By Sibila Vargas

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — If your high school senior is college-bound this coming fall you have nine months to figure out how to pay for it.

If you don’t feel prepared CBS2’s Sibila Vargas explains that it’s not too late to work out a financial plan.

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“If you’re a high school senior and you’re looking at this right now, the first thing you need to do if you haven’t done it already is start looking up scholarships,” college admissions consultant Mark Lewis said. “Because you should not wait until you receive your financial aid packages.”

You might not get as much financial aid as you’d like but the good news is that there are over $15 billion in scholarships available to prospective college students.

(credit: CBS)

“They even have scholarships for people who are left-handed, people who are gay, who are African American, people who are Filipino,” Lewis said.

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There are scholarships for community college students, as well.

Tips to get that free college money:

  • apply for both large and small scholarships — universities will automatically bundle your large awards into your financial aid package but smaller amounts like $500-$1,000 go directly to you.
  • contact all types of big corporations
  • ask your parents’ employers and places of worship for scholarships
  • write a stellar personal statement detailing your passions, achievements and hardships when applying

Parents, you should file your taxes in early January. The deadline to apply for financial aid is March 2 and you will need that tax return.

These websites can help you find scholarships:

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