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Total Financial Makeover
Fight College Tuition Costs with Planning and Scholarships
June, 2006 - Issue #20
It's never too early or too late to start planning to conquer the cost of college. With nearly $14 billion in scholarships being offered every year, searching for "free" money is worth your time. There are currently 2.4 million scholarships available and many of them never get a single application. Internet resources allow students to find scholarships that most never knew existed.

Although finding these scholarships has become easier, it still takes effort and persistence to maximize your potential earnings. With so much scholarship money waiting to help students, there is no reason your child is not able to have a part of their college costs paid.

Start with Encouragement

Parents should encourage their young ones to participate in as many extracurricular activities and volunteer events as possible. When your child participates in a community event, be sure to get the project coordinator's name and contact information. This will become a valuable asset in the scholarship application process. Ask the event coordinator to write a letter of praise for a job well done for your child. A letter of praise can really put your child ahead of his or her competitors. When it comes to motivating a child to apply for scholarships, nothing can take the place of continuous positive reinforcement and encouragement from you as their parent.

Seek Expert Help

Learning the special techniques to search for scholarships is a big part of opening the floodgates to free money for your child. The more scholarships a child can apply for, the better their chances in "winning" funds to offset their future education expenses. There are a lot of no-cost solutions that educate parents and children on how to find scholarships. Keep an eye out for college planning seminars offered in the community or find a financial counselor who specializes in college planning. School counselors are also one of the best free sources of college planning information available to you and your child.

"Learning the special techniques to search for scholarships is a big part of opening the floodgates to free money for your child."
Search the Web

Free scholarship search engines on the internet allow your child to enter personalized information that gets cross referenced against a large database. This process matches your child with thousands of scholarships that are applicable to them. Be sure to use only credible and secure scholarship search websites and be especially cautious when entering credit card or personal information. Your child should always be supervised when on the internet entering personal data.

Start Applying and don't Stop

Once your child has a list of scholarships to apply for, get organized and start a portfolio to keep track of the applications. Be sure that your child notates all the due dates for the scholarships on the list. They should start by applying to the scholarships with the closest due dates. Copies should be made and placed in the portfolio of all the applications sent out. If reports or letters are required, be sure to keep a copy of the report on file. Sometimes the same report or letter (with minor edits) can be used for multiple scholarships, which can save them a lot time in the application process.

Once your child has exhausted the list, don't stop applying. Get back on the internet and look for more.

Follow Up and get Feedback

A few weeks after the applications have been sent in, find out if there's a contact number or address of the person who makes the final decision. If you are able to obtain this information, have your child follow up by either calling or sending a letter to see if their submission has been received. A simple follow up can sometimes give an added edge in winning the scholarship. If your child is not selected to receive funds for a scholarship, asking for feedback for improvement may give valuable insight when applying for the next one. Remind your children that it's a numbers game: the more they apply for the better their chances.

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Christopher Miyamoto is a financial advisor and certified college planner at Total Financial Solutions. He also co-hosts a financial radio show on KHTS AM 1220 on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. E-mail him at cmiyamoto@tfswealth.com.
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