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The cost of attending college increases every year, and that probably isn’t going to change anytime soon. The best way for students to reduce what they’ll be spending is to apply for college scholarships. Everyone knows that good grades and test scores will help, but there are a few other ways to increase the chances of receiving free financial aid.

1. Start Researching Early

Some students start researching scholarships during their junior or senior years of high school, but starting a few years earlier can be beneficial. Beginning the research phase in their freshman year gives applicants the advantage of designing their high school experiences to match the desired attributes of a scholarship. For example, if a scholarship requires three years of volunteer work in a certain sector, there’s still plenty of time to get involved. While many scholarships require involvement in an extracurricular activity, others prefer to see students take on leadership roles. It can be difficult to acquire those types of experiences during the last year of high school.

2. Keep Looking

One of the biggest mistakes families can make is to stop looking for scholarships after the first year of college. The price can still go up, so keep looking for ways to fill that gap so you can minimize – or even eliminate – the need to take out student loans.

Aside from the fact that new scholarships are created each year, students might also have new interests or skills that might make them eligible for scholarships that they weren’t eligible for in the past. There’s also so much information out there; it would be easy to miss something. Lori Kleppe, who is a military widow, didn’t learn about our organization until her second son was halfway through college. The scholarship she obtained through our organization helped her pay off loans she had to take on as well as reimburse her for previous costs for both children.

(If you’re paying down your student loans, you can see how that’s affecting your credit by checking your free credit scores on Credit.com.)

3. Friends & Family Connection

Family and friends can be very powerful resources when it comes to scholarships. They don’t always advertise, but some companies offer college scholarships to employees’ family members. These types of scholarships can be a great opportunity, and the field of applicants is usually much narrower than those found online.

A family member or friend might also be able to provide the opportunity for an internship that might make an applicant more appealing. Many scholarships also require letters of recommendation and this is a great place for friends or family to step in. Who better to make a personal recommendation than someone who has known the applicant for a long time? Family and friends are much more likely to make a heartfelt effort in helping an applicant achieve their goals.

Patience Is Key

One thing is certain, applying for scholarships takes time and patience. Finding the right scholarship isn’t easy and definitely won’t happen overnight. Taking the above into consideration can help increase your chances of success in receiving scholarship money to support your education.

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