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Home Scholarships College Scholarships What is a Scholarship?

What is a Scholarship?

A scholarship is a monetary gift or award to help cover the costs associated with attending a college, university, or technical school. This gift-aid money is usually based on meeting certain requirements and being chosen as the recipient of the award. Scholarships and grants typically do not have to be paid back.

There are various types of scholarships that are awarded to assist students in their educational journey. Scholarships are not required to be paid back, however, you may be requested to continue to meet certain criteria during a specified time period to remain eligible (such as maintaining a certain GPA, playing on a school sports team, being a teaching assistant, etc.). Whenever you are offered scholarship money, make sure to read the terms and conditions to ensure you continue to meet the eligible requirements of the scholarship.

More >>>How to Apply for a Scholarship

Types of Scholarships

Scholarships are available for everyone to apply and can help offset the rising cost of attending college. While there are different scholarships, finding the ones that are most applicable to you will improve your chances of being chosen as the recipient. Understanding the different types of scholarships can help guide you in your financial quest of paying for your education.

Scholarships are available for all different interests, abilities, and backgrounds. Most scholarships will fall in one of the primary categories below:

Merit Based Scholarships

Merit based scholarships are well-known as they are based off academic achievement and extra-curricular activities. These scholarships are awarded by either private organizations or by your school and are frequently based off high SAT®/ACT® test scores and grade point average (GPA). Check out the school’s financial aid office for more information on available merit scholarships.

Demographic Scholarships

Demographic scholarship applicants must initially qualify to apply based upon on their gender, race, religion, family, medical history, or other specific factors. Use what makes you unique and search out these scholarships. You may be asked for proof of qualification or a letter of recommendation from your doctor, religious leader, tribe, etc., so research the requirements to ensure you meet them.

Music Scholarship

You can receive money for school if you’re musically talented. Your talent can range from singing to playing an instrument to composing and songwriting. University music programs welcome well-accomplished musicians to lend their talent and leadership to musical ensemble groups.

These scholarships can be extremely competitive and often ask for an audition. If you are talented but want to major in something other than music, you may not be required to study music to be awarded this scholarship. Check with the music department of your desired schools to see what scholarship offerings and requirements they have.

Athletic Scholarships

Division I and II athletic programs often have scholarship money that they can award to students based on athletic performance. Athletic scholarships are used to attract the best talent to represent the school on the field. Students can play the sport they love, continue to improve their skills, and use their ability to assist in paying for your education. While more prominent sports such as football and basketball may have more students vying for scholarships, lesser-known sports such as archery, boxing, water polo, and e-sports may also award student-athletes with scholarship money.

Check with local sports clubs to find out about possible scholarship programs that may be available. Finally, don’t forget to reach out to the college or university athletic recruiter to find out what scholarships and financial aid offers are available for the school of your choice.

Studies Based Scholarships

For students who know their career path, there are scholarships that are awarded based on specific fields of study. Look to different career-based organizations for possible scholarships to assist in fulfilling your scholastic dreams. For example, high need areas such as nursing or education sometimes receive generous funding to facilitate scholarships.

Contest or Sweepstakes Scholarships

Applications for scholarships can be time-consuming and mentally taxing. Scholarship contests or sweepstakes are easy and quick ways to receive financial aid for college. These take very little time to apply and usually do not look at test scores or grades. You may be asked a few questions to complete your submission. The likelihood of winning is slim, but worth trying for.

Sites like ask you to complete activities such as taking a survey, applying to other partnered scholarships, or redeeming bonus codes posted to social media. You can earn points by completing these activities to enter different scholarship drawings. The more points you accumulate the more chances you can have to win scholarships.  There’s no cap to the number of times you can win, should you be so lucky.

How do I Find Scholarships?

Scholarships are offered through several groups, clubs, organizations, schools, and companies. High school counseling offices and local libraries usually have a list of local scholarships you can apply for. The best place to start is with your high school counselor or college financial aid office. You can also check with your elementary, middle, and high schools to see if there are alumni scholarships available.

Websites like StudentScholarshipSearchcan help match you with relevant scholarships and keep track of all your scholarship information. This keeps your information on hand when you apply for multiple scholarships.

How do I Apply for Scholarships?

Each scholarship has different qualifications for applicants, so make sure you are eligible before applying. If you meet all the eligibility requirements, carefully read and fully complete the scholarship application.

Not all scholarships require you to fill out the FAFSA®, but it is helpful to have your FAFSA documents filled out and handy. This information can be useful as you are filling out applications because requirements vary from one scholarship to another.

When Should I Apply for Scholarships?

You should begin the scholarship application process between your junior and senior year of high school. You can begin applying earlier for scholarships (sometimes as early as 5 years old), but some scholarships require you to be nearing the end of your high school career. Scholarships can be due at any time throughout the year, with most due the fall prior to beginning the fall college semester. Make sure you read and track scholarship deadlines so they don’t sneak up on you.

How do I Receive my Scholarship Money?

Each scholarship is different in how the money is disbursed. Some scholarships will send you a check directly. Other scholarships will send the money to your school so the funds can be applied to your tuition, fees, books, or any other money amounts you owe. Most scholarships do not allow students to keep the leftover money for personal use. Keep in mind that scholarship money can be used to pay for expenses your school deems necessary, such as books, laptops, housing, transportation, etc.

Not all scholarships last your entire collegiate experience, so make sure to review your financial standings each year to ensure you are able to cover your costs. Scholarships can ease the burden, but do require some work on your part.

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