Scholarships provide students with funding to pay for their tuition fees and other education costs. Students are encouraged to begin searching for college scholarships as soon as possible to meet early deadlines for scholarships and colleges.

Because they do not need to be repaid, scholarships are ideal opportunities for students to fund their college education. Thousands of scholarships are available to students attending post-secondary institutions throughout the U.S., but students must know how to locate scholarships for which they are eligible.

The following sections explain the types of scholarships offered to college-aged students and how students can find and apply for them. Scholarships, such as a fafsa scholarship, may require students to demonstrate financial need and their enrollment in a participating institution, so students must be prepared to present documents and provide information related to their incomes and enrollment status. Additionally, the sections below outline the benefits of applying for scholarships that all students can enjoy.

Types of College Scholarships

Various types of scholarships for college are awarded to students based on merit or need. A list of common types of college scholarships available to students is as follows:

  • Academic scholarships. These scholarships are given to students with high grades or results on standardized tests. Academic scholarships may be distributed by colleges or other local organizations.
  • Athletic scholarships. Student athletes who plan to continue pursuing their sport throughout college may receive scholarships. These scholarships may differ based on the sport for which they are awarded.
  • Minority scholarships. Women, African Americans, Native Americans and other minorities may qualify for scholarships that are designed to increase the prevalence of minorities in colleges.
  • Creative scholarships. Some scholarships for colleges require students to submit a piece of writing or artwork to enter for a chance to win money. These types of scholarships target students with creative hobbies and abilities.
  • Unique scholarships. Scholarships may also be given to students with unique gifts, traits or talents such as being left-handed or winning odd contests.
  • Community service scholarships. These college scholarships are reserved for students who dedicate their free time to helping their communities.
  • Legacy scholarships. If students are attending or planning to attend universities that their relatives have previously attended, then they may be entitled to a legacy scholarship, depending on the university’s policies.
  • Military scholarships. Students who have served in the military or who have immediate family members who have served in the military may receive military scholarships.
  • Religious scholarships. Some religious institutions offer students scholarships for attending affiliated colleges or universities.
  • Homeschool scholarships. These scholarships help homeschooled students stay or commute to local post-secondary institutions.
  • Government scholarships. The FAFSA scholarships are funded by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to provide financial support to needy families.
  • Study abroad scholarships. These scholarships are given to students traveling to other countries, states or cities to further their education as a part of a school program.

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While some scholarships for college may cover the entire cost of tuition, most scholarships award a few hundred dollars up to a few thousand, depending on the organization distributing the scholarship and the number of recipients receiving it. Regardless of the award amount, college scholarships are invaluable sources of financial support for students applying for, or currently attending, college.

How to Find Scholarships for College

Where students can find scholarships for college may depend on the type of scholarship for which they are searching. For instance, FAFSA scholarships can be found online via the Federal Student Aid (FSA)’s website after students complete the free application for federal student aid form. Though, private scholarships from non-government organizations may require unique application processes. Students can find free sources of information about official scholarships from these locations and professionals to better learn about the scholarships that are accessible to them:

  • Financial aid offices at colleges or career schools
  • High school or TRIO counselors
  • S. Department of Labor (DOL)’s online scholarship search tool
  • Federal agencies
  • State grant agencies
  • Local libraries
  • Community organizations
  • Employers

Interested students should communicate with as many trusted adults as possible to determine which types of scholarships may be right for them. Additionally, students are reminded that university scholarships for college are awarded to students based on merit and need upon their acceptance, so scholarships should be used to supplement the funds provided by students’ post-secondary institution. Consequently, many scholarships may require students to declare all scholarships funds they already received as a part of the application process. Because students cannot legally receive more money from scholarships and other financial aid than the total cost of attendance, students must report all scholarship values to their school’s financial aid office.

After students apply and receive scholarships, college scholarship funds may be directly deposited into their bank accounts, sent to the students in a check or immediately applied to tuition fees for their college. Students are advised to ask how the scholarship is awarded, if there are any formal ceremonies and how the scholarship funds may be used (i.e., what the money can cover).

Note: Unlike a government-based fafsa scholarship, private scholarships may require students to write essays or submit academic or creative works to be eligible. Students should pay attention to specific requirements of each scholarship to ensure they adhere to deadlines and complete all fields of the application before applying.

Why You Should Apply for Scholarships

Although applying for college scholarships may seem tedious and unnecessary, they are better alternatives to loans and may be more lucrative than grants. A list of great benefits college scholarships may offer students is provided below:

  • Reduced tuition costs
  • Decreased need for loans
  • Increased prestige for receiving prominent scholarships
  • Lowered possibility of incurring student debt
  • Improved self-esteem

Scholarships for college make valuable additions to resumes and can even help students pursue their dreams and desired careers without worrying about their finances. Being recognized for their accomplishments can make students more confident and grant them the chance to connect with other students and professionals involved in scholarship programs and related organizations.

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