Unlike the various types of education loans, scholarships consist of money rewarded to students based on specific qualifications that does not need to be repaid.  That is correct, this is free money.  Sound too good to be true?  While it certainly is possible, this form of aid does not come easily.  Searching for scholarships that fit your particular academic record, personal abilities, education path, along with a multitude of other criteria is not only time consuming, but also not often rewarding.  Millions of students across the country are vying for this free money, making it a highly competitive process that many give up on before really diving in.

Giving up, however, is not the solution to this frustrating dilemma.  Even though so many students are applying for scholarships each and every day, there are also countless scholarships being provided at the same time.  In addition to this, it is important to remember that there are all different kinds of scholarships available to match the diverse culture of students living in the United States.  You do not have to have a stellar academic record to obtain a scholarship, nor do you have to be a star athlete.  Whatever your personal talents, academic history or ethnic background, there are scholarships out there for you, if you only take the time to search.

Where Are They?

There are a number of places you should look when seeking this proverbial "free-money." Try starting with these:

  • State Department of Education - Most states offer scholarships for residents going to in-state schools.
  • Membership Organizations and Employers - This may include any and all affiliations that could potentially offer a college scholarship.
  • Institutional Scholarships - Most schools offer their own scholarships, especially for extraordinary academic achievement. Check all the schools that you are applying to.
  • Local Scholarships - High School Guidance Counselors can be a great source of information regarding city, county, and state-wide scholarships.
  • Free Scholarship Search Services - Companies that offer these include College Board, FastWeb, and Wiredscholar.

When To Apply

You want to make sure that you start researching and applying for scholarships early.  Deadlines are typically a few weeks before the term that the scholarship will be used for. Therefore if the scholarship is for a full academic year, the deadline is likely to be sometime in August.

Since the process can be time consuming, start your research and applications as early as possible.  Deadlines are crucial; start your researching and applying a few months in advance, so that you can be sure to give yourself enough time to get used to the process and to find the best options possible.  The summer before your senior year is a great time to start applying, as you will have plenty of time to make any and all deadlines, as well as extra time for writing those essays!

How To Apply

There are a variety of resources available to help you perfect all your scholarship applications, essays and things of that nature.  Websites like the College Board offer free helpful information to give you guidelines to follow.  Your high school guidance counselors can also review all your forms before you send them in, correcting any errors and making suggestions. 

For professional assistance with Scholarships and Financial Aid, please contact a financial aid consultant.

More Information

  • Scholarships for Women - Scholarships can be won for a variety of reasons. Aside from merit or athletic prowess, various groups are eligible. Discover women's scholarships.
  • Graduate School Scholarships - Not all scholarships are for undergraduate students. Graduate scholarship opportunities are available from many sources.
  • Scholarship Requirements - Scholarships often have various requirements that applicants must satisfy. Learn some generalized requirements here.
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