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Experts: Start Early In Your Search For College Scholarships

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There is a new mantra when it comes to scoring college scholarships – it's never too early.

As CBS 2's Kristine Johnson reported, thousands of college dollars are given away each year – even to toddlers – and the competition isn't as stiff as you might think.

Avalon Theisen has run an environmental group since she was 10 years old.

"I just love doing something good for our planet," Theisen said.

And her passion has paid off big time. She already has won numerous college scholarships, and her mother is thrilled.

"It's expensive these days to go to school, and anything helps," said Deborah Theisen.

According to one study, in 2030, the price for a private university could be as high as $130,000 a year. Even in-state universities could cost $40,000.

Few parents know it, but you can indeed cash in by having your child score a scholarship at an early age.

"Some of these scholarship programs aren't very competitive because parents aren't thinking about scholarships for their children who are under age 13," said scholarship expert Mark Kantrowitz.

The awards run the gamut, from academic achievement to standouts for service. Jessica Johnston of the Scholarship Academy said parents need to do their homework.

"So you want to start thinking about what your child is passionate about, and then research the scholarships in those specific categories," Johnston said.

Whatever your child's interest, there could be a scholarship. Google has a drawing contest that offers $30,000 in college money. Olive Garden has a food themed essay contest with a $5,000 scholarship, and there are many others.

"There are some normal scholarships, and then some more unusual scholarships that involve quirky things like playing marbles," Kantrowitz said.

Experts said parents should help build a child's scholarship brand early.

"If they love nature, then make sure they're doing some recycling program. If they're great at public speaking, you want to start honing those skills," Johnston said.

Avalon Theisen and her mother said they are thrilled both to save the world and save college costs.

"It's not waiting 'til the last couple years of school, and then, 'I want to go to college,'" Deborah Theisen said. "She's doing it now."

For more information about local and regional scholarship opportunities, check out

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