Scholarship Basics

Scholarship Options for All Students

If you are looking for ways to pay for college, consider applying for scholarships.

Scholarships are a type of financial aid that is based on specific criteria, usually set by the donor or organization providing that fund. Generally, you will have to apply to receive this award and meet the guidelines established for qualifying. Scholarship money is awarded to a student to complete their education and is not expected to be repaid.

If you don't qualify to receive a Federal Pell Grant from the government or are not interested in the interest rates that come with a student loan, a scholarship is another great option. A scholarship may also help fill in the gaps left over from other sources of financial aid. With the many types of scholarships available from a wide variety of sources and organizations, there's no reason you shouldn'€™t apply.

Types of Scholarships

Contrary to popular belief, scholarships are not awarded only to the best athletes and brightest students. Yes, merit scholarships using these measures are available, but did you know you could get a scholarship for being really tall or really short? Or, for building a prom dress out of duct tape? You can also find scholarships for community service, for being from your hometown, or for being interested in a certain major or career.

Here is a summary of some common types of scholarships:

  • Merit-based: These scholarships are awarded to students based on their high academic achievement, talent or recognition, such as high test scores, GPA, educational awards, artistic ability, and more.
  • Needs-based: These scholarships are awarded based on demonstrated financial need and sometimes require a FAFSA application. There is often some sort of merit-based component as well.
  • Student-based: Students qualify for these scholarships based on lifestyle or demographic details selected by the individual or institution granting the funding. Qualifications may be based on gender, race, medical history, religion, or family status—such as being a single parent or of American Indian descent. Again, there may be a merit-based component after the original qualification is met.
  • Career-based: These scholarships are generally awarded by a school or college to students who choose to study a specific field, such as nursing.
  • College-based: Sometimes individual colleges or universities, including online schools, will offer scholarships to their own students. These may be automatically awarded based on GPA or require an application.
  • Athletic: These scholarships are given to exceptional athletes, usually students who are recruited to represent the school on one of their sports teams.
  • Creative Contest: Students may win a scholarship by participating in a creative competition, such as a poetry, art, or music contest.

Some scholarships offer a one-time fixed amount. Others, especially if offered through your school, will cover full or half tuition. Some scholarships will cover only one year of school with the option to reapply for more financial aid, and others will provide the funding you need for your whole education.

How to Find Scholarships

You have two main sources for finding scholarships: your school advisor and the internet. Your guidance or career counselor in college or high school, or your financial aid counselor at college, will likely know of local and other scholarships that you may qualify for.

Search the internet for scholarships offered by various organizations based on your interests and talents. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a free scholarship search tool, as does College Board. Also, donât forget to talk to an advisor or representative of your college or program of study about any college-based or career-based scholarships.

Applying for Scholarships

If you need help paying for college, apply for as many scholarships as you can to increase your chances of qualifying for an award. Keep applying for scholarships throughout your time in school. Many scholarship applications are pretty straight-forward: fill out your personal and financial information, then explain in an essay why the organization's money would be well spent on your education. Sometimes you will need to send a transcript or standardized test scores.

Each scholarship has different requirements and qualifications, so make sure you understand and meet them before applying. Keep an eye on application deadlines for scholarships because they are all different. Make sure you give yourself enough time before the deadline to complete your essay and gather all the necessary application materials.

After Receiving a Scholarship

Scholarships often have requirements that you need to meet in order to maintain your eligibility for that financial aid. For example, you may need to complete community service hours, write a letter of gratitude to your donor, or maintain a specific GPA. Make sure that you know what the eligibility requirements are for your scholarships so you don't get caught off guard.

Enroll in a University

To be eligible to receive a scholarship, you have to be enrolled full time in an accredited university. Just make sure that the scholarships you apply for are accepted by your university.

Enrollment advisors at online universities can be very helpful when it comes to discovering and applying for scholarships and other types of financial aid. Speak with one today and get enrolled in school!