Scholarships for college: Finding the financing
Not all scholarships are created equal. Although there are many websites that help students navigate through the process, the search in itself may be overwhelming. It's important to remember when finding scholarships for college to never pay for an award opportunity or any services to help them find one. It may sound obvious but even if the fee is only a few dollars, the request itself indicates a high likelihood of being a scam since all credible options are intended to be free college scholarships. With that critical detail addressed we begin the scholarship search.
Types of Scholarships
The breadth of scholarships available to students is practically never ending. There awards based on academics, athletic or other personal talents, religious or non-religious beliefs, federal standards, and community service to name a few. The funding amounts granted within this spectrum may vary by a few hundred dollars, to tens of thousands of dollars or full tuition coverage. They can be granted by private or public corporations and organizations that are nonprofit or for-profit, including government bodies and educational institutions. Scholarships.com is a robust resource of information on the types of scholarships available to students. A few categories include:
- Academics and Merit Scholarships
The most popular scholarships are based on academic merit and need. This is distributed directly from the student’s selected college or university, who often measures eligibility by the letter grades that students receive in their previous institution(s) classes. Although the terminology is sometimes interchanged, it is safe to say that while all academic scholarships are merit scholarships, not all merit scholarships are academic. In addition to being a great student, either across the board or in a specific area of study, other factors such as extracurricular activities may factor into determining if an award is granted or not.
- Athletic Scholarships
Students with rigorous athletic schedules are naturally committed to many activities that take up much of their time. For these individuals, although traditional financial aid can help, most would prefer to avoid student loans since working, even part time, during school can make it nearly impossible to devote appropriate time to courses and extracurricular study. Like many other forms of scholarships, those granted for the love of the game can come from many sources. The applicant’s university may provide generous awards to those who make top honor on a team, while numerous local funds from private multicultural organizations help support other student athletes. It is important to note that athletic scholarships normally apply to the traditional 4-year school environment with established competitive sports, which is not common for schools serving the nontraditional student.
- Transferring from a community college
Many financially minded students begin their college career at a community college then transfer into a four-year school to complete their degree. This can have great advantages for a student’s wallet, since most 2-year schools have significantly affordable tuition rates. Some universities recognize and reward these students by creating partnerships with community colleges and offer them special transfer scholarships to them. One example of this is Brandman University, who has partnered with colleges throughout the country to offer students a Summer Break Transfer Award. This unique opportunity waives the cost of one summer term course when they are admitted through the Early Advantage Program, an agreement that streamlines the transfer process for students coming from a partner school to Brandman.
- Federal Grants
Although not formally named as such, grants can be categorized as scholarships because they are essentially free money, or “gift aid,” that the student does not have to pay back. Some common types our readers have explored in previous blog posts this month are Pell Grants are Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants. Other types include Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants and military focused Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.
These are just a few of many scholarships for college students may pursue. Ask the school you are applying for more information. Other resources include websites such as MACH25, a database of over half a million private sector scholarships, and the self-titled ScholarshipHelp.org.
Once students have narrowed down their options to a set of scholarship opportunities the next step is to go through the submission process. The most important thing to remember is that each process can be quite different than another, except for federal grants which are dictated by legal standards, criterion may change by funding source. Qualifications for merit scholarships may vary based on the university’s preference. Some require community service participation and/or a minimum grade point average. Companies and charitable foundations that provide funds might require applicants to write formal essays that proves why they deserve the award, and forms themselves often are structured differently.
The timeliness of student submissions is also extremely important and it is advised to apply early, and often. In addition to different processes to apply, scholarships often have different deadlines that prospects should take note of for priority consideration. Those who miss set deadlines may lose a great opportunity for financing as their file goes to the bottom of the pile. One example of a selection process and timeline in the case of the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation (CCSF) scholarship for high school seniors that recognizes their leadership abilities and service to their communities. Applicants have until October 31st to submit their intent online for a committee to select and notify semi-finalists by mid-November. Any additional documents required are submitted early January for review and finalists selected by Mid-February, and finally attend a collaborative retreat which includes personal interviews to determine final financial reward. Some organizations do not require such a lengthy process, while others create a similar model.
The Bottom Line
Throughout the financial aid and scholarship process, the biggest takeaway from this article is that it is important to pay attention to detail. Thorough research is just as important as the process and timeline of applying for scholarships. A student must invest their efforts into finding the right opportunity for others to invest in their success.
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