It's never too early to start the college scholarship search
Vince Vitrano, Stephanie Graham
Avalon Theisan has already dedicated her life to saving the environment, starting her own nonprofit when she was only 10-years-old.
"I just love doing something good for our planet," Avalon gushes.
She's been able to turn that love into real money for college, winning multiple scholarships after barely turning double digits. He mom Deborah appreciates it. "It's expensive these days to go to school and anything helps."
In fact, one study predicted the average sticker price for a private university in 2030 could be as high as $130,000 a year. Even state universities could cost more than $40,000, but your kid can start scoring scholarships even in kindergarten!
Mark Kantrowitz is a scholarship expert with fastweb.com and finaid.org. He explains, "Some of these scholarship programs aren't very competitive because parents aren't thinking about scholarships for their children who are under age 13."
Jessica Johnson of the Scholarship Academy says these awards run the gamut, from academic achievement to stand-outs for service.
-Kohl's offers a $10,000 scholarship for kids 6 and up who are involved in community service projects.
-The Gloria Barron Prize For Young Heroes offers $2,500 to environmental activists ages 8-18.
Jessica Johnson is the founder of the Scholarship Academy. She says, "So you want to start thinking about what your child is passionate about and then research the scholarships in those specific categories."
Art enthusiasts might find inspiration for Google's 'Doodle 4 Google'. The prize: A whopping $30,000 of college money. Meanwhile, young writers might pen an essay on ending hunger for the Olive Garden's 'Pasta Tales' prize.
Whatever your child's talent, there's probably a scholarship to fit.
"There are some normal scholarships, and then some more unusual scholarships that involve quirky things like playing marbles," Kantrowitz explains.
Another fun one: Jif's 'Most Creative Sandwich Contest, which awards $25,000 to the best young sandwich chef.
The lesson for parents: Apply early and often. Johnson says parents shouldn't be afraid to help build a child's 'scholarship brand' early on.
"If they love nature, then make sure they're doing some recycling program. If they're great at public speaking, you want to start honing those skills," Johnson suggests.
Avalon and her mom are thrilled for the chance to save the world and save for college.
"It's not waiting 'til the last couple years of school and then I want to go to college. She's doing it now," Deborah says.
So how do you find these scholarships? To start, finaid.com offers a comprehensive list on their website. For local or regional opportunities, you might check with a child's teacher or guidance counselor or on bulletin boards at school. In addition, some opportunities may be listed in the coupon section of Sunday's newspaper, and a local toy store might also have scholarship opportunities advertised on their packaging.