Hope for Last-Minute College Scholarship Seekers

April is the month when colleges hand down their admission decisions, but the date of reckoning for parents usually arrives a little later -- in July. That's when the first bill to pay for all those wonderful colleges comes due.

In 2004-2005, the average cost of one year at a private college was $20,082, and the average cost at a public college was $5,132. Smelling salts, anyone?

For families staring down the barrel of tuition bills for the fall of 2005, guerilla tactics are in order. The best strategy is to look local -- where most of the available money is likely to be at this late date. If the student's high school guidance office is open during the summer, he or she should go there and scour the shelves for area foundations that civic groups that offer scholarships.

If school offices are closed for the summer, find out if there is a local community foundation that produces a guide to area scholarships. Failing that, try the phone book. Organizations such as the Rotary, Elks Club, Daughters of the American Revolution, and the American Legion, to name a few, offer awards for high school students applying to college. Even if there is no formal scholarship program, students with enough moxie can make a direct pitch for support, possibly in conjunction with a proposal for a service project.

Don't be deterred if the printed scholarship deadlines are past. Sometimes community groups have scholarship money left over. In the community where I am a college counselor, one local community foundation had $118,000 in unclaimed money after giving away awards to every student who applied with financial need and a 3.0 GPA. The family church or its denominational headquarters is also a place to inquire; Lutherans, Presbyterians, among others, have scholarships for student members.

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