If you wait until spring of your senior year in high school to begin applying for scholarships, or until you’ve been accepted at a college or university, you have missed half of the deadlines for these financial awards.

That’s the word from Mark Kantrowitz, creator of the websites FinAid and Fastweb.

There are two periods when most of the deadlines occur–fall and spring–said Kantrowitz, who advises students and their families to begin looking early for scholarships.

“There are scholarships you can win in kindergarten, but you are not going to find scholarships for children age 13 and under on any free database, because of the children online Privacy Protection Act.”

“We list the scholarships open to children [from] kindergarten to grade eight, and we don’t require registration [in order to access them], “Kantrowitz said. His favorites are the $25,000 Jiff annual peanut-butter sandwich competition and one for mibsters (marble players); there is also the National Spelling Bee.

The peak time for scholarships is fall, advises the expert, but some are available now. One of the quirkier ones, which offers substantial prizes, is the Stuck at Prom® duck-tape competition. This award gives the couple who create the best prom costume out of duck tape $10,000, and the deadline to apply is June 13. For additional information, visit www.duckbrand.com/Promotions/stuck-at-prom.aspx.

Kantrowitz has just written a book that offers tips on how to successfully apply for scholarships and other awards. He says some of the advice is common sense such as to apply for every scholarship for which you are eligible, and other advice that has not been mentioned before.
This includes the caveat to “answer the optional questions in addition to the required questions on the application.”

And list all the scholarships you are awarded on your resume. That can make it easier to win larger ones, because when you are awarded a scholarship, Kantrowitz notes, it means people think highly enough of you to invest money in your future. That’s an implicit recommendation.

Other advice includes Googling your name and see what comes up. If it’s anything crazy or outside the realm of acceptable in the professional arena, you might want to consider cleaning it up, said Kantrowitz.

“It’s very difficult to pick the winner of a scholarship. There are no wrong choices . . . one of the ways they start to differentiate is to check out a student’s online presence,” explained the scholarship guru. “Does a student show good judgment. Are there pictures of underage drinking or other offenses on their Facebook page. Even your email address can have an impact.”

For more information about scholarships with late application deadlines, go to finaid.org.