The majority of college students rely on scholarships to help pay for their college education—approximately 65%, according to Sallie Mae. Scholarships and grants are the most desirable source of funding for your education since 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.)
Scholarships are available from a variety of sources. Most scholarship money is awarded by colleges and universities. In order to be considered for these scholarship programs as well as non-federal financial aid many private colleges and some state schools require you to complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE. 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.
Scholarships and grants may be awarded based on financial need and/or merit. Merit aid may be awarded for any number of criteria including academic, athletic or artistic accomplishments. Scholarships and grants may even be contingent on meeting certain requirements such as maintaining a minimum GPA. Some scholarships are awarded as a lump sum while others may require you to reapply annually.
Private and public sources also award a great number of scholarships, 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 exploring. 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’s the time to search for scholarships. Make a list of those scholarships you plan to apply for with their respective due dates and check them off as you complete your applications. Apply as soon as possible to maximize your chance for help funding your college education.