Scholarships: Free Money for School

You’ll want to begin your search for financial aid by investigating scholarships. Scholarships represent the best of all possible worlds. Being granted one scholarship doesn’t mean you can’t apply for and receive others. Scholarships can also be combined with other forms of financial aid. Best of all, you don’t have to repay them! There are two types of scholarships: governmental grants and privately funded awards.

Obtaining enough scholarship money to pay for your entire education will require some effort. There’s no single source of scholarships, and there is no single source where you can go to find out about every scholarship available. That’s because they are as diverse as the organizations that fund them.

A good place to begin is with the college itself. Nearly all colleges are conduits for some sort of scholarship or information about where to find them. However, bear in mind that because there are literally thousands of private scholarships available, no financial aid office will know about them all. It’s in your best interest to start by reading our sections on scholarships. Then, armed with new information, visit the library or go online and find out as much as you possibly can. College scholarships include academic awards and departmental monies. Academic scholarships are based upon your past and continuing academic performance. Depending upon your area of focus, you may find departmental scholarship money. This can range from a relatively small amount to full tuition. It is also important to investigate these scholarships as soon as possible because they may be limited and highly competitive.

Tens of thousands of corporations, businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals also establish private scholarships. They do so for any number of reasons. For some, it makes good business sense. Scholarships can be tax shelters and also contribute to a great public image for a business. For others, offering scholarships to students working in the funder’s field is a way of ensuring highly trained future employees. Individuals may establish a scholarship to honor a friend or family member, as a way of limiting a tax burden, or simply because they are philanthropists who believe in the importance of education. Most privately funded scholarships are targeted to a particular type of student.

A field of study, exceptional need, a particular cultural or religious background, service in the armed forces, single parenting, and a wealth of other personal situations can determine who is eligible to apply. If you are currently working and want to pursue education in order to climb the corporate ladder, ask your supervisor if tuition support is available. If you are involved in a religious community, do volunteer work, are a member of a union, or otherwise affiliated with an organization, ask what scholarships are available from them. Don’t forget that many high schools are also conduits for private scholarships. Visit your high school guidance counselor to learn the possibilities.