Georgia families considering how to pay for college should first familiarize themselves with HOPE, Zell Miller, and Achieve Atlanta scholarships.
If you’re going to an eligible school in Georgia and have the required GPA, the HOPE Scholarship or the Zell Miller Scholarship will be a huge help. And Achieve Atlanta automatically awards a $5,000 scholarship to everyone with financial need and an 80 GPA. These scholarships are not competitive: if you meet the eligibility requirements, you will receive them.
Beyond that, most of your financial aid is likely to come from the college you're accepted to. Small, private colleges usually have much better endowments than large state schools, which means that they have more money available to provide scholarships. For this reason, private schools often turn out to be more affordable than public ones, so don’t rule out schools based on their stated sticker price. Some private schools are committed to meeting 100% of demonstrated need.
When a college admits you, they'll provide you with a financial aid package, which might include a combination of scholarships or grants (which do not have to be repaid), loans (which do), or work-study. If there is a gap between the amount a school offers you and what you can afford to pay, you may want to apply for additional supplemental scholarships. Most such scholarships are for relatively small amounts, but they can make a difference. Be aware, though, that you will have to reapply for many of them every year.
These portable scholarships can be used at any institution (in contrast, awards given from a college or university can be used only at that school). There are literally thousands of such scholarships available; some are given to very specific groups (left handed people or trombonists), and many are provided by businesses, civic groups, or foundations. Most will ask for a brief essay. The CCC is happy to work with you on writing scholarship essays.
Be aware that some schools will reduce the grant money they’ve awarded you if you receive outside scholarships. See what the policy is at your school before you apply, because if you win $5,000 from the Rotary Club only to find that your college reduces your award by $5,000, then it wasn’t really worth it.
There are many search engines that help you find scholarships that are a good match for you, and you can also find reference books in the CCC.
Grady's College Advisors have created a a partial list of scholarships. Check for an updated list in the fall.
Free Scholarship Search Engines
Scholly: This web and app-based scholarship search engine, developed by Drexel University, actually has a small fee ($2.99), but is well worth the cost.
Here’s an interesting article on the topic from Lynn O'Shaughnessy