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Scholarships: Get Help Paying for College and Avoid Scams

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Graduating from college with a massive load of debt doesn’t sound very appealing to high school seniors or non-traditional students looking to go back to school, but alternatives to student loans are out there if you just know where to look.

College scholarships are financial aid awards that do not require repayment—that’s right, scholarships are money to use toward your schooling that you won’t have to pay back later! I’ve mentioned them quite a few times in the past, but due to the media coverage of student loans over the last few months I decided to discuss scholarships again today.

Scholarships can be awarded by schools, businesses, organizations, religious groups, you name it. Your local community might award scholarships to residents who plan to attend college in the area, and you might even earn a scholarship from a national corporation.

Merit Based Scholarships

Merit can be thought of as excellence, so merit based scholarships are just what they sound like: they’re scholarships based on a particular area that a student is talented in. They do not necessarily involve a student’s financial need.

In order to win a merit based scholarship, students must meet a specific set of criteria, and some common merit scholarships are based on the following:

  • Academics. Academic scholarships are based on your grades and overall GPA. They are usually offered to high school students planning to go straight to college after graduation.
  • Athletics. Athletic scholarships are offered to students that excel in a certain sport. Athletic scholarships are often based on a student athlete’s experiences during high school.
  • The arts. Artistic scholarships are awarded to students that meet criteria in various artistic areas, such as music, dance or writing. Artistic scholarships often require an audition or submission of a portfolio.

Need Based Scholarships

Need based scholarships are also just what they sound like: scholarships based on a student’s financial situation. Need based scholarships can help low or middle income students afford college. They may also take academics into account—you might need to have a minimum GPA in order to qualify—but they are mainly based on financial need.

Scholarships Based on Unique Criteria

Some scholarships are merit based or need based but also take other unique criteria into consideration. These may include areas such as:

  • Your race or ethnicity. Minority scholarships are a common type of race-based scholarship, for example scholarships from the United Negro College Fund.
  • Your gender. Scholarships are often awarded as prizes in women’s beauty pageants.
  • Medical conditions. Scholarships exist for students who have or have had cancer, epilepsy, and a number of other medical conditions.
  • Your place of employment. Some companies offer scholarships to their employees or their employees’ children; in many cases part-time employees are eligible.
  • Career that you are planning to pursue. Scholarships exist for students planning to go into certain career fields after graduation, such as education or nursing.

Avoid Scholarship Scams

Use your common sense and be careful when looking for scholarships: scholarship scams do exist. Legitimate scholarships will not request that you pay an application fee in order to be considered or a fee to “redeem your award” if you supposedly earned the scholarship.

Be careful where you submit personal information, especially things such as your social security number or financial information.

Your high school guidance office is a great place to learn about college scholarships, and so is the internet. In fact, we even have a comprehensive listing of scholarship information right here at StateUniversity.com


Melissa Rhone+

Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.

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