Maximize scholarships to minimize the cost of college

- There are hundreds of millions in scholarships available to cut the cost of college -- free money -- to help pay for college, but only if you know how to find it.

Students at USF say that's easier said than done.

"I found it kind of hard to find scholarships,” senior Monet Moore offered.

"I wish it was easier,” Junior Paige Mosley agreed. “No one wants to take out loans and have to pay those back later."

Entrepreneur Christopher Gray knows. After spending countless hours to win more than a million in scholarships himself, he founded Scholly -- a mobile and web app that simplifies the search. 

Users fill out an in-depth profile to find their match. "You're matched on average with 200 to 300 different scholarships. You're getting dozens of new opportunities every week," Gray explained. "And it follows you throughout college and up until grad school and even if you're returning to school."

Scholly charges $2.99 a month, but you can start or stop any time.

There are also numerous free sites that are popular like Fastweb.com, Scholarships.com, and Cappex.com.

Whatever search tool you use to find more scholarships, get specific.

Gray advises, "the more specific the scholarship the less competitive it is, so you're more likely to win. So if the scholarship is for people who are left handed and vegetarian you know there's obviously less competition for that scholarship."

The Penny Hoarder personal finance site has a list of 100 scholarships they refresh yearly. Their advice? Play the numbers game.

"Some scholarship sites actually tell you how many apply for a typical contest. You may see lower numbers, so you may have better odds you fit the bill," says the Penny Hoarder's Lisa Rowan.

It’s important to avoid getting burned out. Don't be afraid to double dip.

"The advice I have to win more is you want to scale your efforts. What you'll find is a lot of scholarships ask for the same essays, so one thing that I did in high school is write one essay about leadership and use that same essay for others that had the essay topics around leadership," suggested Gray.

Also, go big: Prioritize scholarships with the largest dollar amounts. 

"Being able to tailor that search and maximize your time to apply for as many as possible is best way to insure you win a lot of cash," noted Gray, who adds that the next phase for Scholly is to help provide scholarships to pay off student loans. They're also launching an artificial intelligence editing service to proofread your essays. 

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