Higher education opens doors and presents opportunities, but it comes at a cost. Tuition fees are at an all-time high, and most students rely on landing the right scholarships in order to avoid the crippling reality of debt. The good news is, there are countless scholarships available with varying qualifications and requirements. The process of finding and applying for these scholarships though, can be overwhelming and time-consuming.
To help you navigate the ins and outs of these awards, we’ve created this ultimate guide that will help you plan for, find, and apply for the scholarships that are right for you.
The Different Types of Scholarships
There exists a common misconception that scholarships are awarded only to gifted athletes or those with the highest GPAs. While there are many that award based on those requirements, they are far outnumbered by a collection of scholarships granted to students based on other needs and eligibility. Consider which categories and requirements you might fall into before you begin your scholarship search.
Academic scholarships are the ones that typically comes to mind. These are awarded based on merit, usually granted to students with remarkably high GPAs. Academic scholarships tend to be highly competitive and require lengthy applications, though they often award the highest payouts. These can come from larger organizations or from specific colleges themselves.
If you don’t have an all-star GPA, there’s no need to give up! Performance scholarships are granted to students who committed to having a well-rounded high school experience. Academics are considered, though they do not need to be perfect. The other factors considered include: community involvement, leadership, and extracurricular activities.
There are athletic scholarships available for nearly every sport, and are awarded to students who demonstrate exceptional physical skills. Most athletic scholarships do take into account academics, though average grades are frequently considered. This type of award is highly competitive but often comes with a high payout. Take note that DIII schools are not permitted to give out athletic scholarships.
Minority scholarships are offered by organizations to encourage more diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious representation at universities. Some are offered to the collective minority group, while others are more specific, offering opportunities to individual groups. This can include scholarships for international students at colleges and universities in the US. If you are a part of any minority group, we encourage you to seek out the unique scholarships that are available to you.
Scholarships for Women
Similar to minority scholarships, ones created specifically for women are awarded to encourage more female representation in an area historically dominated by men (such as computer science). Available for almost any field or major, female students should actively seek out scholarships that fall into this category.
Community Service Scholarships
Organizations like to give back to students who’ve dedicated themselves to the community. If you are active in community service, then look for this less-competitive type of scholarship.
The artistic equivalent of athletic scholarships, this type of award is given to students who are gifted with creativity. From dance and theater, to music and art, if you are pursuing a creative field, consider applying for a creative scholarship, which usually require the submission of a portfolio.
Typically sponsored by private organizations, unusual scholarships are meant to be a fun break from the normal applications. Help pay for your college by creating the most unique sandwich, or by drafting the ultimate zombie apocalypse plan. Though the payouts tend to be on the smaller end, the requirements are more relaxed that any other category.
Where to Look
Now that you have a thorough understanding of the different types of scholarships, it’s time to look for them! Here’s a roundup of the places you should begin your search:
• Your high school guidance counselor
• Your college’s financial aid office
• Your local library
• Online databases (such as Niche, FastWeb, and BigFuture)
• Organizations related to your anticiapted field or major
• Ethnicity-based, religious, or cultural organizations
• Your employer and your parents’ employers
• Local ommunity organizations
Choosing Which Ones Are Right for You
Upon searching, you’ll be presented with a seemingly-endless list of scholarships. It’s critical that you read through the eligibility information thoroughly, ensuring your GPA, program, current school year, and other requirements all line up. Make sure that you meet every single criteria, as most organizations won’t even look at your application if you just come “close” to being eligible. With so many scholarships available for you, don’t waste your time on an application that won’t pay off.
Once you’ve won a scholarship, it’s a requirement to notify the financial aid department at your school of your additional funding if you’re receiving any kind of financial aid. You will want to read through the terms and specifications a few times to ensure you completely understand them. Some scholarships will specify how the funds should be allotted, so considering asking your financial aid office to look over these with you and guide you through the process.