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How to find scholarships

Many people ask about the fortune in unclaimed scholarships that, they read, go to waste each year.

It is true that some money does go unclaimed every year, but the basis for these extraordinary figures is primarily unused employee tuition remission benefits and not miscellaneous scholarships for which people have not applied.

Before hiring a scholarship search firm, check out the education benefits offered by your employer or union.

For many people, looking for college money turns into a search for special scholarships.

Students are supposed to get these awards because they were born under a full moon and have a beauty mark below their left kneecap.

Families should not stop looking for these awards — they should just make them their last priority.

Remember, there is more money in being an informed consumer and taking charge of the financial aid process than in all the scholarship searches ever conducted.

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2015, file photo, a student works on her laptop on the campus of the University of New Mexico near a statue of the school's mascot, the Lobo, in Albuquerque, N.M. New Mexico's Democratic governor wants to provide free tuition and waive fees for in-state students across the state's network of public universities, colleges and community colleges. First-year Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the proposal for an "opportunity scholarship" on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, at a community college in Albuquerque. It would cover costs not already paid for by federal scholarships and state lottery proceeds. (AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)
Be an informed consumer when searching for college scholarships to apply for. (Photo: AP Photo/Russell Contreras, File)

Many computerized scholarship search firms have gone bankrupt or are under federal investigation for deceptive trade practices or mail fraud.

The reason is simple: Their ads are full of empty promises. For a fee, they guarantee to find five awards for which the student is eligible.

What they don't tell you is that this information is frequently outdated or inappropriate, or that it is information the family could get free from Uncle Sam.

If your education budget is tight, don't spend hundreds of dollars on searches you can perform free on your home computer, in the public library, or in the high school guidance office.

If the time and effort spent on these endeavors were applied to a minimum wage job, the student would have more money to spend on education than he or she is likely to get from the search.

A final note

As you plan for higher education, you should seek out all financial resources available.

Don't assume you won't qualify for financial aid. It only takes a few moments to complete the financial aid forms. It is important, however, to complete and send them in early.

You can test your eligibility for free, as well as check out admission requirements and scholarships, on the College Board Website:

Dive deeper: Education Planning: When to start, what to do, and how to do it

This content was created in partnership with the Financial Fitness Group, a leading e-learning provider of FINRA compliant financial wellness solutions that help improve financial literacy.

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