Different Types of Scholarship Opportunities

There are many scholarships out there—from athletic to academic to community service, and the options are seemingly endless. Knowing the different types of scholarships available, before you begin applying, can help you identify areas you would like to pursue in your education and future career.

Not to mention, scholarships can help offset the cost or even cover the entire cost of college, making it more affordable and attainable for people of all different financial standings. We’ve broken it out below to give you a better idea of all the different types of scholarships.

Private vs. Institutional vs. Government

The broadest categories that all scholarships fall into are private, institutional, and government. Private scholarships are those funded by private organizations, local businesses, community organizations, or individuals. A majority of the time, private scholarship funds can be used at 4-year or 2-year institutions, depending on what is listed in the eligibility requirements. Of course, be sure to read the details of each private scholarship thoroughly.


Examples of Private Scholarships:

Institutional scholarships are provided and funded by the colleges or universities themselves. These scholarships may encompass various criteria, such as academic achievement, leadership, extracurricular involvement, or specific talents. Institutions often offer these scholarships to attract and support high-achieving students, contributing to the diversity and excellence of their student body. It’s important to note that institutional scholarships may have specific eligibility criteria unique to each college or university.

Examples of Institutional Scholarships:

Government scholarships are any type of grant or scholarship funded by the federal government or state. These scholarships aim to provide financial assistance to students pursuing higher education. Government scholarships include well-known programs such as the Pell Grant, which is a need-based federal grant, and various state-specific scholarship programs that support education within a particular region.

Examples of Government Scholarships:

These broader categories have varying types of scholarships underneath them, such as the following.

1. Merit Based

Merit based scholarships are scholarships awarded to students who work hard and excel at specific skills. So, if you get great grades, you may be eligible for an academic based merit scholarship. If you do great things and show high commitment to your local community, could be eligible for a community merit scholarship. Merit based scholarships can be funded from either public or private organizations.


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2. Need-Based

Need-based scholarships are based on financial need. These scholarships are to provide support to students who may face economic challenges while trying to attend college. To be eligible for need-based scholarships, applicants are asked to provide financial evidence to show need for these scholarships.

3. Academic

Academic scholarships are based on, well, as the name says, academics. These scholarships consider GPA, test scores, and other academic achievements. For instance, the National Merit Scholarship Program which uses PSAT scores to qualify, is an example of an academic scholarship. As all scholarships do, these vary in length and funding amount depending on each different organization or institution. There are also school, federal, and local academic scholarships. Be sure to check with your high school to see if they offer any academic scholarships!

4. Athletic

Athletic scholarships are for student-athletes who are recruited to play sports at a college. They can either be full-ride scholarships or partial and most frequently are offered for four years in length. There are also requirements, outside of performing well in your sport, to keep these scholarships. Many have a GPA requirement that you must sustain throughout your college education.

5. Community Service

Community service scholarships aim to award students for making a positive impact in their communities and society. Frequently, this type of scholarship asks about your plans to continue positive impacts in the future.

6. Employer

If you currently have a job in high school or even college, some employers offer scholarships to their employees to support your education. There are also scholarships offered by employers to dependents of employees. Check with your place of work and the place of work of your parents or guardians to see if there are any scholarships available for you!

7. Scholarships for Ethnic Minorities

Are you Hispanic, Asian, or African-American? You may qualify for free money offered to minority students. Many eligible students are unaware of this.

Several colleges award various types of scholarships to ethnic minorities to promote diversity on their campus and to help them realize their dreams of higher education. As with all other scholarship types, different colleges have different eligibility requirements.

8. First Generation Scholarships

Are you the first person in your family to go to college? Many colleges understand that often, it is the lack of finances that prevented others in your family from even dreaming about college. To encourage more students to break the mold and get a college education, several colleges also offer generous first-generation scholarships that can help you achieve your goals.

9. Military

Military scholarships are for students with a connection to the military, typically either active-duty service members, veterans, or their dependents. These scholarships can be sponsored by government institutions, private organizations, or colleges. If you have or plan to participate in the Reserve Officer Training Corps, reach out to the ROTC at your college to see if they have scholarships available!

10. Student Identity-Based

Identity-based scholarships are based on student qualities and demographics. They aim to recognize communities and support diversity in education. Examples of identity-based scholarships include racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, women in STEM, and individuals with disabilities. If you fall into any of these groups, be sure to research scholarships you could be eligible for.

11. Scholarships by Major

Many students start college not sure what they want to major in and that’s okay. But, if you are one of those who are sure about what they want to major in, you could qualify for a scholarship. Several universities, colleges, and even private organizations offer awards to students who choose to major in a particular subject area.

Different schools offer scholarships for different subjects. It is worth researching different colleges to see which ones offer an award for your subject choice. You will find different types of scholarships offered for majors in subjects as diverse as Business & Marketing, Culinary Arts, Engineering, Theater, Criminal Justice, Computer Science, Design, and more.

12. Hobby, Interest & Extracurricular

Hobby and extracurricular scholarships include a wide variety of topics and activities, but they aim to award students for achievements or involvements in specific hobbies or interests outside of academics. If you have a hobby, interest, or extracurricular, search for scholarships in that area!

For more information and help with the scholarship search process, check out College Raptor and our toolset for making the scholarship process easier for you! Try our scholarship search tool where we match you to scholarships best suited for you based on your information.

1No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. The Citizens Scholarship Sweepstakes is open to legal residents of the 50 United States, D.C., and U.S. Territories, who are 16 years of age or older, are students, or prospective students, or parents/guardians of students intending to enroll or enrolled at least half-time in an accredited undergraduate/graduate post-secondary institution. To be eligible for a chance to win the Citizens Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Scholarship entrants must also be an: American Indian or Alaskan Native, African American or Black, Hispanic or Latino/a, Asian, Native Hawaiian, or other Pacific Islander, Women, member of the LGBTQ+ community, individual with disabilities, and/or a veteran. Sweepstakes begins at 12:00 AM ET on 7/1/23 and ends at 11:59 p.m. ET on 6/30/24. Sponsored by Citizens. See Official Rules for details here.

2No purchase necessary to apply.


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