Last Updated Jul 6, 2010 9:35 PM EDT
So how early can you begin looking for college scholarships?
Try kindergarten. Kids, who still believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus, are eligible to apply for some private scholarships.
I heard about these early-bird scholarships from Mark Kantrowitz, who is the publisher of FinAid and FastWeb, which is a scholarship search engine. He tells me that there are a few dozen scholarships available for kids who are in elementary and middle schools.
Spelling bees and geography bees provide the best known sources of scholarships for younger kids, but there are other opportunities as well. Kids who can get creative with peanut butter, who excel at marbles, who volunteer a lot and who tinker are among those who have a shot at college scholarships.
Kids as young as six, for instance, can win scholarships through the Kohl's Kids Who Care Program by demonstrating how they've made "amazing contributions to their communities."
You can't find these scholarships for younger children on online scholarship search engines because of federal privacy laws. Online scholarship databases can't include scholarships for children under 13 because they can't verify that parents of these youngsters have given their approval.
Kantrowitz, however, has posted many of these college scholarships for pint-sized students on FinAid.org.
Don't wait until your child can read a college scholarship application to get started. Actually, I'm kidding, I think.
Lynn O'Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes for TheCollegeSolutionBlog. Follow her on Twitter.
College scholarship image by FrogMiller. CC 2.0.