I wish I’d known when preparing for college that getting scholarship money could be almost as easy as finding a movie on Friday night. Instead, I slogged through five years of full-time school and part-time work, giving short shrift to my social life and being perpetually exhausted. With a little help in the form of college scholarship money, I might have had a slightly more enjoyable experience.

How To Qualify

Considering that you are a unique individual with your own set of strengths and weaknesses, with 17 or more years of life behind you, finding scholarships you qualify for is not really that hard. Since college scholarships are offered on the basis of everything from race to religion, athletics to anthropology, and family relationships to farming, there’s literally a college scholarship with your name on it. But no one will come knocking on your door to find you. The key to getting scholarship money is researching the scholarships and then completing applications for any you remotely qualify for. If you don’t apply, there’s a chance the funds will stay in an account, untapped. So you might as well try!

Start Close To Home

Your search for college scholarship money begins at home, literally. Your mom or dad’s employer, or the service or professional organization they attend may offer scholarships to the children of employees. Those are easy! Check out any businesses or charity organization where you’ve worked, to see if they offer college scholarships to members of their work “family.” And check with your state to find what scholarships they offer to students with specific talents, interests or experience, or financial need. Start by calling your governor’s office, and they may be able to point you to money sitting right under your nose!

The Corporate Route

Next is contacting businesses in your community, many of which have established scholarship programs as a way to give back to their employees and communities. Your city or state has an investment in making sure it has strong, capable, educated residents to form a pool of potential employees and happy customers.

WalMart, ExxonMobil, AT&T and Coke are some of the bigger titans that give away scholarship money. But companies up and down the business landscape are designating more and more dollars to helping students pay for college, with successful results. They offer a range of options for college students, focusing on everything from internship experience to financial need, diversity to family ties.

For starters, look up these companies: Adobe, Apple, Best Buy, Coke, Ford, General Motors, Intel, JP Morgan Chase, KFC, Kodak, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Mercedes Benz, Northrop Grumman, Pepsi, Pfizer, Time Warner, Target, Toyota and Xerox. Another great option is banks, as they give college scholarship money to thousands of students each year, based on diverse qualifications. Start your search on their websites, or go to the College Scholarship website for more ideas.

Some corporate college scholarships will come with strings attached. You might offer to do a limited summer internship, or give a talk to the company’s employees or your college peers at a later date. Remember that any amount at all-no matter how small-is a welcome addition to your college savings account!

Minority Scholarships

Are you African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian, female, bi-racial, multi-racial, multicultural, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered? If you answered yes to any of these, you are a minority. These days, almost everyone’s a minority, which means you can qualify for designated college scholarships. Minority scholarships are available through every awarding entity: states, the federal government, corporations, universities and charitable organizations. Even if you have just one-quarter minority blood, you may be considered.

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