The fall season is the best time to apply for scholarships

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With tuition fees at a record-high and student loan debt at almost $1 trillion, scholarships can be a huge help in paying for college, and September through November is the best time to apply, according to Scholarship America.

Scholarships aren’t just for incoming freshmen. Upperclassmen, grad students and returning students can continuously seek out new scholarship opportunities.

Most scholarship applications open at the beginning of the school year, said Lauren Segal, president and CEO of Scholarship America, in a news release.

Websites like scholarshipamerica.org, scholarships.com and fastweb.com help students find scholarships year-round.

“I’ve heard there’s a ton of scholarship money that goes unclaimed every year,” said Haley Hegstrom, a senior from Campbell, Calif. Hegstrom said many students aren’t proactive about applying for scholarships.

Hegstrom currently has the Loftur Bjarnason Scholarship for Scandinavian studies.  She said  it took connections to get her the scholarship. She recommended using departmental e-mails and word of mouth to find out about scholarship opportunities.

According to Scholarship America, the more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to receive one. They also recommend reading the directions carefully and following them exactly, so the application won’t be thrown out.

Mycollegeguide.com said don’t ever pay for access to scholarship databases, apply for FAFSA as well as scholarships, and exhaust every resource to find scholarships.

Scholarships are not only awarded for academics, but also for talents, passions and volunteerism.

FinAid.com said, “It is quite common for hospitals and nursing homes, veterans groups, churches, mosques and synagogues, historical societies, fraternal organizations and other community service organizations to provide scholarships to recognize outstanding community service by young volunteers.”

Sometimes all it takes is a well-written essay or a great photo. Apply to Scholarships.com’s Awkward Back-to-School Photo Contest by Oct. 31, and you could win $1,000 or a Kindle.

Students can also win scholarships for just being who they are. If you are of Iranian descent, you can apply for a Persian Scholarship Foundation Recognition Award. If you are a descendant of a Civil War confederate solider, you could get scholarships from organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Creative students can apply for illustration, dance and even bagpipe-playing scholarships. If you’re left-handed, a bowler or a member of the National Rifle Association, there could be a scholarship out there for you.

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