Want some absolutely free money to attend school? Go on a scholarship hunt! Just about every student is eligible for some type of scholarship. The trick is finding out which ones and going out and getting them. Sure, not every scholarship is a free ride to college – most are quite small ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. But, hey, every little bit counts when you’re trying to scrape together enough funds to get to pay those high-priced college bills. Unlike financial aid, which may have income limitations, scholarships are awarded according to a student’s abilities or interests. How can your student find and receive the scholarship help he or she needs? Follow these simple steps to finding and getting the scholarships your student qualifies for.

Get Ready Before Filling Out Scholarship ApplicationsBy taking the time to plan your child’s activities and memberships in academic societies well in advance of their college years, you may be helping to increase their chances of scholarships in the future. That doesn’t mean making poor Johnny join the city’s children’s choir when he is five to ensure a scholarship to music school later on, but if your student is showing an interest in politics at 15, you may want to steer that interest in the right direction now. Many scholarships are reserved for students entering specific fields or with certain interests or activities in their repertoire. Knowing what’s available may help you and your child know which clubs, volunteer work and organizations to join to better their chances of getting scholarship help when they need it. Another thing to do now: take a good look at your child’s hobbies and interests. There are many scholarships available for obscure interests such as rock climbing, stamp collecting, and more. While it’s never a good idea to push a child toward a hobby or sport they have no interest or aptitude in, what’s wrong with taking what they already enjoy and turning it into some college cash?

Play the NumbersApplying (and receiving) student scholarships is a number’s game. While there may be thousands of scholarships out there for the taking; there are also thousands of students trying to get them. The best way to increase your chances of getting the scholarship money that you need is to apply for everything you can find that your child qualifies for. Of course, filling out all of those scholarship applications can be time consuming, but consider the benefits available if you do indeed succeed.

Check Online Sources for HelpDo a simple Google search for college scholarships and watch the hits add up. But, wait! There’s no need to sift through the thousands of resources that pop up. Start your online search at the federal government’s website, which is listed below. Some other great resource sites include the ones listed in the resource section below.

Talk to Your CollegeIf you’re headed to a private college, you may have many more scholarship opportunities than students attending a public university. Private colleges often offer basic need-based scholarships to help students pay the higher-priced tuition as well as hundreds of smaller individual scholarships offered by alumni and other school benefactors. Your college’s financial aid office should have a fairly comprehensive list of scholarships available at the school, but be sure to also check your department heads office for individual interest-based scholarships.

Check With Your High School CounselorIt is your high school guidance counselor's job to help you find the right college to fit your needs, but to help you find the money needed to get there. These professionals often have information about local scholarships offered by community service organizations like the Kiwanis; Scout troops; churches and even local businesses. So be sure to stop in their office and find out what's out there--you may be surprised at what you find!