A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further education. Scholarships are awarded on various criteria usually reflecting the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.
The most common scholarships may be classified as:
- Merit-based: These awards are based on a student’s academic, artistic, athletic or other abilities, and often factor in an applicant’s extracurricular activities and community service record. The most common merit-based scholarships, awarded by either private organizations or directly by a student’s intended college, recognize academic achievement or high scores on standardized tests.
- Need-based: These awards are based on the student and family’s financial record and will require applicants to fill out a FAFSA to qualify if the scholarship is a federal award. Private need-based scholarships will also often require the results of a FAFSA, which calculates a student’s financial need through a formula looking at the expected family contribution and cost of attendance at the intended college.
- Student-specific: These are scholarships where applicants must initially qualify by gender, race, religion, family and medical history, or many other student-specific factors. Minority scholarships are the most common awards in this category, and not all are based in the United States. For example, students in Canada may qualify for a number of aboriginal scholarships, whether they study at home or abroad.
- Career-specific: These are scholarships awarded by a college or university to students planning to pursue a specific field of study. Often the most generous awards are given to students pursuing careers in high-need areas such as education or nursing. Nursing students are in high demand, and many schools will give future nurses full scholarships to enter the field, especially if the student intends to work in a high-need community.
Some scholarships have a “bond” requirement. Recipients may be required to work for a particular employer for a specified period of time or to work in rural or remote areas; otherwise they may be required to repay the value of the support they received from the scholarship. This is particularly the case with education and nursing scholarships for people prepared to work in rural and remote areas. The programs offered by the uniformed services of the United States (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned corps, and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps) sometimes resemble such scholarships.
It is typical for persons to find scholarships in their home region. Information on these can be found by asking local persons and organizations. Typically, these are less competitive as the eligible population is smaller.
- Guidance counselors: When starting to explore scholarship opportunities, most high school students check with their guidance counselors. They can be a reliable resource for local scholarships.
- Non-profits and charitable trusts: Most non-profit organizations have at some point of their history founded scholarships for prospective students. The Good Schools Guide, a guide to schools in the UK, states “Charitable grant-making trusts can help in cases of genuine need,” and goes on to outline several instances where this may be the case, including an “unforeseen family disaster” and a “need for special education”.
- Community foundations: Many counties and cities and regions have a local foundation dedicated to giving money in the form of grants and scholarships to people and organizations in the area.
- Music teachers: Some music teachers offer reduced-cost or free lessons to help low-income children gain access to an arts education. In addition, some local non-profits provide free music classes to youths.
- Foundations: Certain foundations in the United States offer scholarships for entrepreneurial endeavors.
- Trade union|Labor/trade unions: Major unions often offer scholarships for members and their dependent children.
- Houses of worship: The local house of worship may or may not have any scholarships for their members, but the religious organization or headquarters may have some available. Of course, theology study is highly encouraged.
- Chamber of commerce: Many chambers of commerce offer (usually small) grants to students in the community, especially those planning on careers in business and public service. Even if they do not offer any themselves, one can usually get a listing of members, and many of them may offer small scholarships to local students.
- Other volunteer organizations: Many organizations offer scholarships or award grants to students whose background or chosen field overlaps the field of the organization. For example, local chapters of professional societies may help the studies of exceptionally distinguished students of the region. Similarly, charity organizations may offer help, especially if the late parent of the student was a member of the organization (e.g., a Masonic lodge might help the orphan of a lodge brother.) This kind of scholarship is mostly ad hoc.
- School: Old, well-known schools are often endowed with scholarship funds.
- University: Old, well-established universities may have funds to finance the studies of extremely talented students of little means. To be eligible, a student often must belong to some special category or be among a nation’s best. However, universities have information available on scholarships and grants, possibly even internship opportunities.
- PSAT/NMSQT: In the United States, students are offered the opportunity to take the PSAT/NMSQT test, usually in their junior year of high school. National Merit Scholarship programs are initially determined by the scores received on the PSAT/NMSQT test. Some private scholarship programs require applicants to take the PSAT. The test can be used as preparation for the SAT.
- Disabilities: Students with disabilities may be able to apply for awards intended for people with disabilities. This may be disabilities in general or in relation to a specific disability.