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Tips for Summertime Scholarship Hunting

Summer is a smart time to start the scholarship hunt. Whether you are a high school senior looking ahead for funding as a college freshman or a returning college student hoping to find some additional support, there are plenty of organizations, foundations, and businesses out there giving money away for education—but they won't come to you.

Students may be working hard this summer to earn money for college or study for college-entrance exams, but it might be well worth it to also set aside time to check out scholarships that could provide free money with only the investment of time in an application and essay.

One new resource out there by FindTheBest compares more than 15,000 scholarships and grants. Gen and Kelly Tanabe's site SuperCollege.com has a scholarship search function, along with other services. Wisechoice.com and Fastweb.com are also among good options suggested by counselors.

But make sure you never pay for a scholarship search site or services, says Jim Miller, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. High school counselors should be a good source of information on scholarships. Don't overlook local scholarships and service organizations, such as Rotary clubs, suggests Miller.

Don Fraser Jr., director of education and training for NACAC in Arlington, Va., says the best bet for students is to look locally because there is usually less competition for the dollars. To find a database of local scholarships, ask local foundations and check the mayor's website or the state education department's.

Fraser suggests students get in the habit of asking every place they go to shop if they offer college scholarships. "Many local malls offer scholarships, so go to the information booth and ask," he says. "It may be a no, but it may be a yes. You'll never find out if you don't ask." Other businesses that cater to teens, such as Foot Locker, Dunkin' Donuts, and Wendy's, offer scholarships. Parents should also ask their employers if they provide student scholarships.

While many scholarships are based on financial need, Fraser says there are plenty that are merit-based. However, having a certain GPA may just be one of several criteria to qualify. Many colleges and universities offer scholarships based strictly on GPA and/or standardized-test scores, but rather than applying, schools just offer them to students upon acceptance as an incentive to come.

"Finding scholarships is certainly a process that students must commit to. It can be frustrating sifting through databases and/or resource books to find those for which you are eligible," says Fraser. "I must remind students that you have to give something to get something, and in this case, it's time. Students must persist."

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