Families who do not qualify for need based financial aid can still feel the pinch of escalating college expenses. Once a student is accepted, the college will advise the family of their financial responsibility. A merit award can be included in the acceptance packet. With spiraling tuition in institutions across the country and escalating housing costs, families need to look for opportunities to help finance an education.

To find out if merit scholarships exist in a particular school, much can be learned from speaking with your guidance counselor. It is also a good idea to have some information of your own. Each college web site will have some information about merit scholarships. In addition, they may even have the profiles of students who have received them in the past.

Some colleges have named scholarships that require an additional application. These scholarships are often listed on college brochures or can be discussed with a college representative. While they may be designated for excellent students, there are also scholarships for students who engage in extraordinary community service, may be invested in a particular discipline, or be talented in the arts. Don’t be shy about asking about merit monies.

I am impressed by the local, county, state organizations, and foundations that have scholarships available for students. Organizations make high schools guidance departments aware of their support to encourage deserving students. It is never too early to look into these opportunities.

Large corporations like Coca-Cola also have scholarships. Do not hesitate to research these for your children. Scholarship applications will have deadlines and usually require paperwork just like college applications. If there is a promise of deferring some college costs, the time your student takes to do a scholarship application can be well worth it.

Some scholarships are not designated just for high school graduates or entering freshman. Your student may continue to apply for scholarship, fellowship, and foundation support throughout their college careers and they can learn about them from their college advisor. The key is to be proactive about opportunities.

One last note about deferring expenses--- Once my kids went to college, I realized that there were minor costs that added up from technology fees and books to everyday needs. One of my daughters elected to work part-time jobs in the art department where she studied throughout her college years. Not only was she able to help with expenses, but these jobs were also an important element of her resume when she applied for jobs after her graduation.