When considering post-secondary options, the first three questions
that often come to mind are: What do I want to do? Where do I want to go?
And, how much will it cost?
College costs shouldn't stand in the way
of you achieving your goals, which is why it's important to look into which
grants and scholarships you might be eligible for.
"Both kinds of awards
are considered "gift aid" since the recipients don't have to work for them
or borrow them," says G. Michael Johnson, director of financial aid and scholarships
at Portland State University. So, what's the difference between a
grant and a scholarship, and how can you qualify for some of that sweet free
Grants: Grants are most often awarded based on a student's
financial need, which is identified through completing the Free Application
for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Grants are funded through federal, state,
college and university resources, and are often renewable for multiple years,
but you must complete the FAFSA each year to qualify.
could have received a maximum amount of $5,920 in funding, if they had only
tried. Don't let that be you! Because financial aid is distributed on a first-come,
first-served basis, the sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better!
Scholarships are usually awarded without as much regard to a student's financial
need. Instead, as Johnson explains, "Scholarships are typically awarded based
on something noteworthy about the applicant, such as high academic achievement,
community service, intended major or career, or more specific criteria such
as graduation from a certain high school."
Because scholarships are
funded through donors and a wide range of other resources, the specific qualifications
and selection criteria can be quite varied. For instance, did you know that
there's a Greeting Card Scholarship that awards from $1,000 to $10,000 to
the student who designs the most creative card? It's true.
you been promoting a vegetarian lifestyle in your community or school? If
so, you could qualify for up to $10,000 via the Vegetarian Resource Group
Scholarship. Then there's the fun and famous "Stuck At Prom" Duct Tape Scholarship,
awarded to those students who fashion their prom attire completely out of
"There are scholarships for a wide range of applicants,
so regardless of what kind of student you are, where you've been
a student, or what activities you've participated in, there are likely to
be scholarships that you should apply for," says Johnson. "Many donors like
to see good academic preparation, but even that can be defined differently
- and perceived potential can be as important as past success."
can apply for as many scholarships as time allows, so be sure to do your homework
early by researching their criteria and submitting your applications on time.
Johnson adds, "Related to that - don't wait until the last minute to apply,
especially to write essays and to ask people who know you well to write recommendation
letters on your behalf."
When compiling your list, remember that state
and local scholarships typically have a smaller number of applicants, which
means that you have better odds.
Unusual or niche scholarships generally
have fewer candidates too, and are well worth seeking out.
never pay to apply for a scholarship," warns Johnson. "Applications that require
a fee can be scams." After all, if you're applying for free money, then you
shouldn't be expected to pay to qualify.
Between all the grants and
scholarships available, there's no reason you should have to cover all of
your college costs from out of pocket. Even smaller scholarships are still
valuable in paying for books, lab fees, parking, and room and board. With
just a little effort up front, you'll quickly discover that there's all kinds
of free money out there to help you pay your way.