Approximately 65% of college students rely on scholarships to help fund their college education, according to Sallie Mae. Scholarships and grants are the most common source of funding, as well as the most desirable source of funding, because they are almost always tax-free and do not need to be repaid. (Please note that the terms “grants” and “scholarships” are often used interchangeably.)
Most scholarship money is awarded by colleges and universities. Many private colleges and some state schools require you to complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE to be considered for scholarship programs as well as non-federal financial aid. In addition, some schools require their own supplemental application forms. Deadlines vary from school to school and may even be earlier than the school application due date. Keep track of deadlines so you don’t miss out on any opportunities.
Scholarship and grant money can be awarded according to both financial need and merit. Merit aid may be awarded for any number of criteria including academic, athletic or artistic accomplishments. Some scholarships are awarded as a lump sum while others may require you to reapply annually. Scholarships and grants may even be contingent on meeting certain requirements such as maintaining a minimum GPA.
There are also a vast number of scholarships awarded by both private and public sources, although they account for a much smaller percentage of the total pool available. Depending on your personal profile, you may be eligible for scholarships offered by a variety of organizations representing many special interests. Some scholarships may be career specific – available to students studying to become teachers, while others may be student specific – available to students from a military family or specific ethnic group, and even to students with a unique hobby.
A helpful resource to match you with scholarships is fastweb.com. There are also many other resources worth looking into. Talk to your guidance counselor for additional information. Visit your guidance office to pick up scholarship applications and look through the lists of special scholarships available to students in your school district and town.
Now is the time to search for scholarships. Apply as soon as possible so you don’t miss deadlines and maximize your chance for help funding your college education.