Scholarships are, without a doubt, the best way to pay for college. Awarded by merit or financial need, scholarships are gifts of free money that don’t have to be repaid—unlike student loans.
You might have a lot of questions about scholarships. We aim to answer some of them right now.
Are scholarships awarded only to students with high academic grades and accomplished athletes?
No, there are several different types of scholarships that are available. Scholarships for high academic grades and accomplished athletes are just two types that happen to be most widely-known.
What other types of scholarships are available?
Different organizations offer scholarships for various reasons. These may include but are not limited to: accomplishments in the arts or sciences, outstanding community service, belong to an ethnic minority, choosing specific majors, or for extraordinarily creative individuals. That’s not all.
There are also scholarships awarded for very unusual reasons such as proficiency in speaking Klingon, the most creative Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich, being a staunch vegetarian, or being left-handed, among others. You could even qualify for a scholarship if you are female and over 5’10” tall or male and over 6’2”.
Those are considered “merit” scholarships. Need-based scholarships center around the financial need of a student, and are often awarded by the college they’re attending and / or the federal government.
Where can I find scholarship opportunities?
While merit-based and other usual scholarships are relatively easy to find, you must be prepared to spend a fair amount of time to unearth the awards. Start by doing a search on the internet and bookmark the opportunities that you qualify for. Also check your local newspaper, and bulletin boards in schools and community centers. Don’t overlook the value in word of mouth. Ask around. You are sure to get lots of useful information from others who have gone this route before.
Is there a limit to the number of scholarships I can accept?
No, you can apply to as many scholarships as you want, provided that you meet their qualification criteria and you can accept all the scholarships that are awarded to you. There are no limitations.
However, winning outside scholarships will likely affect how much financial aid you can get from the college you’re attending.
Is there a limit to the amount I can accept by way of scholarship money?
No, just as there is no limit to the number of scholarships you can accept, there is also no limit to the amount of money you can accept. This means you can apply to all the small and large scholarships that you qualify for and you can accept all of the money that is awarded to you.
Do I have to inform the college I am attending about my scholarship awards?
Yes, you should inform the college so that your financial aid package can be adjusted if necessary. In most cases, the adjustment would involve reducing the amount of your student loan. This is great news for you. Though it also might involve reducing the amount of scholarship aid you can get from the institution.
Isn’t it better to keep both the student loan and the scholarship?
No. Scholarships money is free money. You do not have to return it and it doesn’t attract any interest. Student loans are completely different. They attract a considerably high interest per year, which keeps accruing every year till it is paid off. This means, by the time you finish paying off your student loan, you will have paid back many times more than what you borrowed. Moreover, you cannot write off these loans or even file bankruptcy. You cannot run away from not paying back your student loans.
Do I have to return the scholarship money after I graduate? If not, are there any other conditions that I need to meet?
No, you do not have to return any scholarship money that you accept. This is free money given to you to help you fulfill your college dream. Whether or not there are any conditions you need to meet depends on the organization awarding you the scholarship.
In most cases, the only condition is that you complete your undergraduate studies. If you drop out, you may be required to return some or all of the money. This differs from one award to another so make sure you read the fine print thoroughly before applying for or accepting any award.
Will I be awarded any scholarship I apply to if I meet all the eligibility requirements?
Not necessarily. Meeting the requirements does not guarantee that you will win it. Scholarships are highly competitive with every student who qualifies applying for them. To win the award, you need to meet the requirements and then some. You should go the extra mile and outshine the other applicants. In most cases, you will be required to submit an essay. Use the essay as a platform to showcase your accomplishments and highlight why you are worthy of the award.
What should I write about in my scholarship essay?
There is no one answer to what you should write about in the essay but these guidelines may help. First and foremost, read through the instructions and understand what is required. Some organizations may provide explicit instructions about what they are looking for. In that case, you must follow these directives to the letter as the reader will want to make sure that you can read, understand and follow instructions.
If the requirements state that you need to submit an essay but no further details are provided, then you must focus on writing an essay that makes you stand out. Your aim should be to prove your worth so go ahead and write about your goals, interests and accomplishments, both in academic and non-academic areas. Most importantly, find a way to tie all of these to the program you are applying for.
Is there such a thing as a scholarship scam? How does it work and what should I look out for to avoid getting scammed?
Yes, unfortunately, there are scholarship scams. If you receive a notification informing you that you have been ‘chosen’ for a scholarship and you know for sure that you did not apply for it, that is a sure sign it is a scam. Ignore it. Don’t consider pursuing it no matter how attractive it may sound.
These awards are typically very generous and promise to give you an obscenely large amount of money. All you need to do is provide your personal details – name, contact information, and banking details. That’s the catch. Once you reply with your banking details and other financial information, you could be a victim of identity theft or any other financial scam.
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