A college education is one of the best ways to enhance your earning potential. But if you’re like most college students, you’re too busy trying to figure out how to pay for that degree that you can’t think about the financial rewards. Thankfully, you can do pay for part of your education with scholarships.
Scholarships and grants are an attractive source of funding for college costs, because unlike loans, they don’t have to be repaid. The good news is that there are a wide range of scholarships available for students. And while it’s true that there really are scholarships specifically for people with unique characteristics and backgrounds, it’s easier to search for a scholarship if you know the types of scholarships that are available and where to find them.
Scholarships that are based on financial need.
Most students who are seeking scholarships do so because of financial need. In order to qualify for a need-based scholarship, a student must first complete the FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Questions on the FAFSA ask about the family’s income and assets. A formula is then applied to determine the Expected Family Contribution or EFC. That information is sent to the colleges that the applicant is considering. The university will then determine the cost of attendance (COA) — everything from tuition and housing to the cost of books, meals, student fees, supplies and transportation—at that institution
Need-based scholarships are awarded on an annual basis and the student can reapply each year. Unlike a merit-based scholarship, those based on financial need consider the financial circumstances of the applicants and their families. The scholarship amount varies from applicant to applicant depending upon individual financial eligibility, as well as the funding that is available.
Check with the financial aid department at the school you wish to attend for more information on whether it offers a need-based scholarship. The financial aid counselors will be able to steer you in the right direction.
Scholarships that are based on background.
Scholarships that are based on the applicant’s background assess a different set of criteria when evaluating a student’s qualifications. Traits, such as ethnicity, religion and culture are dominant in this type of scholarship.
These scholarships are aimed at offering financial assistance so that students from diverse backgrounds will have the opportunity to pursue a degree. The American demographic profile is one of great diversity and scholarships are available for students whose background is Native American, African-American, Asian, American-Pacific Islander/Hawaiian, Latino-Hispanic, and Caucasian. Universities are keenly aware that in today’s multicultural world, educational institutions need to be aware of under-represented groups who may otherwise not share in the opportunities that are offered for students seeking a college education.
There are also scholarships for students of particular religious affiliations, including those of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths. Within the category of scholarships for Christians, there is financial aid offered for different denominations, such as Quaker, Adventist, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, etc. There are also scholarships for students who self-describe as agnostic, atheist, or non-religious. There are even scholarships for applicants who profess to be pagans.
As educational institutions become more sensitive to the issue of diversity, some offer scholarships that emphasize a person’s cultural background in order to expand the institution’s socio-ethnic persona. The multicultural heritage of a student also includes students who may be hearing- or sight-impaired, as our society becomes more aware of the broad canvas of diversity which is the United States in the 21st century. Are you married to someone in the military? Are you a vegetarian? There may be a scholarship for you.
Scholarships that are based on academic performance.
This is the category that first comes to mind when students think of scholarships. It’s the one that your parents were thinking of when they made you put down your cell phone and pick up your textbooks, so that you could study and get better grades. These scholarships take into consideration an applicant’s test scores, field of study and high school performance.
This is a particularly competitive area, and even if you’re the valedictorian of your class, keep in mind that there are a lot of other valedictorians. To qualify for an academic scholarship, you will need to demonstrate the expected academic credentials: class ranking in the top five-ten percent of your graduating class; membership in honor societies; national scholar organizations and other recognized academic entities; an impressive extracurricular profile and of course, superior grades. You’ll also need to demonstrate the patience to fill out a lot of paperwork because there are a lot of applications to complete.
Scholarships that are based on ability.
College isn’t just about academics, of course. It’s about finding out who you are as a person, so that you can choose the career that will bring you personal satisfaction and pay the bills!
There are also scholarships for athletes and artists. Athletic scholarships frequently make the news because university athletic departments vigorously and publicly recruit athletes who can help their sports programs.
But even if you’re not an athlete who is likely to end up playing a pro sport, there are still scholarships available for you. The NCAA isn’t the only game in town for student athletes. There are other organizations, as well as corporations, foundations, sporting associations and even private benefactors who are looking for ways to promote university enrollment for athletes. Nationally televised football games may get all the attention, but that income also helps to fund smaller, less-known sports. For instance, even though lacrosse may not have its own March Madness season, there are scholarships offered for lacrosse players.
If your forte is not athletics, but you have talent in the creative arts, there are scholarships for you as well. Depending on your area of creative expertise, there are scholarships offered in music, dance, fine arts (painting, drawing, sculpting), performing arts (drama, film, television and broadcasting), photography, music, design (graphic design, interior design, industrial design and sound design) and even video game design. Creativity is a boundless field and there are scholarships for all of these artistic pursuits. When searching for scholarships, venture outside the box. Did you know that Google offers a Doodle 4 Google scholarship?
When seeking sources of financial assistance to pay for your college education, don’t forget that there are also local organizations in your home town or region which offer funding. Organizations like your local VFW Post, the Knights of Columbus, the Rotary and business associations may also offer scholarships to students who meet their requirements.
Paying for college is an expensive proposition, but the results are worth it. The effort you put into finding and apply for these scholarships can fund your education. It’s estimated that, altogether, the U.S. Department of Education, colleges, universities, organizations, service clubs, labor unions, professional groups, churches, nonprofits, veterans organizations, chambers of commerce and foundations offer more than $49 billion in scholarships and grants. So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start filling out applications!