Approximately 3.5 million students are expected to graduate from high school in 2017 and 69% of graduating high school seniors are expected to enroll in college immediately in the fall of 2017. An estimated 20.5 million students will attend American colleges and universities.

According to the “College Board”, the average cost of tuition and fees last year was $32,405 at private colleges, $9,410 for state residents at public colleges, and $23,893 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. But did you know you can offset the cost with scholarship money? Millions of it is left on the table every year.

High school is done, you’re on your way! Now, how do you pay for that bright future?

Will Worsley studied hard, earned good grades but is still learning about the money available to help him and his family pay for that higher education.

We asked Will “looking for all this scholarship money has got to be stressful?”

Will says “yes, it is, short answer, yes.”

Will’s mom and dad are all in to help foot the bill and have hired Elizabeth Hartley from scholarship gold to help find that money.

Hartley says “what I often preach all the time to people is that the most expensive schools are often the least expensive schools, if you can get in.”

Hartley sent her daughter to Dartmouth, a very prestigious school and the last semester there, scholarship money helped offset the majority of the costs. She says there’s tons of endowment money out there that schools have to spend, so ask what’s available. While she has great information on scholarships, Hartley says there is no magic pill and it’s not “gaming the system”. It’s just knowing where to look for the money that is already there.

If you have multiple kids in college, you’re likely eligible for money, if you’re self-employed, if you are a military family, and if you shop the smaller off the grid schools, they can offer you very generous packages that don’t include loans, but you have to research and then ask.

And don’t forget about local community groups, service organizations, and even your favorite retail store. There is 19 billion dollars’ worth of independent scholarship money out there and you can start asking for it…when your child is in the 7th grade. Just look on their websites.

Hartley says “so if you think about it, there are scholarships from the school and not from the school, veterans groups, businesses like Kohl’s, Best Buy, Foot Locker, and then the foundations like Gates Millennium, all of these are willing to give money to help invest in their future.”

Holly and Bill Worsley did ask for money and did shop smaller schools for their older daughter, she got accepted to Furman in Greenville, S.C. Retail? About $65,000 a year…but they didn’t pay that.

H. Worsley says “I would never have believed that she could go to that school for $12,000 dollars, a school of that caliber, it’s a wonderful school.”

Don’t think the high test score kids with 4.5 grade point averages get all the money, Hartley says she saw a student with a 950 sat score get scholarship money. It’s up to you to do the tedious work, so look for it, ask for it, and when you apply, be interesting and be yourself.

Elizabeth Hartley’s website is There you will find helpful information videos for free to help you get started.

Copyright 2016 WCNC