Going to college is expensive. Tuition, fees, books, housing – it all adds up quickly. Scholarships are a great way to help pay for school and make your education more affordable. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about scholarships – what they are, how to find them, and how to apply.
What is a Scholarship? A scholarship is free money awarded to students based on different criteria like grades, talents, financial need, or other factors. Scholarship money doesn’t have to be paid back like loans do. There are many different types of scholarships out there.
The main types are:
- Merit scholarships – Given based on academic performance like GPA or test scores.
- Talent scholarships – For things like art, music, athletics.
- Need-based scholarships – Given based on financial need and family income.
- Major-specific scholarships – For certain areas of study like engineering, teaching, or business.
- Demographic scholarships – For things like ethnicity, religion, heritage.
Scholarship money can be used to pay for tuition, fees, books, housing, or other college costs. It’s a great way to make college more affordable.
How to Find Scholarships Now that you know what scholarships are, the next step is finding them. Here are some of the best places to search:
- Your school counselor – Talk to them about local scholarships or ones through your high school.
- College financial aid office – Colleges offer their own scholarships to attract students.
- Websites like Fastweb.com and Scholarships.com – Search huge databases of scholarships.
- Community organizations – Like the Rotary Club, churches, or civic groups.
- Employers – Your parents’ companies may offer scholarships.
- Your state’s scholarship program – Many states fund scholarship programs.
- Direct website searches – Search terms like “nursing scholarships” or “diversity scholarships”.
When searching, think about your qualifications. Look at merit, talent, major, demographics – anything you can use to your advantage. The more you find, the better your chances of winning money.
How to Apply for Scholarships Once you find potential scholarships, it’s time to apply. Here are the key steps:
- Read eligibility requirements carefully. Make sure you actually qualify before spending time on the application.
- Fill out the application form completely. Answer all questions fully and honestly.
- Write your essay. Tailor it specifically to each scholarship. Highlight what matters most to them.
- Get letters of recommendation if needed. Ask teachers who know your abilities.
- Gather transcripts, resumes, FAFSA. Provide any required documents like grades or financial info.
- Meet deadlines. Don’t miss the important dates or your application won’t be considered.
- Follow up if possible. Thank the scholarship committee for their consideration.
Apply to as many scholarships as you can. Practice makes perfect, so the more you do, the better you’ll get at writing great applications.
Scholarship Tips Here are some final tips that can help you stand out:
- Start early, as early as freshman year. Don’t wait until senior year to begin applying.
- Reapply every year if eligible, even if you were awarded before. Renewals are common.
- Ask about scholarship status and follow up on any missing documents.
- Thank donors/committees, even if you don’t win, to leave a good impression.
- Consider lesser known scholarships beyond the big national ones.
- Highlight unique experiences, not just grades and activities. What makes you special?
- Ask teachers/counselors to review your essays before submitting.
With effort and persistence, scholarships can make a real dent in college costs. Take advantage of every opportunity available. Your future self will thank you!