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Articles / Paying for College / What are Scholarships and How Can You Find the Best Ones For You?

What are Scholarships and How Can You Find the Best Ones For You?

Written by Sam Jaquez | Nov. 1, 2023
Photo by Yan Krukau

Scholarships can be a great way to reduce the burden of college tuition and make college more affordable, but finding the best ones to apply to can be overwhelming! Continue reading to learn more about scholarships and how to find the right scholarships for you.

What are Scholarships?

A scholarship is a form of financial support used to pay for college. Unlike loans, which need to be paid back with interest, scholarships are a gift! The money awarded does not need to be paid back.Scholarships are usually merit-based, or awarded to students with exceptional academic achievements, athletic ability, community involvement, or artistic skill. If that doesn’t sound like you, don’t give up! There are scholarship opportunities for all kinds of students, and being strategic about finding the best ones for you to apply for is the first step towards earning free money for college.

What is the difference between scholarships and grants?

Grants are another form of college funding that does not need to be paid back. However, unlike scholarships, which are usually merit-based, grants are awarded based on financial need.

Scholarships are often funded by private organizations, institutions, and individuals who set the qualification requirements themselves, which is why scholarship requirements and applications vary so broadly. Grants can also be provided by private foundations or organizations, but are typically provided through government agencies.

The application process for grants is different from the application process for scholarships. Grants typically require applicants to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to qualify. Scholarships typically require an application essay, transcripts, and letters of recommendation.

Avoiding Scholarship Scams

It is important to ensure that the scholarships you apply for are from reliable organizations. Remember, scholarships do not have to be paid back and you should never have to pay an organization to apply for a scholarship. If a scholarship requires a processing fee or application price, it is most likely a scam.

Types of Scholarships

Students often make the mistake of assuming that they will not qualify for any scholarships because they aren’t a straight-A student or a star athlete. However, there are scholarships for all types of students.

Common types of scholarships

  • Academic: academic scholarships are awarded to students who demonstrate academic excellence and can be awarded based on GPA, test scores, and competition.
  • Athletic: athletic scholarships are awarded to students who excel in and demonstrate skill in their sport
  • Activity: activity-based scholarships are awarded to students who participate in extracurricular activities such as volunteer work, leadership roles, and service work
  • Skills: skill-based scholarships are aimed toward students who show excellence in a specific skill such as art, science, dance, writing, etc.
  • Affiliation: affiliation scholarships are directed toward students who are affiliated with non-academic organizations such as religious groups or public and private businesses and institutions.
  • Identity: many scholarships are available for students based on identity. These scholarships are made available to qualifying students based on factors such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and culture

How to Find Scholarships

There are many great free resources that can help assist in the search for scholarships.

  • College Confidential’s Scholarship Search: find scholarships that are right for you through CC’s own scholarship search page!
  • High school guidance office: high school counselors will have an updated source of scholarships available for students and can help you find local or national scholarships that will best fit you.
  • Private organizations: A great way to find scholarships is to search for organizations related to your interests and career goals. Many organizations offer scholarships to students who will be studying to enter into their field. You see if any of the organizations that you or your family members are active have scholarship opportunities for students.
  • Work-sponsored scholarships: If you have an after school or summer job, your workplace may offer scholarships for employees. Be sure to check in with your parent’s employer to see if they have any scholarships as well!
  • College websites: Most colleges offer some scholarship opportunities for admitted students. Once you’ve made your college list, check out school websites or College Confidential’s Scholarship Search for scholarships awarded by individual schools.

Scholarships can be very competitive because, well, who doesn’t want free money for college? Applications can be time-consuming too, so it’s important to choose opportunities that are a good fit for you. One of the best tips for finding and applying to scholarships is to search for scholarships that are related to your interests, goals, and background. These will be the scholarships that you will easily qualify for and will, with your prior experience and interests, be easiest to apply to.

More on Scholarships

Join the CC Community for more discussion on financial aid and scholarships or search for scholarships that fit you!

Written by


Sam Jaquez

Sam is a freelance writer. She studied at the University of Massachusetts Boston where she earned a degree in English.

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