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Editor’s note: This is the second editorial in a three-part series.

Part two of this series offers tips and advice on how one can search for and submit scholarship and grant applications to further cover the costs of higher education. As I said before, Do everything within your power (within the rules of law and ethics, of course) to avoid taking out education loans. Always take advantage of opportunities to use OPM (other people’s money) to fund your, and/or your child’s, education.

Would you spend an hour or two, or even a few, for the chance earn $500, $1,000, or more? I would, and I hope you would, too. All too often, though, people ignore opportunities to apply for scholarships because they convince themselves that completing the application, asking for letters of recommendation (if required), and writing an essay (if required), “are all just too much trouble,” and they “probably wouldn’t get the scholarship anyway.”

To that I say, “Seriously? You would really pass up the chance to make a significant amount of money for your education because it might take some time and effort?” I have served on more than one scholarship committee where we had fewer applicants than we have money to award. Please, don’t be those guys. Finding scholarship opportunities on the world-wide-web is as easy as finding funny cat videos.

According to respected CNN Financial Advisor Clark Howard, the 12 best websites for finding college scholarship opportunities are:

U.S. Labor Department’s free search tool: According to the official Student Aid website, this free tool is a great resource for students to search more than 7,500 scholarships, grants and other various types of financial aid award opportunities.

•    Fastweb: Fastweb hosts more than 1.5 million scholarships that provide more than $3.4 billion in funding.

•    College Board: While the College Board is known for its college-readiness tests, it also has an arm that focuses on scholarships.

•    Niche: Formerly known as College Prowler, Niche is a great tool that can help you find colleges and money. Niche also has some contests to enter.

•    Scholarships: Scholarships.com hosts one of the largest scholarship databases out there and it’s updated on a daily basis.

•    Moolahspot: Moolahspot.com isn’t as robust as some of the other scholarship databases, but in the search for a college scholarship, it’s another option to help you find extra money.

•    SallieMae: SallieMae is a well-known education and student loan provider. The site’s College Planning page has a scholarship portal where you can search based on your field of study, hobbies and other parameters.

•    Scholarship Monkey: Scholarship Monkey allows you to search for scholarships a few different ways. You can search by keyword, browse scholarship lists (various categories/topics) and also see lists of the latest and featured scholarships.

•    Cappex: Cappex hosts a database of more than $11 billion in scholarship opportunities.

•    Chegg: Chegg is widely known for its online textbook store that allows students to either rent or buy textbooks for cheap. But Chegg is also a great resource for finding scholarships — more than $1 billion worth of them.

•    Unigo: Unigo hosts millions of available scholarships and makes it easy to search by type, including athletic scholarships, college-specific scholarships, company-based scholarships, minority scholarships, major-specific scholarships, state-specific scholarships and more.

•    Peterson’s: Peterson’s hosts $10 billion in scholarship opportunities and provides information to help you in your search.

You can also follow your Fort Hood Education Services Facebook Page, where scholarship information is published weekly at https://www.facebook.com/FortHoodEducationServices.

If your application requires an essay, don’t let that deter you. Here are some simple tips

1. Open with an anecdote. It’s critical that you engage the admissions officer from the very beginning. Instead of trying to come up with gimmicky, catchy first lines, start my sharing a moment. These mini stories naturally grab the reader’s attention.

2. Put yourself in the school’s position. Bottom line: colleges want to accept students who will actually graduate. Show them that you really want to learn and are passionate about something.

3. Ditch the thesaurus. This is personal and you are selling yourself. Avoid using “SAT” words, that aren’t natural in your vocabulary. Swap sophistication for self-awareness.

4. Write about what matters to you, not what you think matters to them. Show them how well you think and your ability to hold your reader’s attention.

5. Stop trying so hard. Colleges are tired of reading about that time you had a come-from-behind-win in the state championship game or the time you built houses in Ecuador, according to Robinson. Get creative!

6. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. If you’ve not had a rough upbringing or experienced something earthshattering, don’t feel the need to fake it. It will come across as disingenuous.

7.     Use your essay to tell them what you can’t tell them on your application. What if the admissions officer reading your essay were instead sitting next to you and asking questions like, “tell me about yourself,” and “what else should I know?”  

8. Follow instructions. While the directions on the applications may sound generic, and even repetitive after applying to a variety of schools, read and follow them every time.

9. Review successful applications that came before you. They are all over the internet.

10. Once you decide upon a topic, sit down and write for an hour or so. Remember, this should be something that has real meaning for you.

11. Finally, take heart. Far too many applicants freak out over the essay requirement. Don’t be those guys. Your essay is just one part of your application and will likely not have a massive impact on your acceptance, one way or the other.

Your Fort Hood Education Services team provides a variety of education related services, including education counseling. Counseling is offered Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and Thursday, noon-4 p.m.. The Education Center is housed in the Soldier Development Center, Bldg. 33009, 761st Tank Battalion Ave.