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 money?
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.
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."
You 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
When compiling your list, remember that state and local scholarships
typically have a smaller number of applicants, which means that you have better
Unusual or niche scholarships generally have fewer candidates
too, and are well worth seeking out.
"Lastly, 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 food and housing. 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.