A college degree remains one of the best investments in your future self. It can open doors to new career opportunities and increase your earning potential significantly. However, the cost of higher education today leaves many wondering if it’s worth the investment. This is where college scholarships come in.
While college expenses continue to rise, there are many ways to lower the financial burden. One of the most popular means to do this is through college scholarships.
What is a College Scholarship?
Scholarships are a type of financial aid that help offset the overall costs of college. Unlike student loans, you are not required to repay scholarships. They are essentially free money that you can use to reduce the cost of higher education.
Scholarships vs. Grants
While both scholarships and grants provide financial aid to students, there are some key differences.
Scholarships are typically merit-based financial aid awarded to students based on their academic achievements, extra-curricular activities, sports, a field of study, and much more.
They usually come from the schools themselves or through private providers, such as philanthropists, companies, foundations, or non-profit organizations.
Scholarships are usually for a set dollar amount, such as $2,500. However, some scholarships awarded can cover a student’s entire tuition costs and more.
Grants can be awarded by federal and state governments as well as through the college. This type of financial aid tends to be given based on students’ financial needs. Typically, grants look to cover the difference between the cost of college and a family’s financial contribution. However, there are some merit-based grants as well.
Types of Scholarships
When you think of scholarships, it’s common to associate them with academic achievements. However, scholarships are awarded for a variety of reasons, including:
- Academics: Students having high GPAs can get scholarships from universities and non-profit organizations. Based on the type of school, you may even get a full scholarship that will cover the entire cost of tuition.
- Talents: Many schools want to feature students with exceptional gifts and award scholarships to entice these individuals to attend. Examples include those with talents in athletics, art, music, dance, and technology, to name a few.
- Community Service & Involvement: Scholarships are often awarded to individuals who are highly involved with and focused on improving their communities.
- Diversity: Scholarships are available based on race, gender, religion, and ethnicity. Some schools offer these scholarships to support those traditionally marginalized.
- Entrepreneurship: Some schools offer scholarships to young, successful entrepreneurs in exchange for helping to build the school’s entrepreneurship programs.
- Essay: Many colleges select students for scholarships based on their essay submissions rather than their GPA.
- Unique Talents: Companies often encourage students to participate in contests to demonstrate their creative skills to qualify for their scholarships.
Where to Find College Scholarships
Once you begin searching for scholarships, you will likely be surprised by how many are available. From large non-profits to local small businesses, many find great joy in investing in the next generation of leaders.
- School Guidance Counselor or Career Center: Organizations offering scholarships will usually notify local high schools first. Inquire about these opportunities at your school’s library or career center or speak to your guidance counselor. Your high school may even offer various scholarships paid for through fundraising efforts.
- Local Non-Profits: Non-profit organizations often raise funds specifically for scholarships. Sometimes, the scholarships will be awarded in reference to their mission, such as to a student who regularly volunteers to help the homeless.
- Chambers of Commerce: Your local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to look for scholarships. Many businesses offer scholarships to support students in the community, and the Chamber is an excellent resource for identifying these opportunities.
- Teachers/Professors: Your teachers may know about scholarships specific to their field of study. For example, your engineering teacher might be able to tell you about engineering scholarships available. If you know you’re headed into a specific field of study, such as teaching Family and Consumer Sciences, check with that teacher to see if they know of any opportunities.
- College Financial Aid Office: When applying for financial aid, always inquire about scholarships available through the school or local community.
- Local Library: Like your school library, local libraries will often have a list of scholarships offered by organizations within the community.
- YMCA: Since the YMCA tends to cater to young adults, organizations will usually provide updates on new scholarships to local facilities.
- Department of Labor: The Department of Labor maintains the website careeronestop.org. Click “Toolkit” then “Scholarship Finder” to search through over 8,000 scholarships, grants, and financial awards.
- Your Local Bank or Credit Union: Many local financial institutions give away scholarships to their members. Money FCU has given away over $120,000 in college scholarship money since we began our program. Contact your current financial institution (if it’s not Money FCU) and ask if they offer any opportunities.
Other Financing Options
Scholarships are an excellent means to lower your higher education costs, but they probably won’t cover everything. Try to subsidize as much as possible through scholarships or grants. Then, look to other financing options, such as federal student loan programs or private financial aid through other lenders.
We’re Here to Help!
When you go to college, you’re investing in yourself and your future. While higher education costs can be significant, scholarships are an excellent tool to help minimize these expenses.
If you’re unable to cover 100% of your tuition costs with scholarships or grants, you may need to consider student loans. Schedule a time to meet with one of our loan specialists to learn how we can help make your dream of higher education a reality.
As always, you can call, chat, text, or stop in and one of our specialists can help! We’re here M-F, 9am-4pm ET | (315) 671-4000.
Each individual’s financial situation is unique and readers are encouraged to contact the Credit Union when seeking financial advice on the products and services discussed. This article is for educational purposes only; the authors assume no legal responsibility for the completeness or accuracy of the contents.