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Paying for college

July 14, 2009|By KRISTYN PANKIW

Ever since I was little, my dream has been to go to Yale University. When people would ask me where I was looking, my answer would always be Yale.

Yes, I knew it would be expensive, but I had never imagined it would be more than $50,000 a year. When I saw the tuition cost on Yale's Web site, I couldn't believe my eyes. I thought, how am I ever going to afford this? That's when I began searching for scholarships. There was no way I would risk going $200,000 in debt after four years.

Reality check



Let's face it. College costs these days are high, and they're continually rising. Although high school teens strive for academic and sports scholarships, many of these types of scholarships are hard to come by.

The reality is many parents can't afford to send their teens to college anymore. With such a competitive field of academia, many teens can't find available scholarships. The average cost of a private college is $34,132, according to College Board. Public colleges cost $14,333 to $25,200. How are teens supposed to pay these expenses?

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Money matters



There are many alternatives to the regular school or college-based scholarships.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or what is commonly known as FAFSA, is a financial aid application that helps teens determine their financial need. This can then be used to acquire federal aid such as the Pell Grant and most student loans.

Organizations such as Rotary Club, Lions Club and Kiwanis Club also have scholarships available, which are usually based on financial need. The amount of aid students receive depends on their family's financial situation.

Aubrey Short, 18, who will be attending Valley Forge Christian College (VFCC) this fall, received a substantial amount of money through financial aid, along with some fine arts scholarships. She now has a full ride for her freshman year.

Zachary Knoll, 18, who will also be attending VFCC this fall, participated in many of the college's fine arts contests. His band made it to nationals, which won him a $1,000 scholarship. He also received other fine arts awards and scholarships.

"I received a lot of little scholarships, but they added up in the end," he said.

Teens can also apply for work-study programs. These provide funds for students based on what they have earned through a part-time job. Once at college, teens can even work on-campus at places such as college eateries or bookstores.

Some students, such as Michelle Burkhouse, 21, a rising senior at VFCC, work during their summer vacations to earn money for college.

"I worked long hours, but by the end of the summer, I usually had about $4,000," she said. "Along with some other scholarships, I was able to pay most of my tuition every year. I used the rest of the money I made in the summer to pay for things like meal plans and textbooks."

Online finds



But federal support isn't the only way teens can pay for college. There are many types of scholarships available beyond what schools provide. Magazines such as Seventeen sometimes offer scholarships in the form of sweepstakes. These are, on average, about $1,000.

The Barbizon Modeling School also awards a scholarship to one winner every 12 months, and students don't need to be part of the modeling school to receive it. Teens can win a $100,000 scholarship through Barbizon, which covers up to four years of college.

Kelsey Huntzberry, 18, valedictorian of Chambersburg Area Senior High School's Class of 2009, received the Lenfest Scholarship, an academic scholarship that students can apply for during their junior year of high school.

Kelsey, who will be attending Swarthmore College this fall, said she had to write four essays, have an interview, fill out financial information and get recommendations. She also received federal aid through FAFSA and scholarships from her college.

"Even though it was hard work, it paid off. Now I have a full ride," she said.

In addition, there are tons of online Web sites devoted to scholarships and tuition contests.

One of these sites, www.fastweb.com , actually compiles a list of scholarships that apply to you based on the information you provide them with, such as hobbies, education interests, and so on.

Another Web site called www.findtuition.com also helps students find scholarships they are eligible for from the 1.7 million scholarships listed on their site. An additional site, www.scholar ships.com, is a great source to help teens find money for college, too.

Kelsey recommended FastWeb, which helped her find scholarships she was eligible for. She said it's simple to use and has fast results.

She also recommended Zinch at www.zinch.com . On Zinch, students create their own profile (which includes everything from GPA to favorite music) and the site helps them find both scholarships for which they qualify and colleges that might be interested in them based on their profile information.

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