How to Find Scholarships

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College costs have skyrocketed in the last decade. According to Education Data, the average cost of college tuition and fees at public four-year institutions has risen by 179.2% in the previous two decades, an annual increase of 9%. College is expensive, but financial aid such as college scholarships can significantly reduce the cost of tuition. Applying for scholarships is a great way to pay for college while lowering one’s out-of-pocket expenses. But understanding how to find scholarships is more straightforward than it appears. There are several ways to learn about scholarships, including contacting the financial aid office at the school one intends to attend and researching information in a public library or online. Finding college scholarships becomes relatively simple once students identify a resource that works best for them, usually an online platform like These platforms and tools can significantly improve the efficiency of a scholarship search by allowing an applicant to apply for multiple scholarships and combine awards to reduce the need for student loans. Students can be awarded thousands of dollars for school by following simple tips, such as looking for scholarships everywhere, understanding their criteria, and staying organized. Though there is no guarantee of obtaining a scholarship, the effort may be worthwhile for those willing to invest the time. If the idea is to save money on college, read on to find out what a prospective student needs to know about scholarship opportunities and how to find them.


What are Scholarships?

Scholarships are forms of financial aid given out by colleges and universities to assist students in covering the cost of an undergraduate or graduate degree. They may be given based on academic achievement or other factors, some of which may include financial need. The scholarship money is used to pay for tuition, books, room and board, and other expenses directly related to a student’s education at the university. Students might get a check in their name for the money directly, which may sometimes be a one-time payment. Other school scholarships are renewable and provide money to students each semester or academic year. In some instances, the student’s school receives the funding, and the student would then reimburse the institution for any difference in tuition, fees, and room and board costs.

Scholarships are frequently referred to as “gift aid” because these awards are distinct from student loans in that there is no repayment obligation. But it is noteworthy that the money a student receives from a scholarship is not required to be repaid only if they uphold the terms of the award. The department or donor providing the scholarship determines the standards for choosing the recipients, and the grantor specifies the terms and conditions and exactly how the funds are to be used.

Federal and state governments, schools, private businesses, employers, individuals, nonprofits, religious organizations, communities, and social and professional groups are just a few of the organizations that provide funding for scholarships.

What is the Difference Between a
Scholarship and a Grant?

Because scholarships and grants are similar in many ways, they are frequently confused. Both involve financial assistance considered “gift aid,” which is typically not repayable. They usually also come from the same sources, such as individuals, for-profit businesses, nonprofit organizations, private foundations, universities, government, philanthropists, etc.

The crucial difference between scholarships and grants is that they differ in their primary criterion for the award. While scholarships are typically given out based on merit, be it for academic performance, sporting achievements, a particular talent, or the applicant’s potential to succeed in the future, grants are typically given out based on financial need and to students from low-income families.

What are the Types of

Several types of scholarships are available based on numerous and multiple criteria. The following are the most typical types of scholarships:

1. General Scholarships

General scholarships with few to no requirements will be the easiest to access in terms of which scholarships will be available to the vast majority of students. Applicants are not required to study a specific subject or fit into a particular demographic to qualify for these scholarships. They are, therefore, opportunities that people of all backgrounds are welcome to apply.

To increase the chances of receiving a scholarship award, students should apply for general scholarships whenever they come across them, regardless of whether they think they can succeed in obtaining one.

2. Academic Scholarships / Merit Scholarships

Based on their grades and results from standardized tests, top students can win scholarships. When students apply for merit scholarships, the scholarship committees must be impressed by their stellar transcripts and dedication to learning. Scholarships are open to academically talented students with high Grade Point Averages (GPA) and who perform well on standardized tests, such as the ACT, SAT, PSAT, GRE, GMAT, etc. They are awarded varying amounts each year, further recognizing academic achievement. Depending on the institution, students might even be eligible for a full scholarship, which would pay for their tuition in full.

3. Athletic Scholarships / Sports Scholarships

Students may be eligible for athletic scholarships if they perform well in certain sports. Those competing in sports like football, basketball, lacrosse, swimming, etc., may be eligible to apply for these sports scholarships. These scholarships typically depend more on the student’s participation in a sport and sporting talents than their field of study or academic standing. Notably, only a tiny percentage of students are eligible for athletic scholarships, and the money they receive will usually only go toward a portion of their tuition.

4. Volunteer Work Scholarships / Community Service Scholarships

In general, increasing one’s community and extracurricular involvement can broaden one’s range of financial opportunities. Many schools award scholarships based on candidates’ dedication to volunteerism and who are community-driven. Students can apply for community service or volunteer work-based scholarships by volunteering with a nonprofit organization or with any nearby local community groups. Those who demonstrate both past and present commitment to community service – for example, by regularly working in animal shelters, participating in neighborhood clean-up projects, organizing fundraisers for charitable organizations, or volunteering at a youth organization, senior center, or neighborhood soup kitchen – are eligible.

5. Community Scholarships / Specialized Scholarships

Community scholarships and specialized ones are based on numerous criteria such as race, religion, community, ethnicity, marital status, gender, the field of study, etc. While some institutions and groups have made an effort to encourage and support students from historically marginalized groups, others are explicitly reserved for young mothers, students diagnosed with cancer, women, etc.

Not all scholarships in this category will be open to everyone in terms of the specific scholarships that are restricted by demographic or area of interest. However, each student will be able to identify a handful of niche scholarships for which they are eligible. For example, some scholarships are awarded to the first in their family to attend college. In contrast, others are given out based on the backgrounds of the applicants who are traditionally underrepresented, such as African Americans, Hispanic Americans, American Indians, Asian & Pacific Islander Americans, or Alaska Natives.

Many scholarships are also explicitly awarded to students of undergraduate and graduate programs, focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors or targetted disciplines such as journalism, public health, law, education, etc.

6. Essay Scholarships

Scholarships are frequently offered by for-profit organizations and private businesses, for which applicants must submit an essay. These organizations choose winners solely based on their submitted essay rather than their overall GPA or other criteria. Therefore, a student’s application essay/s must be in their own words and voice on a subject that genuinely interests them rather than one that they believe will impress the admissions committee. It is also essential to check the guidelines for the essay and stick to them instead of deviating from them.

7. Musical Scholarships

Musical students can apply for scholarships that consider their musical talents. One might be qualified for a scholarship from a school or organization if one is a gifted musician. Singers, composers, and instrumentalists receive scholarships but must demonstrate an ability to perform to an audience, live or on video, to be considered.

8. Special Qualities Scholarships / Hobbies & Extracurricular Scholarships

Scholarships designed to support particular interests and hobbies may present unexpected opportunities, even though students may be familiar with academic and athletic scholarships. Students might be qualified for unique scholarships provided by for-profit or nonprofit organizations if they have a particular hobby, talent, or characteristic. These scholarships require them to have experience in a particular field or hobby; they do not even have to major in that field. Examples of hobbies and extracurricular activities include painting, paper craft, aeromodelling, cooking, horticulture, theater & plays, etc.

9. Employer Scholarships

Utilizing a family member’s employer is yet another way to get money for college. To help employees’ college-bound kids, many employers offer scholarship programs. Employers have varying requirements and award amounts. Employees may be required to have put in a certain number of service hours and be at a certain pay grade for their children to qualify for such scholarships.

10. Military Scholarships / Scholarships for Veterans

Children of certain U.S. military personnel on active duty, in the reserves, in the National Guard, or retired are eligible for various scholarships from the government, non-profit organizations, and even businesses. Eligibility criteria vary by scholarship; students may sometimes be required to fulfill additional requirements to qualify.

Scholarship Requirements

In addition to the types of scholarships mentioned above, each has its own specifications. Students should be aware of these requirements and keep in mind that some scholarships may only factor in Grade Point Average (GPA), class rank, or talent. In contrast, others require that they demonstrate financial need, be of a specific ethnicity, or be the first family member to attend college.

However, in general, most scholarships would require a good GPA and sometimes decent scores on standardized tests. Other requirements would depend on the type of scholarship and their independent requirements. These requirements may include sporting achievements, musical talent, special skills, unique abilities, hobbies, community ties, an intent to major in specific subjects (such as STEM – science, technology, engineering, and math), honors received, volunteer work done, church involvement, minority status, family connections (such as the school the parents attended), military ties, whether or not the applicant is the first to attend college, etc. A self-evaluation of one’s potential scholarship qualifications is the best step to take before applying for one.

Avoiding Scholarship

Scammers are all over the place – in the real world and online. The foremost point to remember is that scholarship applications or searches should not cost an applicant anything. In fact, students do not need to pay a fee to find even other forms of financial aid. It is therefore advisable to be sure that the scholarship offers and information received are accurate. Students should consult their school counselors or the financial aid offices at their chosen college for guidance if they are unsure whether an offer is a scam.

Some of the common tricks scammers use are:

  • Charge a fee to apply or receive a scholarship, usually nonexistent.
  • Offer unique scholarship information that cannot be found elsewhere.
  • Offer to “hold” a scholarship, for which your bank or credit card information is required.
  • Guarantee a scholarship or your money back.

In other words, anything that requires payment of any kind is probably a scam (aside from the occasional small application processing fee).

How to Apply for a

To begin with, students should submit applications for as many scholarships as they can because scholarships are essentially free money. Depending on the particular scholarship and its requirements, the application process for college scholarships may vary. Although it is recommended for students to visit the scholarship’s website for application details, the following are some typical steps to apply for a scholarship:

  • Check with prospective schools, tap into various networks, and search online for available scholarships.
  • Speak with academic advisors or school counselors to find out if they know of a scholarship that is a good fit.
  • Check for eligibility criteria and see if they can be met.
  • Submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA Form.
  • Finish the required essay or video assignment or anything required by the scholarship program.
  • Gather the necessary documents, such as school records, ID, test results, letters of recommendation, etc.
  • Respect the deadlines set and submit the application well in advance.

How to Find Scholarships? And Where
to Find Scholarships?

Scholarships can be found through various sources. Some of the primary and popular sources are:

  • a high school counselor or guidance counselor
  • the financial aid office at a college or career school
  • the school library’s reference section
  • ethnicity-based organizations
  • organizations related to the field of interest (including professional associations)
  • foundations, local businesses, civic groups, or religious or community organizations
  • the state’s grant agency
  • the U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool
  • an employer or parents’ employers
  • online scholarship search tools

One of the more dependable ways to find scholarships for students of all grade levels is through online scholarship platforms. The advantage of using online searches is that students can quickly find only the more pertinent scholarships by narrowing their search results by education level, eliminating irrelevant results. But students should be sure to select the option that corresponds to the college grade level since most college students can search by either the graduate or undergraduate education level. Filters for other criteria may be applied too. Here are the top 12 sites to find scholarships for prospective students (arranged in alphabetical order):


Students can access hundreds of scholarships for every demographic by creating a free profile on This gives students financial opportunities from numerous donors through a single platform, saving time and money. Based on their academic interests or personal backgrounds, students can use tools like the filtered search to find the most appropriate scholarships.


With a database of more than $11 billion in scholarships, Cappex aids in the search for colleges as well as scholarships and other forms of financial aid. Students can look for scholarships by demographic and also assess their chances of admission to potential schools using user-generated data and a proprietary calculator.


The U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop program has a comprehensive collection of career resources and workforce information for job seekers, students, and businesses. It provides people with the tools, evaluations, and guidance they need to find employment. A database of over 8,000 scholarships for undergraduate, graduate, vocational programs, and professional development is also available on the website. Loans, grants, fellowships, scholarships, and prizes can also be located.


Chegg, which promotes itself as a student-centric learning platform, works to increase the ROI of higher education. As part of that goal, Chegg provides access to a database of more than 25,000 scholarship opportunities. Scholarships can be looked up to find a suitable match for high school and college students alike. Students can also use the site’s online tutors to get feedback on their scholarship applications and help with their essays.

College Board

The extensive BigFuture website from the College Board aids students in their search for information about colleges and funding options. In addition to guiding college admissions and numerous test-prep tools, like SAT and ACT books, over $6 billion in scholarships, financial aid, and internships are listed on its search engine for scholarships. By being more specific with their demographic and academic information, students can focus their searches and discover scholarships that match their unique qualifications and interests.


Fastweb is a free resource for college students seeking financial aid and scholarships. Owned by’s parent company, Fastweb claims to have more than 1.5 million scholarships in its database. Students can benefit from personalized scholarship matching and receive guidance on filling out the FAFSA and receiving federal aid.

Federal Student Aid

All students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for any federal financial aid to help pay for college. The U.S. Department of Education awards more than 13 million students who fill out the FAFSA each year more than $120 billion in grants, work-study, and low-interest loans. FAFSA determines a student’s financial need and eligibility for financial aid through this application.


Niche offers many resources to aid students in finding their place in higher education. With student-friendly categories like no-essay scholarships, Niche matches students with the scholarships that best suit their qualifications. The site also assists people in determining where they belong, be it a school or neighborhood, and enables students to look for awards based on their major or demographic data.


For students hoping to continue their postsecondary education, Peterson’s offers college and test preparation and access to a scholarship database that contains over $10 billion in private funding. With its capacity to sort available scholarships by school type, race, gender, field of study, state of residence, award type, etc., Peterson’s searches through a directory of 4,000+ scholarship providers. is one of the go-to destinations for scholarship searches. Since 1998, this website has assisted students in their search for college scholarships. A whopping $19 billion in scholarships are tracked by, making it one of the most reputable and comprehensive. Students can find scholarships that suit their unique needs among the thousands of scholarships in the database and sort the search results by type, skill, ethnicity, etc.

Scholarship America

Since its founding in 1958, Scholarship America claims to have distributed $4.9 billion to 2.9 million students and continues to do so. The organization creates, oversees, and manages foundation and corporate scholarship programs that cater to deserving students, breaking through all social barriers.


Unigo is a dynamic community and network of more than 3.8 million users that help present and future college students make the best decisions regarding their college experience. Unigo maintains a database of thousands of college scholarships and awards and offers cutting-edge tools and crucial information to discover scholarships relevant to one’s academic and demographic details.

Frequently Asked Questions
on Scholarships

What will I get in a scholarship?

If you are chosen as a scholarship winner, you can usually expect to receive an award that will pay for tuition, room, and board, as well as the majority of required fees (sometimes known as full rides). This may often include funding for internships, books, travel, personal expenses, and even an optional year of study abroad. However, be warned that full rides are not always available and that students must fulfill their obligations to keep their scholarships.

Merit-based scholarship vs. need-based scholarship – what is the difference?

Can I apply for a scholarship when I’m in high school?

Can I apply for a scholarship when I’m in college?

Do I need a letter of recommendation to apply for a scholarship?

Do all scholarships require an essay?

What is the best way to win a scholarship?

When should I start applying for a scholarship?

Can I get a scholarship even if my grades are low?

Can I get more than one scholarship?


Nothing is off limits as a potential route to scholarship funds. The chances of actually receiving the scholarship money increase as one submits more applications. Find a good source of information and place to locate scholarships (online or otherwise), be organized, stay away from scammers, write your essays well, and keep an eye on the deadlines. Doing all this may very well get you a scholarship!