Students often think that once they complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) they will be offered any and all available grants, college scholarships and student loans. This is a huge mistake. While institutions may offer students various merit-based and need-based awards determined by information received through their college admission packet and the FAFSA, thousands more in free money is being left on the table by those who don’t understand what’s available or where to find it. Here are a few examples of college scholarships you may be missing out on:
Most colleges will identify academically gifted students through college test scores (SAT, ACT, etc) and their submitted transcripts. Depending upon the student’s grade point average (GPA) and test scores, he/she may be offered generous scholarship awards. The amounts vary based upon the college and the student’s ranking, but may involve anything from a few thousand dollars to a full-ride scholarship. Many private scholarship providers also offer merit-based programs.
Need-Based Grants and Scholarships
Students with exceptional need may qualify for Pell Grants through the U.S. Department of Education and determined by evaluation of their submitted FAFSA. They may also qualify for other need-based aid offered through the college. However, several companies and organizations also offer scholarships based upon financial need. Students often make the mistake of ruling themselves out because they believe they (or their parents) make too much money and wo’t qualify. Don’t make this same mistake. File the FAFSA even if you think you won’t qualify for aid and be sure to check the criteria on need-based awards to see if you may still be eligible.
Football and baseball players are not the only student athletes receiving college scholarships. Depending upon the school, you may be able to receive a scholarship for swimming, volleyball, tennis, cheerleading, bowling and even skeet shooting. Check with the college athletic department to see what awards are offered, the criteria and the amount available. Keep in mind that very few full-ride athletic scholarships are offered each year and these are usually reserved for elite athletes. Also, be aware that some schools are not permitted to offer scholarships based on athletics due to NCAA regulations.
Major-Specific Grants and Scholarships
Depending upon your major, you may be able to receive free money for college from both private scholarship providers and your college. Check with the admissions and financial aid offices to see what awards may be available in your degree program. Math, science, English and education majors often have a variety of scholarships offered to them. Some are based on merit (grades), while others may be based on an essay or a project. Companies within your degree field are also a great resource for free money. They may offer grants or scholarships in return for internship hours or based on a competitive application process.
Students often overlook the abundance of scholarships offered based on community service and volunteer work. Organizations and clubs provide members and supporters the opportunity to earn scholarships based upon service hours or service projects organized by an individual. Honor societies, Greek organizations, non-profits and more all have free money available for those who give their time and talents to help others in need.
Do you have a talent? Love to write? There are scholarships just waiting for you! Hundreds of essay contests and writing competitions provide scholarship opportunities each year to those students willing to put in the time to apply. There are also several scholarship programs for those who play an instrument, sing or paint. In fact, there are scholarships offered for a variety of different hobbies and talents; students simply need to find the opportunities and apply.
So, where do you find all these scholarships? There are several resources every student should check when looking for scholarships.
- Free Online Scholarship Search Services like ScholarshipExperts
- High School Guidance Counselor
- College Financial Aid Office
- Local Businesses
- Local Churches and Civic Groups
- Your Employer (and Your Parent’s)
- Local and National Non-Profit Organizations
- Military Support Groups
- Banking Institutions
Don’t limit yourself to looking for scholarships in one place. Try several resources and keep checking back monthly to ensure you don’t miss any new opportunities. Above all else, don’t give up. The only way to win is to apply. Happy Hunting!