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Resources abound for those who know where to look for college financial aid

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- The hunt for financial aid is a journey many parents and students know all too well. While it's a time-consuming process, it's not necessarily difficult to find money, as a consultant showed a Summerville family.

Inside Coastal Coffee Roasters in Summerville a barista blends a caffeine concoction for any conversation. But the topic at one of the tables is money for a college education.

"It might be a thousand dollars. It might be five hundred dollars," said Elizabeth Brown, who is helping her college-bound daughter look for money to cover tuition and bills. Her daughter, Hannah, is a Summerville High School senior searching for scholarships.

"That's the kind of thing your guidance counselor should tell you. Like I never even heard of that," she said. "The tuition itself is expensive and you really can't come up with all the money on your own. You need those scholarships to help pay for it so you aren't in debt."

Helping the Browns is Jordan Graffis, a higher education consultant who specializes in preparing students for the costs of college -- hopefully without the stifling debt.

"There are millions of dollars in scholarship money that just goes unused every year," she said.

Graffis says many students don't know where to look or how to apply for financial aid. She suggests checking websites like fastweb.com or finaid.org and collegeboard.com to get started. And it's important to apply early and often, she added.

"A lot of scholarships let you apply as young as 13, so you can be racking up these scholarships all throughout high school and not be stressing out so much in the senior year," Graffis said.

The Department of Education reports that for every high school guidance counselor there are 407 students. That makes it challenging for educators to help every kid apply for every scholarship and other financial aid.

"That's a great scholarship because not everybody is a vegetarian. You just ruled out three-fourths of the world," said Elizabeth Brown to her daughter as they looked through a list of scholarships.

The hope for Elizabeth and Hannah Brown is that scholarship will help cover her first semester at the University of South Carolina later this year.

"I think the scholarship search is the toughest part because there's so many of them out there. There's not a quota on how many you can apply for, and there's practically a scholarship for everything," Elizabeth Brown said.

It's a bold blend of coffee shop research and robust planning that the Browns hope will percolate into a perfect cup of financial success.

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