You want to go to college, but you don't know how you can afford it. You're not alone. Millions of teens and their families are in the same position as you. Fortunately for all of us, there are a few different strategies that we can use to get colleges to actually pay you to go to their school. These college scholarships are all over if you know how to find them. With the cost of college soaring every year, 529s, college saving plans, and other savings plans can only get you so far when you are scarily looking at close to $200,000 for a 4-year degree. Why set your family back financially just to pay for college when you don't have to? There are thousands of colleges across the country that offer generous financial packages to entice high-performing students to their schools. Play their game! It's worth it in the long run. This article will give you our top strategies on how we are able to save our clients hundreds of thousands in college funding without taking any loans. They might sound basic but I assure you, they work each and every time. 1) Start as early as you can. The first strategy to get college scholarships is the obvious one: start early. There's no better time than now for you and your family to figure out how much it will cost, what kind of financial help you can count on, and how much money you'll need every single year in order to make college work financially. As many know, the cost of college annually increases. Why you ask? I can't give you a logical explanation of why they do this but I can tell you that there are ways to avoid paying the high costs of college. In order to get the best financial package from the university itself, you must have the knowledge to tackle their inflated prices. Your student, not your savings, is the best weapon to combating their prices. Packaging your student to be the most desirable candidate for college will not only yield high acceptance rates but it could also bring in millions of dollars of available funding for colleges across the country. Having a sound plan in place and starting the process in your student's freshman or sophomore year can really make a difference. You will be able to track important deadlines, know what colleges are looking for year to year from their prospective attendees, and what kind of merit-based scholarships they are willing to give for the right students. 2) Make test scores a priority. The second thing you should do for college scholarships is to make test scores a priority. Colleges put heavy weight on test scores for admissions but they are absolutely critical for scholarship numbers. Let's take the University of Kentucky for example: This is current data collected from their website. The college scholarship amount is in direct correlation with test scores. As the test scores increase, so does the dollar amount per year. This is great news for students who are willing to put in the work to get those higher test scores. Our professional advice: 1) test often 2) get into a formal test prep course/class to give you strategies that will take your scores to the next level. It is worth the extra cost and time investment because it opens up a wide variety of admission and funding opportunities. If you would like a free option for a course, click here for our crash course. If you want to learn how to increase your test scores fast, click here. 3) Get creative with your resume. Understanding competitive scholarships can be a little tricky. Most schools offer college scholarships that are based on the pool of students who apply that year. This means there are no base criteria and students must compete to get the high awards offered. In this case, students need to dig deep and not just rely on their educational statistics to figure out what would set them apart from their competition. Do they have special leadership experience, are they an active part of their community, do they hold the record of being the youngest person to ever do 100 cartwheels in a row? What sets them apart from the masses? What makes them unique? For our students, we use something called a "brag rag". It's a system that documents all of the student's accomplishments and brag-worthy abilities. It allows us to figure out and organize what activities would be best for any given application. Click here if you would like to download a free copy of the brag rag. 4) Avoid the private scholarship trap. Many people come to us and ask us about specific college scholarships they have heard of through television or articles. Some notable ones are The Gates Foundation, Coca Cola Scholarship Program, and the Burger King scholars to just name a few. Although they get a lot of media attention due to their name recognition, we typically discourage students going after these awards. You might be saying "Why not go for them? They are such good financial opportunities." Here are a few reasons we don't encourage our students to go after them. They are highly competitive! This is not always a bad thing but usually the more competitive, the more hoops they make you jump through to get the scholarship. This could mean additional essays, interviews, or letters of recommendation. There are many caveats. They're usually strings attached to these scholarships and not every student would qualify for them. For instance, some have income, ethnicity, or leadership requirements that would preclude a large part of the population from qualifying for. The waiting game. Because you are competing on a national or international scale, the number of applications they must go through to make their final decisions will take a while. For this reason, many students fail to apply for other scholarship opportunities because they are waiting on a response from these large foundations. The amount payout is not often as great as you might think. In many cases, these foundations will offer $80,000 of an overall scholarship but that is a lump sum. You have to amortize that over the amount of time you spend in school. So if you break that up for the number of years you are in school, that is roughly $20,000/year. Now if you are going to a school and the price is $48,000/year to attend, you still must come up with the remainder to pay your cost to attend. 5) "Window shop" your prospective colleges. When we tell our students to "window shop" their prospective colleges, most have no idea what we are talking about. From our experience, most students try to figure out where they want to apply to college before even looking into the college. This is a HUGE opportunity for students serious about maximizing their college funding options. Most people have no idea that their favorite colleges actually put the available scholarships on their websites. Let's analyze how you figure out where the scholarship information is located. It's VERY simple. Let's take the University of Florida for example. All I would do is type into your preferred search engine "University of Florida scholarships." Yes, it really is that simple. From there it will take you to the specific page on the college's website where they list their available scholarships. There is a secondary method and that is to use the search icon on the specific school's website. Simply type scholarships in the search bar and it will bring you to the specific page. Either way will get you to where you need to be. Go through a list of maybe 20 colleges and track what kind of freshman scholarships they offer. Record the information, any deadlines, minimum GPA and test score requirements, or additional application rules. This is a good way to organize what you are going to need to do in order to obtain your scholarships. Conclusion: To summarize, there are several sound strategies to obtain college scholarships. Our top professional advice is to start early to avoid missing deadlines and also giving yourself enough time to meet the minimum requirements for these scholarships. Secondly would be to get organized so you know exactly what the universities need from you to apply for the scholarships. Fill out your "Brag rag" and get ahead of your peers! Play the game, it's SO worth it.