How Do Scholarships Work?
Scholarships are an excellent way to help pay for college, but how do you find them? Do they need to be paid back? How exactly do scholarships work? Here are the details you need to know.
Do You Have to Repay Scholarships?
No. Scholarships do not need to be repaid. They are considered something called “gift aid,” which is financial aid that does not need to be paid back.
There are some scholarships that come with specific requirements, such as maintaining a minimum GPA, or a specific college major. You will want to know if there are special criteria that come with any scholarships you are awarded. Not meeting these criteria can cause you to lose your scholarship.
How to Get a Scholarship
You won’t get what you don’t apply for. You should treat scholarships like a part-time job. It takes time to find scholarships, and it takes time to apply for them. There are scholarships for things like SAT and ACT scores, and athletic or academic achievement, which may be awarded automatically by the college you are attending based on information from your college application. But a scholarship awarded by the college will not transfer with you if you change schools. If you do transfer, your new school may have similar scholarships available. Make sure to ask.
Most scholarships require you to apply (keep reading for time-saving tips) by completing an application and possibly an essay or interview. Others may require just a few moments of your time, like entering a ScholarshipPoints sweepstakes. But first, you need to find scholarships you qualify for.
How to Find Scholarships
Your Financial Aid Office
Your college is a great place to look for scholarships, so make sure you ask your financial aid office about the various financial awards funded by, or awarded through your college.
Your or Your Parent’s Employer
Some employers sponsor scholarships for their employees or the children of their employees. For example, the Teamsters Union and Delta Airlines both sponsor scholarships for the sons and daughters of their members/employees, and Taco Bell has a separate scholarship program reserved for its employees.
Scholarship Matching Websites
Companies like Coca-Cola and Microsoft award a number of scholarships each year. You can find opportunities like this and more on scholarship matching websites such as:
Scholarships aren’t just awarded by colleges or websites like this one. National and state organizations, and local communities often sponsor scholarships. Visit your state or city’s website to see if there are any opportunities for residents like you.
If you belong to any national organizations, that is also a great place to check for financial awards. Organizations like 4H, and the National Eagle Scouts Association run scholarship programs for their members.
Each scholarship provider will have their own application requirements. Here are some tips to help you ace the application process.
- Make sure your scholarship essay answers the question and meets the minimum requirements.
- Make sure you submit everything they ask for in an application. For example, you may be asked for an essay, your grades, and your test scores. Don’t submit an incomplete application.
- Many state and college scholarships require completion of the FAFSA. If this is a requirement, make sure you file the FAFSA (the earlier the better).
- Track your applications. You may end up submitting several, each with different requirements and due dates. Tracking them in a spreadsheet or doc can help you make sure you get your applications submitted completely and on time.
- Reuse portions of your essays. If you’ve written a few scholarship essays, you’ll probably have paragraphs you can paraphrase or reuse for other applications. Keep your files organized to help save time!
- Apply for easy scholarships, too. Our sweepstakes based scholarships are easy to apply for and do not require a minimum GPA or essay (we’ve given away more than one million dollars in scholarships to date).