PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The cost of a college education keeps climbing year after year.

Some colleges now charge more than $40,000 a year, and financial assistance hasn’t kept pace with the rapid increases in tuition.

High school senior Jaylynn Ranson works hard to maintain a 4.2 GPA and is applying to 14 dream colleges.

“If money wasn’t an object, I would attend Columbia in New York,” Ranson says. “It’s my first choice, and then Stanford.”

Mom, Carla, is very proud, but isn’t financially prepared to send her daughter to college in August.

“I would hate for her to miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime, you know, because you can’t afford it,” she said.

Mark Lewis is a college admissions consultant who says there still is time to find a way to pay for college in the fall.

“If you are a high school senior and you are looking at this right now, the first thing you need to do if you haven’t done it already, is to start looking up scholarships,” said Lewis.

Few get as much aid as they want – despite having more than $15 billion available – including money for community college.

Here’s how to get the free money, apply for large and small scholarships.

Universities automatically bundle your large awards into your aid package, but smaller amounts like $500 or $1,000 go directly to you.

Hit up big corporations like Burger King and Xerox. They give away money.

Ask your parents’ employers and places of worship for scholarships. Finally, detail your passions, achievements and hardships in a personal statement.

“If you write a good admissions essay, the scholarship essays are real easy because it’s simply cut and paste and tweak,” Lewis said.

Ranson found Harvard may be cheaper than Berkley after she looked at the money Harvard offered.

“I was one of those people who was discouraged from going to an out-of-state Ivy League school, and now I see that these are the schools with the most money,” she said.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for more.

“In this economy, people are losing their jobs, people are becoming ill, people are going bankrupt,” said Lewis. “A lot of things are taking place, so if your financial aid situation changes, you can always request. It’s not set in stone.>

The Ransons feel their meeting with a college admissions consultant was worth their time because he put their financial fears to rest.

“It made me feel a lot better about going to college,” Jaylynn said.

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