In addition to need-based financial aid programs there are merit based financial awards and grants. These are commonly referred to as scholarships. Scholarships, from the word scholar, are often based upon academic or scholarly achievement. They may also be based upon athletic ability or abilities in the arts. Basically if the money is awarded to a student for reasons other than financial need. Though this rule of thumb doesn’t hold 100% of the time because there are a few scholarships that take into account both merit and need as factors in awarding the aid.
Many Different Scholarship Programs
- State Merit Based Scholarships
- Ethnic Background or Nationality Based Scholarships
- Church and Other Organization Scholarships
- National Scholarship Competitions
- ROTC Scholarships Offered by the Military Branches.
- University Endowed Merit Scholarships
- Athletic scholarships
There are many different scholarships out there but they are few compared to the overall number of college students. This makes them difficult to get. Due to the demand far outstripping the supply, they are usually very competitive. One caution to be aware of is that there are some scams that will try to trick people into giving them money to help them get awarded a scholarship. Don’t fall for it. People are desperate to find financing for their education. If someone is asking you to give them money, politely decline and wisely search elsewhere.
Begin searching for scholarships for your college bound student early. Don’t even wait until the second semester of the high school senior year. Make a list of the top several choices of Universities. Include schools with lower to moderate costs as well as a couple of higher cost or dream schools. Once you see the financial aid packages from the higher cost and dream schools, it’s always possible your out of pocket costs could be the same or even lower. It can’t hurt to look into them. Its not essential to know what in field the student will major. If it is known, it can be helpful but most new freshmen have not yet decided on a major. For those that do know their major, there are many scholarship programs targeted to various career fields.
One reason to start so early is because of the sheer number of different scholarships you may want to apply for. You don’t actually have to start sending out your applications to the universities and/or other awarding organizations just yet. But if you end up with a list of 20 scholarships to apply for, how are you going to get all that done if you wait until March or April and then the deadline is right on top of you. Sometimes you may be asked to write an essay in the scholarship application and how well you do affects whether you get the scholarship or not. You cannot do as effective of a job on these essay applications if you have a whole pile of them to cram in a very short time. Start early with making your list of universities you may want to attend. Make a list of a few career fields you might be interested in. Make a list of areas you may have merit based advantage over other students. Are you an athlete? Gifted in some arts? Maybe you have a knack for writing. If you are good at writing you should do well on scholarship applications that require an essay. There are some scholarships you can apply for as early as junior and even sophomore years of high school. You might as well start working on a few of them early.
Organize Yourself For the Scholarship Application Process
After you have these three lists of information on paper in front of you, now you have cleared out your mind so you can start sifting through the lists of scholarships that exist and might be a match for you. When you are first going through these lists of scholarships, don’t get bogged down initially looking in detail at each one.Just keep a running list of those that sound like they may be a match and a note on where to find the detailed information when you come back later. This initial research is just to get a long list of different scholarships you might be eligible for. Then you will come back later and start looking at them in detail individually and narrowing down for which ones to get the applications. You want to have all this done by Christmas break of your senior year of high school. Have all of your applications in your in-box, or maybe some of them will be in your hardcopy snail-mailbox. Then you will be filling out your applications for the next two or three months to make sure they are all done and sent in before their deadlines. If you start to get overwhelmed with lots of deadlines and keeping track of what needs to be completed by when, maybe keeping a running calendar off to the side will help. Don’t for get to fill in every deadline on your calendar as soon as you find out about it.
There are a handful of useful databases on the internet that can be searched. Expect to start with so many different scholarship candidates that it will seem overwhelming at first. Don’t be surprised. Initially you will want to spend just a minute or so on each scholarship and weed out all the ones that have a requirement that you cannot meet. Then keep your list of the ones you do not eliminate like this. Then your list are the ones you will go back to and spend as much time as it takes to thoroughly understand what you need to do to get that scholarship and then to obtain the scholarship application.