By tamaraWinning free money for college is every student’s dream. Nobody wants to graduate from college with a boatload of student loan debt, and the more money you have available, the more options you have for college. Unfortunately, scholarship providers aren’t going to just hand you a pile of money because you ask for it; earning college scholarships actually takes some effort on your part. Why? It’s simple. Providers want to know you are going to put forth the effort in college and not waste their money, so most require an essay or some other time commitment from you to see if you are serious about your education. If you aren’t willing to spend an hour or so completing their application, providers assume that you won’t be willing to focus your time on your studies, either. Fortunately, I have a few tips that can help you reduce the time needed to find and apply for scholarships, without compromising the quality of your submissions. 1. Be SocialAre you spending time on social media forums like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest? If so, you’re probably missing out on a plethora of scholarship opportunities. Simply type ‘scholarships’ in the search on Facebook or visit some of the major businesses pages to see what’s available. On Twitter, do a search for #scholarship or #scholarships and you’ll get a stream of available awards at any hour of the day. You can also follow @ScholarshipGuru, @AidScholarship and @volunTEENnation for daily scholarship tweets. Many colleges are now adding available scholarships and other financial aid to their Pinterest boards, and don’t forget to check your high school’s social media pages, as many also post local scholarship offerings.2. Make CopiesMany scholarship programs ask for the same materials, such as copies of your transcript, résumé, list of volunteer activities, financial statements, and a personal statement; make multiple copies of each (unless an official copy is required) to save time with future applications. Keep as many as possible in digital format, as well, so you can tweak or update, as needed. A digital copy is also a good idea because many programs now require you to submit documents online. Be sure to put everything on a disc or flash drive, just in case something happens to your computer.3. Reuse Your WorkI’m betting that you’ve probably had to write a history paper or creative essay in school at some point. If you’ve received an ‘A’ on any of these assignments, don’t toss them away. Unless the scholarship guidelines specifically state that you cannot use material that has already been submitted to another program or for credit in school, they could come in handy; simply Google the name of the historic figure, or event that you had to write about, and add ‘scholarship’ to it (ie. George Washington Scholarship). You would be amazed at how many Martin Luther King, Sr. and Abraham Lincoln scholarships are out there. Creative writing contests are also very popular, so select one or two of your best short stories and submit to as many programs as possible. It would be nice if providers simply handed out money to anyone who needed it, but that’s not going to happen any time soon. If you really want to increase your chances of winning, make scholarships a part of your weekly routine. It makes sense to group your applications by type (merit, need, creative, etc.) and work on similar applications at the same time, as many will require the same elements. By following the tips above, you can help reduce the time you spend on each application, which should allow you to apply to even more scholarships. Don’t forget to register for several scholarship search services, as these tools can also help you find programs that are perfect for you. The more you apply, the more chances you have to win!