Financial Aid, Tuition

What are Scholarships?

When it comes to helping you pay for your higher education, scholarships are a good way to go. In fact, “scholarship” should be your mantra during your final years of preparation for a four or two-year college. They are, to a large extent, free money to spend on everything from tuition to living expenses. But, before you even start thinking about your scholarship application, it is important that you understand there are different types of scholarships.

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Types of Scholarships

First, know that there are different types of scholarships. In fact, you can argue that no matter what you do or who you are, there is a scholarship that you can apply for. And apply is a key word. Scholarships need to be applied for, regardless of whether you hope to receive one based on your academic skill or your prowess in sports.

The following are different types of scholarships:

  • Academic – These are given to those who have the highest marks or indicate high academic achievement.
  • Talent – These are granted to individuals who exhibit some particular talent. This could be musical or sport-based.
  • Contributive – These are granted based on the individual’s ability to contribute to the public.
  • Ethnic/Racial/Religious – This type of scholarship is reserved for people who fall into a specific ethnic, religious or racial group.

Another way of considering them is to categorize them accordingly:

  • College scholarships
  • Outside scholarships
  • Local scholarships
  • State scholarships
  • National scholarships

Yet, no matter what the type of scholarship you apply for, the operative word is merit. Most scholarships – except for those often called bursaries – are won by those who have the right skill set. They are based on the individual’s merit. In contrast, bursaries are granted to those who are considered in financial need.

Where Do you Find Scholarships?

According to Student Aid, you can find thousands of scholarships relatively easily. You can find them online, for the most part, though you might find talking to a guidance counselor helpful. Also consider looking at the options colleges and universities have available. From your list of preferred or accepted colleges, contact them one at a time to learn more about what kind of aid they can offer you. Remember – scholarships do not find you, you must find them.

Government bodies are also another source of potential scholarship information. The United States Department of Labor offers a free tool to help you in your research of grants and scholarships. Your own state government may also have available scholarships so check them out as well. Don’t forget, governments at all levels might offer scholarships, so break it down from national to local to see what each has to offer!

During your search, don’t forget about what is close to home. If you belong to a specific religious association, a community group or local organization talk to them. They may have a scholarship program you didn’t know about. If you or your parents work for a specific company, ask them if the company has a scholarship plan or program in place.

There are any number of sources that will provide you with access to a variety of scholarships. Online sites have proven to be the most popular and easily accessed. While some do charge a fee, others are free.

Before you sign on to a site or agree to the terms of a particular organization, make sure you are not becoming involved in a scam. You need to verify the particular site is valid; the scholarship is real. It would be devastating to think your schooling is paid for then find out all your work was for nothing.

Photo: © Chrisbrignell |

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The Author

Mary Brown

Mary Brown

Mary Brown has enjoyed writing about education and finance related topics, such as scholarships, student loans, college, vocational degree choices, and adult education since the early 2000's. She also writes about school budgets, accreditation and fundraising.