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There’s no better form of financial aid than free money. Yet each year many students fail to apply, perhaps assuming they don’t have the grades or community service hours to qualify.

Well, a new book hopes to demystify the world of scholarship applications and help more students earn the financial aid they desperately need. Mark Kantrowitz, the foremost expert on student financial aid and Publisher of Fastweb.com and FinAid.org, has just released Secrets to Winning a Scholarship, a book that, for less than $10, is certain to be a worthwhile investment.

A few bits of scholarship advice from Kantrowitz’s book that I thought were particularly insightful include:

  • Be Thorough. Answer all of the optional questions on a scholarship matching website for about twice as many matches.
  • Act Fast. Start searching for scholarships as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the spring of your senior year in high school to start searching, or you’ll miss half the deadlines. There are many scholarships available to students in grades K-11, not just high school seniors. Continue searching for scholarships even after you are enrolled in college.
  • Cast a Wide Net. To win more scholarships, apply to every scholarship for which you are eligible. It’s a numbers game. Even among talented students, winning involves a bit of luck, not just skill. Pursue less competitive scholarships, such as small awards and essay contests. They are easier to win and help you win bigger scholarships. You can’t win if you don’t apply. It gets easier after your first 6 applications. Essays can be reused and tailored to each new application.

For students who doubt their eligibility due to grades, check out this list of Top 10 Scholarships That Don’t Need an A, straight from Secrets to Winning a Scholarship.

  1. US Department of Education (Federal Student Aid)
  2. AXA Achievement Scholarship Program
  3. Horatio Alger Association Scholarships
  4. Ayn Rand Institute
  5. Girls Going Places Scholarships
  6. Holocaust Remembrance Project Essay Contest
  7. Americanism Essay Contest
  8. AFSA National Scholarship Essay Contest
  9. Red Vines Drawing Contest
  10. Community Foundation Scholarships: Website varies by local chapter

For more on how to afford a college degree, check out:

8 Ways to Ease the Student Loan Burden

5 Strategies Towards Free Higher Ed Learning

Top Public Colleges with Lowest Student Loan Debt Levels

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