October 5, 2010 | Suzanne Shaffer | 2 Comments What is FREE money for college? It’s money that you receive to finance your college education that doesn’t have to be paid back. This comes in the forms of grants and scholarships. Government grants are available to those who qualify based on financial need. Scholarships are available to anyone and can be found to fit every type of student. Here are five tips to bag some of that FREE money: 1. The early bird gets the worm Believe it or not, there are scholarships for all ages (even those in grade school). The earlier you begin the search, the more information you can gather regarding deadlines and scholarship criteria. By knowing the criteria, you can be proactive in your levels of involvement in your school and/or your community. Begin looking and researching as you enter high school. Once you enter your senior year, the deadlines approach quickly and you have little time to do scholarship research. 2. Don’t leave any stone unturned There are a numbers of scholarships available for every interest and level of involvement. Not all scholarships are academic or athletic. Use your high school counselor, your local library, and online scholarship matching services to find the right scholarships that best fit you. Look in your areas of interest and find those scholarships that fit those interests (i.e. film, science, technology, music). Look at past scholarship awards and examine the winners, analyzing why and how they won. 3. Pay attention to details Be thorough when completing those online matching services. Answer all the questions, even the optional ones. Doing so will assure better scholarship matches. Read all the rules and scholarship guidelines and make sure you complete the applications properly. Spend some time working on your applications. Taking the time to pay attention to details can pay you back in huge dividends. 4. Search in your own backyard Check with local area merchants, guidance counselors and local librarians for scholarships available in your own community. The applicant pool is much smaller and your chances of winning a local scholarship are increased. Local organizations love awarding scholarships to local applicants. Don’t neglect this vast pool of possibility. 5. Don’t forget about merit scholarships Colleges award merit scholarships or academic grants to deserving applicants. If your grades and SAT scores are good and you are at the top of the applicant pool, the chances of receiving a merit scholarship or grant can be quite good. Look at the college’s statistics to determine whether or not they award merit scholarships each year and what percentage of applicants receive them. FREE money is every college student’s dream. It decreases your need to borrow. Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid and should always be an important part of your financial aid package.