When it comes down to it, scholarships are by far the best way to pay for college. They’re gifts of free money you don’t have to pay back, after all. And there’s no limit to how many you can apply to or accept (though what you earn can affect your institutional aid).

But scholarships take time and effort, and you won’t win every single one you apply to. Between the searching, essay writing, interviews, and submissions, it can get pretty overwhelming. What you need is a goal to aim for.

Set a S.M.A.R.T Goal

A SMART goal is one that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. After all, the goal of “apply for scholarships” is pretty vague. Instead, get SMART.

For example, a SMART goal could be: Apply to one scholarship per week during the school year. That gives you a consistent and manageable task that you can fit into your busy schedule.

Find Enforcers / Cheerleaders

Sometimes you need a bit more than self-discipline to get something done, or to stay on track. Find someone who will follow up on your task. Parents are ideal here–since they already love hounding you about homework and studying anyway. Or you could make a pact with a friend and keep each other motivated.

Create a Scholarship Schedule

Marking tasks on a calendar is a great way to ensure you’ll follow through. Treat it like a chore (and sometimes it will certainly feel like one—though well worth the effort). Setting up a time to do it each week (or every other week) can make the task more tangible and less stressful.

And when scholarships don’t cover everything, use College Raptor’s free Student Loan Finder to compare lenders and interest rates side by side!