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There are thousands of scholarships available out there. Before you apply for the first scholarship you see, follow these do's and don'ts to help ensure you maximize the money you don't have to pay back.

DO apply and keep applying. When it comes to paying for college, free money in the form of grants and scholarships is best since you do not have to pay it back.

DO search for scholarships through a free scholarship search engine. Discover Student Loans offers a Free Scholarship Search as a fast way to search 3 million scholarships worth more than $18 billion.

DO carefully read the instructions. You don't want your application to be turned down if you did not fill it out correctly or did not include any requested documents.

DO make sure you proofread your scholarship applications and/or essays. You know what they say about first impressions!

DO check your social media accounts and make sure you do not have any inappropriate content or pictures posted.

DON'T wait until your senior year of high school to start applying for scholarships. Begin researching scholarships as early as your sophomore year of high school.

DON'T wait to ask for letters of recommendation from teachers and employers. You may not be the only person asking for a recommendation.

DON'T assume that you won't receive a scholarship if you aren't a star athlete or the head of your class. There are a number of community scholarships available to those who are involved in community service.

DON'T pay for scholarships. You should not be charged a fee for a scholarship search. Also, be wary of things such as a "finalist letter" or a "scholarship guarantee."

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