It’s almost time for summer! Time to attack your summer reading list, go swimming, attend camp, drive your parents crazy, work on your art, finish your novel, catch up on Jersey Shore…or research scholarships for college. Huh?!

Well, the truth is, college tuition is at an all-time high. But that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach: in fact, every year, millions of dollars of financial aid go unused. In addition to applying to programs like The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, there are tons of other programs and resources to help support a college education. Even if you aren’t a graduating senior this year, it doesn’t hurt to start early and learn more about the resources that are out there. Most scholarships will include an application process and involve deadlines, but the process doesn’t have to be boring. Do some research by a pool, enjoy an hour of air conditioning, sit back and relax with a glass of lemonade, try to find some of the weirdest scholarships you can and think about using some of the following tips and tricks.

That money has to go to someone, so why not you?

A Few Tips For Finding Scholarships:

1. Put Google to work for you. Think about the types of opportunities you want to hear about and subscribe to Google Alerts to send you weekly updates. For example, if you’re thinking about attending an art program in a particular region or for a particular subject, think about key words like “painting scholarship,” “financial aid artists,” or “Boston scholarships.”

2. Beyond grades and academics, what are your hobbies or skills? Do you do a lot of environmental work, knit, write for your school newspaper, volunteer at a local soup kitchen or play a sport? A lot of scholarships are geared towards students involved in specific activities, so don’t rule those out from your search.

3. There are hundreds of scholarships out there, so focus on the ones that you’re best qualified to pursue by creating a list. A targeted search will save you time.

4. Volunteer work may be unpaid, but it can have a valuable payback. Several organizations, such as Americorps, reward volunteers with financial aid scholarships for college; community organizations also frequently offer scholarship opportunities to teen volunteers. Even the Michigan Llama Association offers scholarship opportunities for eligible students.

5. What’s your background? Descendants of almost any ethnic, religious or national background may find specific scholarships geared towards them. There are scholarships for everyone from Armenian to Welsh and scholarships are sometimes available through local churches, mosques, temples and synagogues.

6. Let your teachers know you’re researching scholarships. They may know of other opportunities and this will give you a head start as some scholarship programs require letters of recommendation from teachers.

7. When doing a search on the Internet for college scholarships, try to diversify your keywords. Instead of just typing in “art scholarship,” make a list of different ways to phrase that and enter them as your search terms. Also consider adding words like “award,” “contest,” “competition,” and “resources” – a lot of competitions offer scholarships as a prize.

You never know what you’ll reel in. Happy searching!

Image, above: “Say What?!” Artist: Alyssa White, Grade 12. Painting. 2010 Silver Medal.

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