It’s never too late to start applying for college scholarships.  Even if you’re entering your senior year, there’s still time to lower the cost of college.  Furthermore, scholarships can be an effective tool to reduce uncertainty in tuition. You never know how much aid a school will give you until you have the offer in your hands.  Additionally, financial aid can be unpredictable and vary depending on factors entirely outside your control such as how many of your siblings are currently enrolled in college.  While it’s ideal to start searching for scholarships as early as ninth grade, there’s still time to find them during your final year of high school.  Lastly, you shouldn’t discount any scholarship because it’s too small.  The average cost of textbooks for a single year of college ranges from $655 to $1,168.  Remember: Every dollar you earn now is a dollar you’ll save once in college!

The first step should be to list all of your intellectual, academic and extracurricular interests then find organizations which dovetail with those interests.  There are scholarships available for every major and discipline, so leave no stone unturned.  You can also find scholarships for intellectual and philosophical passions as well.  For example, The Ayn Rand Institute disburses nearly $100,000 yearly for students who write essays about her seminal works, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.  Another great example is The Vegetarian Resource Group offers $20,000 in scholarships to students who promote vegetarianism in their own communities.  There is also an increasing number of scholarships geared towards college-bound students from particular social identities, so that can another great source of funding.  There’s no shortage of opportunities if you know where to look.

But, knowing where to look is essential to the scholarship search.  Thus, your second step should be contacting your guidance counselor.  They can offer a bevy of resources including scholarships you can apply to directly as well as points of contact for additional funding from organizations like your local Rotary Club and chamber of commerce.  It’s essential that you follow up on each of these contacts – you never know who will be able to point you in the right direction.  Additionally, you should contact leaders of organizations to which you belong.  This could include religious, civic, or social organizations.  Lastly, don’t be afraid to do some old-fashioned digging in your library’s reference section.  The U.S. Department of Education has a comprehensive list of scholarships.  It also has a portal to find institutions within your state which help pay for college.

Once you’ve finalized your list of scholarships, it’s time to begin applying for them.  As a rule of thumb, the more lucrative and prestigious scholarships are more competitive than the smaller, more niche ones.  So, it’s important to strike a balance between how much time you spend on each application.  Remember to revise these essays often and that there’s no shame in reusing concepts so long as they fit different applications.

Until you graduate college, you can always find scholarships to help pay for tuition.  While it might seem late, applying for scholarships during your senior year of high school is only the half-way point of your search for funding.  It’s good to get in the habit of searching for scholarships while still in high school, so you can continue the practice all throughout college.  Don’t forget: every little bit helps and don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way!