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Consumer Reports: Tips to getting college scholarships

November is National Scholarship Month and it's good timing because Consumer Reports says fall is the best time to start applying. (Image credit: MGN Online and Consumer Reports)

November is National Scholarship Month, and it's good timing because Consumer Reports says fall is the best time to start applying -- using these tips on how to apply and reduce the number of loans you'll need.

How likely is it that you'll win scholarship cash? Fairly decent, actually -- almost half of families use scholarships for college, with scholarships and grants covering 35 percent of college costs.

Though less than 1 percent of students get scholarships that cover the entire cost of tuition and room and board, every penny counts. Consumer Reports says you should use these smart strategies to maximize your chances of getting scholarship money.

First, look to your future school -- colleges are one of the largest providers of grants and scholarships. You can increase your chances of getting merit aid by applying to schools where your test scores and grades are in the top 10 percent of the class, helping you stand out.

Next, be strategic about what you apply for -- spend your time searching for scholarships that match your experience and interests. Free websites like Cappex, The College Board, Fastweb and Scholarships.com let you fill out a profile to identify what's unique about you, and then match you with potential scholarships.

Go big AND small -- apply for national and local scholarships. National scholarships offer more money, but your odds of snagging a local one may be better because you're likely to be competing against fewer students.

And, of course, it pays to start early -- keep in mind the application deadline. Keep a list of each scholarship, its requirements and its due date. Many organizations offer a lot of money. A missed deadline is definitely a missed opportunity.

All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit consumer.org.

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