College Scholarships & Financial Aid: A Guide for Students & Educators

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The Key To A Successful Scholarship Search

For years we’ve heard how millions of dollars in scholarships and financial aid goes unclaimed each year. While that may be partially true, according to the scholarship experts, that amount is not nearly as much as it used to be. The truth is, the amount of money available for college scholarships has increased over the years, but so had the demand for scholarships. With easier access to scholarship information online, more students are applying for a larger number of scholarships. Competition for well-known scholarships is intense, and scholarships that used to receive just a hand full of applicants each year are now receiving hundreds.

The key to a successful scholarship search, is being informed, being prepared and being proactive. It’s no longer enough to apply for a few scholarships here and there and expect to be able to finance your entire college education. If you’re serious about receiving a scholarship, then you must take the scholarship search seriously. This section of our site is dedicated to helping students and educators better understand the scholarship process, provide them with useful scholarship application tips and tools, and ultimately introduce them to specific scholarships and financial aid resources.

Scholarships: A Brief Overview

Scholarships are forms of financial aid that are awarded to students who are pursing a college degree or a higher education. In contrast to other forms of financial assistance, such as students loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid. There are literally hundreds of thousands of scholarships awarded each year totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars. While many scholarships are reserved for students who’ve demonstrated special qualifications, such as academic, artistic or athletic achievement, a large number of scholarships are gifted to students who belong to minorities, who live in specific areas of the country, who desire to study in a particular field, or who simply can’t afford to attend college on their own.

The following are the most common types of scholarships awarded to students:

  • Merit-based: These scholarships, sometimes referred to as performance-based scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate extraordinary proficiency or achievement in academics, athletics or extra-curricular activities. Merit-based scholarships are often awarded to students who have gone the extra mile to perform exemplary acts of community service.
  • Need-based: As their name denotes, need-based scholarships, are awarded to students who personally cannot pay for their college education, or whose parents do not have the means to help fund their child’s education. All students who receive need-based scholarships are typically required to submit a FAFSA or similar form that details their financial status.
  • Student-specific: These scholarships, also referred to as minority scholarships, are based on student’s gender, ethnicity, religion, disability or other set criteria. (It is not uncommon for scholarships to mirror the values, morals and interests of an organization or foundation sponsoring the scholarship).
  • Career-specific: These scholarships are typically provided by schools or special interest groups to students who are planning to enroll in (or are already enrolled in) a specific major or pursue a particular career following graduation. Career-specific scholarships are most often awarded to students pursuing high-demand professions, such as nurses, teachers or doctors. (Because of a nationwide shortage of nurses, many educational institutions are providing very attractive scholarships for nursing students).

Some scholarships come with terms known as “bond” requirements. Students who receive these scholarships are typically required to work for a company or organization for a specific amount of time after they graduate college. It is not uncommon for medical students to accept scholarships with bond requirements that stipulate they must practice medicine in a rural area for set amount of time once they become a doctor. If students neglect to abide by the terms of the bond, they may be liable to repay the amount of the scholarship.

Full vs. Partial Scholarships

As their name suggests, full scholarships typically cover the entire cost of attending college – in some instances, even more. Full scholarships, often referred to as “full ride scholarships”, are usually awarded for exceptional academic performance, athletic ability or other achievement. Many of the most competitive college and university athletic programs offer extremely attractive scholarships to attract the most talented athletes. In fact, in recent years a few athletic programs have come under public scrutiny for offering their athletes additional perks, including an attractive monthly monetary expense allowance (what most of us would call a paycheck).

Many full scholarships are conditioned upon ongoing performance. For example, an academic scholarship granted to a student for exceptional academic performance in high school may require that the recipient maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA throughout college. If conditions aren’t met, a scholarship may be rescinded – and they are.

If you don’t qualify for a full scholarship, don’t despair. You can still qualify for a partial scholarship. Partial scholarships are awarded for a number of reasons in a variety of forms. For example, you may be eligible for a departmental scholarship for exceptional performance in a specific subject area. Partial scholarships are also awarded for superior academic achievement. Many tens of thousands of partial scholarships are awarded each year by special interest groups, private companies, foundations and schools throughout the United States. Partial scholarships will typically cover half of tuition, pay for books or pick up the tab for room and board.

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