Scholarship Basics -- Free Money For College
The financial aid process can be a daunting. Knowing more about the scholarship process can save thousands of dollars when trying to cover the cost of an education. There are a number of government agencies, educational institutions and private organizations that distribute millions of dollars in scholarships. You don’t have to be a star athlete or valedictorian to land a scholarship. Many are based on characteristics like need, community service, and the intended field of study. Chances are you qualify for more scholarships than you thought. If you have to pay money to get scholarship money, it's probably a scam.
What is a scholarship?
Scholarships are not like grants, work study programs or student loans. They come in a variety of forms. Unlike loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid to the scholarship provider. Some scholarships are awarded directly to the student in the form of a check, while other scholarships are written out to the student's college or university. Several different types of providers issue scholarships: clubs and organizations, charitable foundations, businesses, schools, universities, government agencies, and others.
Who can get a scholarship?
It is a common misconception that scholarships are only for straight-A students. In reality, there are all types of scholarships for all types of students, including those with less than perfect academic records. Some scholarships are for athletes; others are for students planning to study in particular fields; and others for community service. Some scholarship providers just want to reward students for living in a certain city or state! Students also mistakenly believe that only college-bound high school seniors can apply for awards. Scholarships are available for all levels of college study, from freshman undergrads to graduate and PhD students.
How to find scholarships?
Finding scholarships can be a very time-consuming process, but not if students use a reputable and accurate scholarship search service on the Internet. There are several online resources for finding scholarships for college. Students can also ask their high school guidance counselors about any local or state awards that they qualify for. Students should contact the financial aid office at the college or university they plan to attend to learn if they qualify for any awards provided by the school.
When to look for scholarships?
Scholarship application deadlines vary greatly. There are thousands of scholarship programs with spring and summer deadlines, and thousands more with fall and winter deadlines. The key is to never stop searching for new scholarship leads, even after beginning the freshman year in college. A good rule of thumb is to continue searching for scholarships for the duration of the college career.
Thirty-one percent of colleges and universities look at Advanced Placement experience when determining scholarships. The Advanced Placement (AP) Program is based on the premise that many high school students are capable of completing college-level courses. AP Exams and courses are available online and through many high schools.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are defrauded by scholarship scams. Victims of these scams lose more than $100 million annually. Many of these operations imitate legitimate education lenders and scholarship matching services, grant-giving foundations, and government agencies using official-sounding names.
A simple thing to keep in mind is if you have to pay money to get money, it's probably a scam. Some of these operations will claim that if you don't win a scholarship they'll refund your money. You should also be suspicious if you're told you won a prize but don't remember entering the contest or submitting an application.
Many of these operatons require an application fee, typically $5 to $35. Other scholarship scams tell you you've won a college scholarship worth thousands of dollars but require a "disbursement" or "redemption" fee before it can be collected.
If you're suspicious of a scholarship offer, it's usually with good reason.