colleges will alter your aid package should you win a scholarship, and whether these colleges will reduce your grants, loans or a combination of both. Over-award policies can typically be found on any college’s financial aid website.

6. Polish up your essays

For scholarships that require an essay component, a generic and bland submission, especially one riddled with spelling and grammar errors, is not even worth your time to compose. Make sure the first line or two are attention grabbing and the whole document is well-written and edited by at least one trustworthy source.

7. Pick recommendations wisely

Many organizations will require a letter of recommendation along with your submission. Pick someone who knows you intimately and can speak in great detail about your unique personal qualities and attributes. Remember, every applicant will be submitting a glowing letter; yours simply needs to burn brighter than the rest.

8. Edit your online presence

Now is the time to delete or at least edit your social media pages. Just as in the actual admissions process, organizations considering you for a scholarship are likely to Google your name. The last thing you want a scholarship organization to see are risqué Facebook photos or off-color Tweets.

9. Always look for opportunities

Scholarships for students already enrolled in college are far more abundant than people generally assume and receive significantly fewer applications than those offered to high school students. Additionally, your pursuits in college may open doors to scholarships you never previously thought possible.

10. Focus on institutional aid

It is important to remember only 5 percent of aid available to undergraduates nationwide comes in the form of private scholarships. Institutional aid, meanwhile, comprises 19 percent of all available aid. To increase your chances at procuring institutional money, prepare well for the SAT/ACT, take a rigorous course load, maintain a stellar grade point average and do your homework on which schools offer large aid packages to students with your academic profile. — (NAPS)

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