What Are Scholarships?

Written by Michael Bennet

Scholarships are similar to grants in that they never have to be paid back under normal circumstances, and if you are interested in maximizing your chances of paying for your entire college education with financial aid, it is critical that you at least consider what scholarships you may be eligible for during any particular award year.

It is first important to note that while most scholarships can be used in conjunction with the Pell Grant, certain scholarships will negate your ability to get this award.

This most often depends on the amount of the scholarship, as full-scholarships such as many Presidential Scholarships will provide you with your entire cost of attendance, thus canceling out your ability to use your Pell Grant aid on various education-related expenses.

If there is still room leftover after your scholarship has been allocated towards any of your educational costs you shouldn’t have any trouble with your Pell Grant award, and it is full scholarships such as various Presidential awards that may disqualify you from receiving a Pell Grant.

What Is A Scholarship?

That being said, you now may be wondering what a scholarship is exactly. A scholarship is simply an amount of money that is awarded to an individual student by a particular organization or some private entity in the name of some cause.

Scholarships are like grants in that they don’t have to be paid back, and unlike most other financial aid instruments, most scholarships are not renewable, and are awarded on a one-time basis. This is not to say that a scholarship cannot be given to you for each year that you are in college, and rather it just means that most scholarships are awarded and then disbursed accordingly, either all at once, per semester, or per year.

If you thought that scholarships were only given to those students who made 4.0 gpa’s, and have excelled academically, you were sadly mistaken, as there are thousands of scholarships given each year to students for a number of different reasons. These include but are not limited to:

  • Athletic achievement
  • Program of study
  • Ethnicity and background
  • Religious study
  • Community service
  • Location of origin

There are countless more reasons why various scholarships are awarded to students each year, and the point is that there are a myriad of different scholarships available to students who exemplify a vast assortment of different characteristics, and accomplishments.

Acquiring Various Scholarships

Getting a scholarship will rely on your ability to fulfill the appropriate requirements that come with a particular award, and also on your capacity to locate, and apply for each scholarship that may be available to you. There are various ways you can “apply” for a scholarship so-to-speak. For some scholarships you don’t have to apply at all, and you will simply be considered, and perhaps given the award once you meet the appropriate eligibility criteria.

For others you will have to take the time out to apply yourself, and this means that you will have to do your own research to first identify that the particular award may be available to you. Different scholarships have different processes that you must abide by in order to apply successfully, and it is important to understand what each procedure entails if you want to make yourself eligible for a specific award before you apply.

You will automatically be considered for various scholarships simply by filling out the FAFSA, as both your college, and the government will evaluate your application and run it up against any awards that may be available for someone with your personal credentials. A multitude of organizations award a range of scholarships each year, included among these are the government, colleges, secondary schools, employers, towns and municipalities, civic organizations, and even the military.

Applying for Scholarships

The approach you should take in order to take full advantage of the high number of scholarship awards that are available each year involves first submitting a FAFSA. Once you have submitted your FAFSA, it is then up to you to determine where you may stand out from the crowd in terms of evaluation criteria. Do you have exceptional grades? Do you have a particular interest in a certain program of study or curriculum? What extracurricular activities have you done well in?

Once you have established the areas that may make you eligible for a particular scholarship it is then just a matter of applying, and keep in mind that some scholarships aren’t really based on any one field or ability, and can therefore be acquired without any sort of specialized pedigree, skill, or credentials.

Actually going out and locating the awards that you may be eligible for involves some simple research that can most often be done online. Use the appropriate keywords and your favorite search engine to do some digging and you’ll be surprised at what you can find. Go to the library or bookstore if your online search doesn’t yield any significant results.

If all else fails, ask either your high school guidance counselor, or your college’s financial aid department about what options may be available to you. Remember that there are three primary ways that students make themselves eligible for a scholarship—by not doing anything at all, by filling out a FAFSA, and by locating, and applying for various awards on an independent basis. In the end scholarships are great if you can become eligible, and the more research you do on your own, the greater your likelihood will be in securing one.