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Think you have to be the star quarterback or have straight A’s to get a college scholarship? Think again. The reality is that there are huge numbers of undergraduate scholarships, grants, and other prizes available to students with less than stellar grades or athletic abilities, but with other qualities and experiences that qualify them.

Pique your interest? Truth is, by following some basic tips you can greatly increase your chances of tapping into the billions of dollars available every year to students just like you!

Check out the best scholarships for you with our scholarship search!

College scholarships: Find out what’s available

You would be surprised to discover how much free money is available for those who just look for it. Make your search thorough and ambitious. The Internet, local library, your school, and local businesses and service organizations are great places to search for many different types of college scholarships — some of which may reward large sums of money with very little competition, simply because people don’t know they are out there.

Tap into the Web to find student scholarships

There are several large online scholarship databases that match your personal profile to potential college scholarships. These databases are huge, listing millions of awards. Even better, most provide this service for free. The search criteria you enter vary by site and may be limited, so it’s worth a shot to alter your personal profile by mixing things up! These databases may find additional student scholarships that you could miss if you stick with the same search criteria each time.

Student scholarships: Check in with your high school guidance office

Many scholarship committees mail their announcement and application materials straight to the source of their applicants — your high school! Most schools have university scholarships on file, so ask. You may find additional awards worth applying for. Additionally, check with the schools that you wish to attend. Many offer institutional-based scholarships and grants that may not pop up in the databases or your high school, but could offer great opportunities to lower your tuition costs.

Canvas your community: Local student scholarships

The local library should have college scholarship directories listing awards not noted elsewhere. Also check with local businesses and service organizations as many of them may have awards available only to students in the local community, making them far less competitive than national scholarships. Also ask mom and dad to check with their employers; some companies offer awards to children of their employees.

Apply smart to college scholarships

Once you’ve found as many scholarships as you can, start applying. Order applications well before their deadlines and apply for as many as possible, even if an award amount seems small or your chances seem slim. There is safety in numbers and even a few small awards will shrink your overall college costs.

Stay organized so that you make deadlines, have all your materials together, and can keep track of your submissions. Thorough and thoughtful responses that demonstrate your strong points and impress your unique personality upon the scholarship judges will increase your chances. Prepare by maintaining a resume of your history and achievements, as well as obstacles that you have overcome. If you have opportunities to take essay-writing courses to practice your writing skills, do it! Excellent writing skills will serve you well in conveying who you are and what you’re all about to the judges.

Be prepared when applying for undergraduate scholarships

Finally, prepare well for any interviews. (After all, if you’ve done your legwork, you will be attending these for those scholarships that require it!) Know yourself, and be prepared to answer questions about your background, achievements, goals, finances, and values. Remember that good social skills go a long way — from the introductory handshake to the thank-you note after the interview.

Applying for scholarships is serious business. Treat it as such by dedicating time and effort to being thorough…it can definitely pay off!