College Scholarships – The Basics

One of the most important aspects of education planning is figuring out how you are going to pay for your college education. Luckily, there are all kinds of resources that can help you. There are countless grants that are available to people who qualify, and there are also a wide range of scholarships for which you may qualify. If you know where to look, you can easily find some of the money that you need.

To help get you started, our team at has compiled some information on college scholarships for your convenience.

What is a Scholarship?

A scholarship is free money for your college education that you will never have to pay back. This money is available from a variety of sources including colleges, universities, governments, private organizations, and many others. Many of these groups give out money based on financial need while others give out scholarships based on academic or extracurricular merit. Some scholarships are awarded based on a combination of those criteria. In most cases, scholarships are money, but they may also take other forms like a free computer or a gift certificate to the campus book store.

What Are The Main Types of Scholarships?

There are four main types of college scholarships, and you will encounter all of these during your education planning.
Merit-based: Merit-based scholarships are given out to individuals who show great promise in certain areas. These awards can be for academic merit, excellence in sports, or for a demonstrated commitment to a variety of extracurricular activities. Some merit-based scholarships are granted based on your previous achievements, but some may be granted based on an essay or another work that you submit.

Need-based: Need-based scholarships are granted to a student who demonstrates financial need. These scholarships are often referred to as grants, and although there are numerous private grants, the most popular grants are awarded by the government. Applying for these grants through the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) should be the first step in your education planning.

In most cases, need-based scholarships or grants are awarded based on your parent’s income, but if you meet certain criteria, the scholarship committee will consider your personal income. Typically, in order to exclude your parent’s income from your form, you will need to be over a certain age, have a child, be married, or be legally emancipated from your parents.
Identity-based: Identity-based or student-based scholarships are granted to students who are part of certain social or racial groups. These scholarships may be reserved for students of a certain race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, and so forth. These scholarships may be offered by the school, or they may be offered by groups that want to increase the number of students in a community who can afford to get a college education.

Career-based: These scholarships are usually given to people who want to pursue a certain career. In most cases, these scholarships are given to people who study a subject that is in high demand. For instance, nursing students may be eligible for certain scholarships to boost the number of nurses in the country. However, in other cases, these scholarships may be available to someone who studies a certain subject that was prized by the creator of that scholarship. For instance, many people create scholarships for artists because they simply want to encourage learning in artistic fields.

Most scholarships fit into one of these four categories, but as our team at PaydayLoansCashAdvance was researching this article, we also learned that there are many scholarships that fit into two or more of these categories.

How Do You Find and Apply for Scholarships?

As mentioned above, one of the first steps in your education planning should be to fill out and submit an FAFSA application. You can find that form online or you can get it from your college admissions office. The FAFSA will be your largest source for need-based grants. Although this should be your first step, it should certainly not be your last step. Applying for this scholarship is fairly straightforward, but you will need to devote some time to finding the supporting documentation like tax returns.

Ideally, you should get started for every scholarship that you find, but first you will need to find them. To unearth scholarships, you should speak with your college advisor or your guidance counselor if you are still in high school. They will be able to direct you to nationwide databases, and they may have information on local scholarships that are not in those databases. Each scholarship will have its own set of directions, but you should ensure that you start each application well before the deadline. Starting early will give you time to gather transcripts, write essays, and take care of any extra steps.

Scholarships at Home

There are many scholarships that are unique to certain areas. If possible, you should contact local non-profit groups, charitable organizations, community foundations, neighborhood philanthropists, and others as they often offer scholarships. Businesses including every type from big box stores to local utility companies may offer scholarships. As part of your education planning, you should contact these organizations to see if they are currently offering any scholarships.

Places of Worship

If you are a member of a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship, you should speak to the leaders of that organization to see if they are offering any scholarships. Many of these organizations give quite large scholarships if they know that you are pursuing a religiously related field.

The places listed above are just the tip of the iceberg as far as scholarships are concerned. As you continue your education, you may even discover that you become eligible for more scholarships. Your department, your sorority or fraternity, and any other groups that you join while in college may also offer scholarships to excellent students. To ensure that you are getting the most money possible, you should make looking for scholarships an important priority in your education planning. The more scholarships you find, the more you can get started for, and the more money you will ultimately be given.

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