Apply yourself: Now's the time to go for scholarships

College is becoming more expensive by the year. If you have a student entering school, you probably are faced with the sobering task of figuring out how to pay for it. While the cost of college tuition continues to rise, scholarships are still a tried-and-true way to bring the price tag of college to a more reasonable level.

But your child can't receive scholarship money if he doesn't apply for it. And as with most things in life, the early birds get the worms. Now is the time to get those applications completed in hopes of handsome rewards in the spring and summer.

Applying for scholarships should be one of the first steps in your plan to pay for college. However, scholarship myths continue to flourish and need to be dispelled.

Myth 1: Billions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed.

In reality, the number of unused scholarships is minuscule. You'll need to do your research and apply early to have a chance at getting your share of available funding.

Myth 2: Scholarships go only to the best students.

Many scholarships are awarded based on elements other than academic achievement. Some scholarships are based on the student's major field of study, involvement in extracurricular and community activities, ethnicity and geographic origin, or other factors.

Myth 3: Scholarship searches are worth paying for.

This myth eventually will die as people discover the many free resources available on the Internet or in the print media.

So how do students and their parents sort through the myths and get to the facts? Start the process early and utilize the resources around you. To find scholarship opportunities, start with your high school guidance counselor and local library for a list of possible resources. Next, check with your college financial aid office. Most states and many colleges offer scholarships, so students should also inquire about them. Finally, the Internet and organizational websites are excellent places to search. Remember, this information should always be free.

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