Scholarships available for kids of all ages

February 19, 2013 8:47:56 PM PST
Planning for college begins well before graduation, and many families may not realize just how much money is given away to students each year. But the students getting the scholarships and grants aren't just high schoolers.

That's right. Even if you have a toddler, it's not too early to start your scholarship search now.

Avalon Theisan wants to save the environment, so she started her own nonprofit when she was only 10.

"I just love doing something good for our planet," Avalon said.

And that love has been turned into real money for college. Avalon has already won several scholarships.

"It's expensive these days to go to school and anything helps," the girl's mom, Deborah Theisan, said.

Consider this: the average price for a private university in 2030 could be as high as $130,000 a year, and state universities could cost more than $40,000.

But your kid can start scoring scholarships even in kindergarten!

"Some of these scholarship programs aren't very competitive because parents aren't thinking about scholarships for their children who are under age 13," explained scholarship expert Mark Kantrowitz.

For example, Kohl's offers a $10,000 scholarship for kids six and up who are involved in community service projects.

"So you want to start thinking about what your child is passionate about and then research the scholarships in those specific categories," Jessica Johnson with The Scholarship Academy said.

You have an art enthusiast? There's Google's Doodle 4 Google program. The prize: a whopping 30 grand in college money.

A young writer? Have them pen an essay on ending hunger for the Olive Garden's Pasta Tales prize.

The lesson for parents: apply early and often. And experts say don't be afraid to help build your child's "scholarship brand."

"If they love nature, then make sure they're doing some recycling program," Johnson said. "If they're great at public speaking, you want to start honing those skills."

Avalon and her mom are thrilled for the chance to save the world and save for college.

"It's not waiting 'til the last couple years of school and then 'I want to go to college,'" Theisan said. "She's doing it now."

You can also check with your child's teacher or guidance counselor. Two other places to check are the coupon section of Sunday's paper and local toy stores.

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