College gets more expensive every year, a fact that U.S. News & World Report highlighted in an article that discusses 20 years of rising tuition costs. As the number of students pursuing higher education grows, colleges must hire more faculty, which means higher tuition costs are often needed to pay these additional salaries. Moreover, schools and the federal government must provide financial aid for all eligible college students, resulting in fewer aid dollars per learner. You can reduce tuition costs by applying for scholarships. Scholarship funds can defray enrollment fees and help cover expenses like books, room, and board.
Scholarships can reduce the cost of tuition and often cover related education expenses.
What is a Scholarship for College?
College scholarships provide money to offset the cost of a college degree. While you must repay a loan, scholarships do not need to be repaid. Scholarships can reduce the cost of tuition and often cover related education expenses.
Sources that offer scholarships include civic organizations, churches, private foundations, and colleges. Each scholarship provider specifies eligibility criteria, which may or may not include academic performance. For example, many scholarships target children of military personnel, minorities, and women.
There’s no limit to the number of scholarships to which you can apply. However, your total scholarship funds for tuition cannot exceed the cost of your tuition.
How to Find College Scholarships
Types of Scholarships
Scholarships are roughly categorized into three types: performance based, student specific, and unique. Performance-based scholarships are awarded based on academic, creative, or athletic performance; they can also be awarded for community service. Student-specific scholarships are awarded based on financial need; an individual’s gender, ethnicity, or sexuality; or other defining identity characteristics. Unique college scholarships are awarded for specific skills or interests, such as students who specialize in an instrument or students with an interest in protecting certain species. These awards are usually less competitive than other scholarships due to their specificity.
How to Apply For College Scholarships
Scholarship Application Checklist
According to Forbes, the average college graduate in 2016 accrued over $37,000 in student loan debt, and 44 million college loan borrowers collectively owe $1.5 trillion in repayments.
To reduce student debt, you should apply for as many scholarships as possible
Many scholarships feature similar application requirements, including transcripts, letters of recommendation, and essays. Collect your transcripts and recommendation letters in advance to ensure they are ready by the application deadline. Stay organized throughout the process by making a list of the scholarships you wish to apply for, including requirements and deadlines.
Financial aid information
Parent financial aid information
High school or college transcripts
Test scores and dates
Citizenship or lawful permanent residence
Letters of recommendation
Resume or Curriculum Vitae
Portfolio of Work
Commonly required of creative scholarships
Scholarship Application Form
Tips on Applying for Scholarships
Scholarships are competitive. Apply the following tips to increase your chances of securing a scholarship.
DON’T WAIT! START EARLY AND APPLY AS SOON AS YOU ARE ELIGIBLE
To ensure your application (particularly your essay) is thoughtful, professional, and polished, don’t wait until the last moment to apply.
COLLECT APPLICATION DATES AND CREATE A CALENDAR FOR DEADLINES
Use a spreadsheet to organize requirements and deadlines. Google is helpful, as it allows you to link your calendar and spreadsheet tools.
STAY ORGANIZED AND BE SURE TO KNOW WHAT EACH SCHOLARSHIP’S REQUIREMENTS ARE
Many applicants disqualify themselves from scholarships by not following directions. Hundreds of people may apply for a single scholarship, and vetters are looking for basic reasons to reduce the pool, so read each application’s directions thoroughly.
APPLY TO AS MANY AS YOU CAN
Cast a net wide, but read application guidelines carefully to ensure you meet the eligibility criteria.
Search for scholarships based on factors related to your academic life
- Geographic Region
These scholarships are typically very straightforward because they are based on attributes that you can easily demonstrate. Many of these scholarships are one-time awards.
THINK CREATIVELY AND SEARCH BASED ON OTHER THINGS THAT MAKE YOU UNIQUE
- Artistic Pursuits
- Family Situation
- Medical History
While these scholarships are usually more difficult to find and apply for, they often feature smaller applicant pools, which increases your chances of winning.
Some students mistakenly only apply for national scholarships, which tend to be highly competitive. Local scholarships may award less funding than renowned scholarships, but your chances of receiving an award are higher.
EXPLORE SCHOLARSHIP OPPORTUNITIES AVAILABLE THROUGH LOCAL BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS
Ask your high school adviser and community members if they know of local businesses or organizations that sponsor scholarships. Your high school may also provide college funding through the generosity of students who came before you.
LEVERAGE FREE RESOURCES LIKE THE COMMON APPLICATION’S PARTNERSHIP WITH SCHOLAR SNAPP TO HAVE RELEVANT SCHOLARSHIP INFORMATION DELIVERED
Look for opportunities and programs that make it easy to apply for scholarships en masse. As part of The Common App, Scholar Snapp enables you to easily search for college scholarships and apply to multiple scholarships simultaneously.
Avoiding Scholarship Scams
The majority of college aid opportunities are facilitated online and are therefore susceptible to scams. While scholarship application fees do not necessarily mean the service is a fraud, you should carefully weigh the benefits versus the cost. Many scholarship scams are seeking your personal information rather than cash, so trust your gut.
Many scholarship scams don’t want your cash outright, but rather your personal information, so trust your gut.
Remember, that the point of free money is that you don’t need to pay for it, which includes submitting the application and receiving the results. For example, the FAFSA is a free service funded by the national government; you should never pay someone to apply for you. If a scholarship provider is asking for too much information, it may not be a legitimate service.
Paying for School Without Scholarships
Scholarships are not the only means to pay for your college education; grants, loans, and other funding are also available to ease the financial burden. Below, we cover two ways to secure additional funding: the FAFSA and employer tuition assistance.
Filling out the FAFSA is typically the first step in applying for need-based scholarships. The FAFSA finds appropriate funding for you and allows you to apply for multiple scholarships. It also enables you to apply for work-study programs and federal loans, which usually feature lower interest rates than private loans.
To submit the FAFSA, you must have a high school diploma or GED and be enrolled in a college program. United States citizenship is also a qualifying factor; noncitizens may be eligible for FAFSA aid depending on their immigrant status. Most students must show that they are making progress toward their degree by renewing the FAFSA every year to retain their aid. Deadlines vary by federal and state regulations, as well as university requirements. Contact your school’s admissions office and review the FAFSA website for more information.
HAVING YOUR EMPLOYER PAY FOR COLLEGE
Students in eligible programs should look into employer tuition assistance. This aid includes tuition waivers and reductions, scholarships, and/or a lump sum of up to $5,250. Check with your organization to see what stipulations are attached to awards.
- FAFSA The Free Application for Federal Student Aid is among the most important sources for students to secure financial aid and, in some cases, it is a requirement for applying to scholarships.
- Federal Student Aid This government website contains comprehensive information about college preparation, scholarships, and repayment options. It also contains free assistance pertaining to the FAFSA.
- Find Aid! Find Aid! Is a free web service that aggregates information on college scholarships and other forms of aid. It is particularly useful for its loan calculator and information on scholarships for military personnel.
- Scholarships.com This site contains a large database of scholarships, grants, and loans, searchable by criteria like income, ethnicity, and deadline. Another useful feature is its matching tool. With this tool, users fill out a personal profile and Scholarships.com matches them with forms of college aid for which they are eligible.
- Fastweb Fastweb provides useful scholarship search features and video tutorials on different aspects of financial aid, including when to apply for scholarships. The site also features tools to help students search for the school that best suits them as well as career planning advice.
- U.S. Department of Education The official website of the U.S. Department of Education provides information about the state of education in the United States. Its database allows students to search for state-sponsored loans through local contacts.
- Career One Stop A free service sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Career One Stop provides a large database of scholarships for college students searchable by criteria like level of study and location. The site also features career search and planning resources, including information about local job centers and unemployment benefits agencies.