Scholarships are a fantastic source of free money to help pay for college. So how do scholarships work? Understanding is the key to making the most of the many scholarship opportunities available.
How Do Scholarships Work?
Scholarships are financial aid awards offered by different organizations to help students fund their college education. These organizations range from the government, large foundations, and multi-national corporations, to colleges and universities, local businesses, and even individuals.
Every scholarship sponsor has their own criteria for selecting winning applicants. From scholarships for academic or athletic accomplishments to scholarships for mastery in weird skills, the criteria for different scholarships are as varied as the award amounts.
Some scholarships are one-time, while others are renewable. If you are the winner of a scholarship, you could receive the money directly in your name as one large check or multiple smaller checks or the money may be transferred to the school you are attending. This money is then used to cover any cost you owe the college for tuition, fees, room or board.
Despite all the differences between different types of scholarships, the one thing that remains consistent is that you do not have to repay any of the money you win through a scholarship. Now that’s great news, and to make the most of the opportunities available, here are some do’s and don’ts that will help you when searching for scholarships.
Do start searching for scholarships early.
It takes time – a lot of time – to look for appropriate scholarships and put together a winning application. The earlier you start the more time you will have to explore relevant opportunities and complete the often application process. Also, some scholarships have early deadlines. You don’t want to stumble upon a really good scholarship only to realize you are too late to the party.
Do exhaust all resources in your search for scholarships.
This includes the internet, local newspaper, your high school notice board, local chamber of commerce, community boards, national competitions, and more.
Do apply to ALL scholarships that you are eligible for.
There are no limits to the amount of opportunities you can apply for or the amount of award money you can accept. If you are a straight A student, apply to all the merit scholarships that you qualify for. Good in music, athletics, or languages? Look for relevant scholarships that play to your strengths.
Do look for unusual scholarships too.
From putting together creative PBJ sandwiches to mastery in Klingon, there are several wild and whacky scholarships out there that you may qualify for. Spend some time exploring these opportunities and try your luck with them. Here are a few weird scholarships that are worth looking into.
Do stay organized in your search for scholarships.
With so many different requirements and dates to keep track of, it’s easy to miss a deadline or overlook some important documentation that could cost you a scholarship. Creating a spreadsheet will help you keep track of crucial details.
Don’t overlook the smaller scholarships.
Yes, you still have to put in the effort even when applying to smaller scholarships but don’t be tempted to give them a pass. Smaller scholarships are usually less competitive because fewer students are inclined to take the trouble to apply to them. The lower the competition, the higher your chances of winning the award. Besides, every little counts and winning multiple small awards can add up to a substantial amount that can help write off your several smaller expenses or even part of your tuition.
Don’t make assumptions about any scholarship.
Read through the requirements of all scholarships and strike one off your list of opportunities to apply to only if you do not meet the qualifying criteria. Organizations don’t necessarily restrict their scholarships based on their products or services. You may be surprised to find a large sporting brand offering generous awards for outstanding community service or for demonstration of environmental sustainability.
Don’t write just one essay to send out with every application.
Almost every scholarship requires applicants to submit an essay along with their application but if you read closely, the specifications for writing the essay will be different for every opportunity. When making notes of the scholarship details in your spreadsheet, also make note of the essay requirements so you can write a custom essay that meets the specifications of that particular scholarship.
Don’t stop searching for scholarships after you start college.
You can apply for and win scholarships every year that you are in college. In addition to looking for new opportunities, also keep track of all the one-time scholarships you qualified for before starting college and apply to them again during your second, third, and fourth years. You could get lucky and win the award money all four years, and even if you win the award just once, it’s still good!
Don’t pay any agency for scholarships.
Scholarships are always offered directly by the funding organization and everything is handled in-house. Moreover, no organization charges applicants any fee for processing their scholarship applications. Ignore any emails asking you for a fee in return for a scholarship guarantee and definitely do not click any links in those emails. These have definitely not come from any legitimate source. They are just scams.
Scholarships are by far and away the best way to pay for college. So put in the time and effort to apply for them. Your wallet will thank you.