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College Scholarship Money Up For Grabs

If you've just filled out financial aid forms and have a sinking feeling that you're not going to get enough cash to send your child to college, buck up. There are plenty of private scholarships that can help--many of which are worth thousands of dollars annually. But you have to go on a bit of a treasure hunt to find them.

Upromise, a company that offers small kick-backs on your grocery and restaurant spending, for example, gives away 100 scholarships worth $2,500 each. These are awarded on the basis of both merit and need. You can find out more and apply here.

Answers.com is also sponsoring an interesting scholarship for brainiacs. The web site expects to award one $5,000 scholarship, two $2,500 scholarships, and ten scholarships of $1,000 each to kids who answer at least 50 questions on their site. The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of the accuracy and quality of the answers. Here's the link to find out more and apply.
Another great place to search for college money is fastweb.com, which is advertising-supported site that asks you to fill out a short questionnaire to get information about thousands of potential scholarships. The price for getting this good information is that you'll have to wade through several pages of advertisements that encourage you to sign up for the University of Phoenix, take surveys for money and such. Make sure you read through these pages. Some would automatically sign you up for things you might not want, but it's easy to change the default by clicking "no." At the bottom of each of each ad page there's a line saying "no thank you." If you click on that, you can move through the maze to an eventual list of scholarships.

It's worth it.

When I recently waded through with sample information, I found dozens of scholarships and contests, including one for the SEVEN Fund, which is sponsoring a global essay competition on the morality of profit. Writers are asked to submit essays of up to 3,000 words before February 28, 2010. SEVEN will award top honors to three essays, with a grand prize of $20,000, a second prize of $10,000, and a third prize of $5,000. The best pieces will be collected into a manuscript, which is intended for publication.

Another FastWeb scholarship offered $5,000 for members of Monster.com. Several more promised grants of $3,000 to $2,500. There's even one called "A GPA Isn't Everything" scholarship that promises to award up to $1,000 to somebody who has done a lot of volunteering and extra-curricular activities.

The one caveat: Private scholarships usually affect the aid you get. So, if a college determined that you had $20,000 in "need" and you received $1,000 in private scholarships, they'd reduce your aid by $1,000 to $19,000. On the bright side, you can normally have them reduce the aid that's in the form of loans and work-study, rather than grants.

Many scholarships require applications to be in by the end of February, so get going and good luck.