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How to Get College Scholarships

Grades or Effort: What will get you scholarships?

You have some schools in mind. You have the will. You have good grades. You even have that sweatshirt that has “COLLEGE” on it. But in the money department, there’s much to be done. It has become obvious that you’re going to need financial help.

Is there any chance you could get a free ride to college? It's not easy, says Barry W. Simmons, director of the office of scholarships and financial aid at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia.

"Unless you can score a 1600 on the SAT or can run faster and jump higher than anyone else, there aren't many 'full rides' out there," he says. "It's a matter of supply and demand."

Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of and co-author of The Prentice Hall Guide to Scholarships and Fellowships for Math and Science Students, agrees by saying that true full rides to college are very rare, and because of this, the people who are “in it to win it” are fierce competitors for the rewards.

How do you start?
Your best bet is to make a potent financial combination from a variety of aid, including scholarships, grants and financial awards. You’re going to have to search for quite a while and work your charm, but it can pay off. "If a student has been thorough in their research and used scholarship search tools, they will find many opportunities," Simmons says. Another tip he has is that “too much is never enough.” Check to see if you can "bank" any excess awards for future years, Simmons says. Many come in lump sums that can be tucked away into savings accounts to make the long haul much easier during your education experience.

But Ben Kaplan, who is an author of scholarship application tip books, believes that students with initiative, resolve and creativity can cut their college costs tremendously. He knows what he’s talking about. Kaplan won $90,000 in scholarships from a large collection of programs after applying for more than 30 different awards. "Colleges are giving more and more aid to 'special' students, including merit scholarships and preferential packages of need-based aid," he says.

Where is a scholarship an Average Joe can earn?
In case it wasn’t stated clearly enough before, there are lots of places for you to look. Great scholarships are easier to find these days, thanks to the Web. The flip side of this is that there are more of your competitors using these tools as well. So get started!

Community service based scholarships:

Scholarships for average students:

Unusual scholarships:

Full tuition scholarships (So you’re an Average Joe. You can dream big!):

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