In today’s time, when the cost of pursuing an undergraduate or advanced degree has increased significantly, seeking financial aid has become the most plausible decision for students.
Many students rely on student loans, making it a popular choice in the United States; however, student loan debt has become the underlying concern for the state, reaching $1.73 trillion in quarter two of 2021.
While the student loan may offer temporary relief, considering scholarships is a better option for a sustainable future. Scholarships are a great way to finance a college or university education, and you can even secure multiple scholarships to reduce the need for taking student loans.
And to help you gain more insights, in this comprehensive guide, we will talk about how you can enroll yourself successfully in a scholarship program to attain financial independence and maintain your focus solely on your studies.
Difference Between Scholarships and Grants
Grants are need-based financial aid awarded at the federal, state, or college level to students belonging to low-income families. The money does not need to be repaid, thus often referred to as gift aid. In order to be eligible to acquire grants, you need to provide proof of your financial circumstances.
Like grants, scholarships are also gift aids that need not be repaid. However, they differ slightly based on merits–academic, athletic ability, or a specific talent.
These are generally offered by schools, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and more. Typically, a scholarship may cover your entire tuition cost, or it might be a one-time award. So it is advisable to try to secure multiple scholarships to gain more financial help to remain debt-free.
Types of Scholarships
It is forever an excellent idea to start looking for scholarships quite early as some of them could be available even a year before your college starts. But before you do the hard work, you must first understand the different types of scholarships available.
So whether you are staying in the fancy New York apartments or sharing the space with your peers in student housing in Austin, Texas, grab a notebook and write notes on the most common types of scholarships that you can research and enroll successfully in.
Academic scholarships are based on high grades or standardized test scores. If you are high-achieving in academics, then there are chances that you can win this scholarship from a university or nonprofit organization.
Schools themselves often provide these scholarships. Whether you play basketball, tennis, soccer, or other games, you can win a sports scholarship if you excel in them.
Numerous scholarship programs have the purpose of supporting traditionally underrepresented students based on gender, religion, ethnicity, etc.
For example, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s awards are open to students of Hispanic heritage in all majors and graduate fields that emphasize the STEM disciplines.
For service-driven students, some schools offer scholarships based on an applicant’s regular involvement and strong dedication to community service.
There are many need-based scholarships for students from low-income backgrounds. These scholarships do not require high grades or extracurricular achievements and are given based on your financial situation and how much you need to fund your education.
How to Find Scholarships?
You should start the process of applying early to as many scholarships as you can that match your profile. It will ensure getting the scholarship funds and help prevent losing money to other applicants, missing deadlines, or receiving depleted funds.
You can begin your scholarship hunt by:
- Visiting scholarship websites like ScholarshipOwl
- Looking on search engines like Google or Microsoft Bing
- Applying for federal grants such as Pell Grant
- Searching for local scholarships
- Obtaining high school or college scholarships and more
Step by Step Process to Applying for Scholarships
The procedure of applying for college scholarships may vary from different scholarship programs depending on their specific requirements. But in most cases, they follow the same process that follows:
- Find and select scholarships that you are eligible for.
- Gather all your required documents and record all the scholarships you have applied to either in Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets.
- Fill the scholarship application form accurately.
- Download transcripts of your grades from your high school or college.
- Ask for a letter of recommendation from your guidance counselor, college professor, or another relevant person.
- Some scholarships may require you to present standardized test scores, like the SAT or the ACT.
- Complete FAFSA. Some need-based scholarships require you to submit them to be considered.
- Submit the acceptance letter from the college/university. Without confirming that, you won’t receive the scholarship.
- Get official proof of your academic, athletic, financial, athletic, or artistic achievements.
- Write a great personal essay. However, not all scholarships require it, but you must write it creatively to get selected for those who do.
- Review and Submit Your Application and Supporting Documents.
- Wait for the results. All the best!
Every scholarship has its own criteria. Hence, adhering to the rules and submitting them well ahead of their approaching deadline is necessary. Knowing the proper procedure and following it precisely can maximize your chances of winning them.
How will you Get your Scholarship Money?
This may differ from scholarship to scholarship. You might receive the money directly in the form of a check, with strict instructions on how and where to use it, or the money goes straight to your college for your tuition fee or other amounts that you owe.
We understand the entire process can be a bit overwhelming for you, or in some cases, quite competitive as nobody wants to miss out on free money. But you should not lose hope as there are many scholarship opportunities available that are a match for pretty much everyone. So while sitting comfortably with a cup of coffee in your student housing in Dallas or Chicago, start applying to multiple scholarships matching your profile to secure them timely.
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Author: Harshita Anand is a postgraduate in English Journalism and a graduate in Hotel Management. She has worked in various industries and with people from all walks of life. Her well-rounded experience ignited her curiosity to constantly learn new things about the world and write passionately about them.