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Scholarships are varied with a number of different awards that can be conditional or merit based.  Schools may help to facilitate scholarship awards, but often the student has to take initiative and seek out potential scholarships themselves.
What are types of scholarships?
Merit – merit is the most conventional for of scholarships and will take into account the student’s achievements and abilities.  The criteria used will usually depend on the nature of the scholarship.  Athletic scholarships generally award athletic achievements and ability only.  Academic merit scholarships will factor a number of items such as the student’s grades, test performance, and community involvement.
Need– need based scholarships are generally determined by formula and are assigned to students that would have difficulty paying for college even with the assistance of loans.  Some need based scholarships will account for merit if the student is particularly high performing but otherwise unable to pay for college.
Field of Study – scholarships may be offered to students in high demand fields.  These awards are usually conditional on the student remaining in that field of study.  The student may be obligated to serve a specific area or meet other commitments after graduating from college with this type of scholarship.
Recruiting – some colleges may offer exceptional applicants substantial scholarships to incentivize them to study at their institution.  This is closely related to merit scholarships only that these scholarships come from institutions only.
Workplace – some workplaces will offer the children of employees, nominal merit based scholarships to continue studying at a post-secondary institution.
Race, gender, religion – some organizations will offer minority and other special interest students scholarships with some of their qualifications generally tied to an aspect of their identity.  As with all scholarships, there is usually an element of merit attached to these scholarships and they are usually earned rather than disbursed feely.
Military – most branches of the military will pay in full for former and active service members to pursue a post-secondary education to either further their career in the military or adjust to civilian life.
What are grants?
Grants are scholarships in that they do not need to be repaid and the most is usually spent at the discretion of the student.  The most notable grant is the Federal Pell Grant, which will provide $5,550 to undergraduate students that meet certain requirements.  There are additional grants for exceptional economic need and the children of service members that have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Where do I look for a scholarship?
A high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office is the best place to being a search for scholarships.  These individuals will receive information on scholarships and pass that information on to students.  These offices will also help the student determine the affordability of their study program and suggest loans and other arrangements if scholarships are not readily available.
Parents can check with organizations and workplaces they belong to.  Unions and chambers of commerce will usually grant nominal scholarships to the children of members or outstanding students.
Foundations and charities also exist to provide scholarships for a broad range of qualified students.  These scholarships will involve merit, need, student identity and field of study scholarships.
The PSAT/NMSQT test, administered in the junior year of high school is used to screen students for the National Merit Scholarship.  This will provide the student with some federal scholarships for college study.
You may use internet search engines but be aware that the potential of fraud from less than reputable sources is very high.  It is usually best to apply to established scholarships or through education institutions that have vetted the scholarship offer.  No scholarship should ask for an application fee or for information such as social security number and bank information.
What are the typical terms of a scholarship?
Although many scholarships are paid in a lump sum to the student, many others carry terms and conditions.  For instance, many scholarships are paid annually or per semester giving the student, some compensation for every semester they remain in school.  These arrangements will usually mandate that the student continue to meet a minimum threshold of academic performance, tied to GPA.  Other athletic scholarships may mandate that the student continue to play on the athletic team.  Other conditional scholarships may have terms dependent on community service, organization membership, standards of conduct, or full time employment.
What are indicators of scholarship scams?
There exist a number of scam offers that prey on needy students.  You should generally view scholarships that solicit you and your information critically, as it will be odd for them to seek you out without being referred or having the student express the initial interest.  Very often, these so called scholarship offers are actually deceptive loans so reading the terms and conditions of every agreement will be necessary when dealing with scholarship offers.  Even legitimate awards may come with bond conditions and other terms.

What are alternatives to scholarships?
Low interest loans are available to students that demonstrate need.  For instance, the Federal Perkins loan, paid through the student’s school, provides a fixed interest rate of 5% and allows for interest to be deferred until the student graduates.  These favorable terms are limited as this loan is intended for students with significant financial needs.  Any student that wants to apply for a Perkins loan must submit their FAFSA early for consideration and demonstrate financial need.  There are other federal loans available and most will have fixed interests rates, due to recent reforms on federal student lending.
Loan consolidation is available for those with existing student debt.  Most loan consolidation programs will end all other loans and have the debtor take out a newer, large loan that combines the other debts.  The consolidation provider benefits by collecting interest on this loan.  Federal loan consolidation fixes interest rates at 8.25% and lets the student pick a repayment term.  This prevents the amount of interest from increasing beyond a controllable rate for the student.