A. There are several ways you can turn to for help and get more cash for college:
Get Free Money
Your best shot at "free money" -- grants and scholarships vs. loans and work/study -- comes from government agencies and the colleges themselves. So be sure to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid at fafsa.ed.gov and figure out schools most likely to give your child money at sites like collegedata.com and meritaid.com.
Beyond this assistance, though, there's another $11 billion or so a year in private scholarships given out by foundations and companies, the College Board reports. About 8% of students receive these awards, averaging just over $3,400 but ranging up to the full cost of attendance, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Uncover national gems online
The leading scholarship search engines, such as Fastweb, Cappex, and Scholarships.com, get millions of visitors a year. Most focus on big awards available countrywide.
Watch out for potholes
Sorting through the several dozen or more "matches" that scholarship sites spit out can be tedious. You'll have to wade through mismatches, and create multiple profiles in order to increase your chances. Using the right key word is also important.
Finally, don't get tripped up by marketing sweepstakes that offering the chance to win a prize in return for providing the company with contact info for family and friends.
Look closer to home too
In addition to looking at scholarship sites, check out organizations your child has a connection with, such as your church or employer, and talking to his high school counselor. Local scholarships have less competition.
Get the timing right
Some of the biggest scholarships have deadlines in the fall, also block off time in January, since 25% of private scholarships listed with the College Board had deadlines in February.
Protect your awards
If your child does land an award, you should also be prepared to step in to protect it. About 20% of colleges cut their own grants to students who win private money, a recent NSPA study found. Scholarship America, which manages dozens of scholarship contests, advises recipients to ask their schools to reduce loans instead. If that doesn't work, the student should ask the scholarship provider for help, since colleges typically want good relations with funders.