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If you’re in the process of applying for college, you’ve likely heard that you should also be applying for scholarships at the same time. If you don’t know what a scholarship is, don’t sweat it. 

In the murky world of financial aid, it can be difficult to tell what is free, merit-based, or loan-based student aid. Especially if this is your first time dipping a toe into the college waters.

Scholarships, like grants, are free money that you get towards college. Unlike grants and student loans, you don’t have to file the FAFSA® to gain access to scholarships. BUT, you do have to do a lot of the work yourself. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the world of scholarships.

Scholarships – What are they?

Scholarships are financial aid awards based on different merits; academic, special interest, non-profit, sports, and all sorts of other qualifying factors that help students pay for school. 

The reason scholarships are so sought after is they have no repayment requirements, so they are a great asset to help pay for school without going into debt. 

They are also something that a student has to apply to and find on an individual basis. There are plenty of sites you can use to help you begin your search, which we’ll talk about more as we continue the Scholarship Zone column. 

Where do they come from?

Scholarships come from different organizations and groups. They can be provided by the government, private organizations, or even schools themselves.

There’s a very large variety of scholarships available to students from all walks of life. Most of them simply require an application to determine if they are eligible for the money.

While many people may think of academic and sports scholarships, there are many others available that are supported or funded by philanthropies. This means they have different requirements that don’t necessarily mean you have to be Stephen Hawkins or Michael Jordan to qualify!

How can they be used?

The money awarded through a scholarship is used first to cover college tuition and school fees. The money is given directly to the school, and anything leftover will be reimbursed to the student.

This means you can use it for living expenses, as well. There is also no limitation as to how many scholarships you can apply for or receive. The more scholarships a student has, the fewer costs they incur out of their own pocket.

Even better? The more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to get in on some of that free money action. No college student would turn that down. 

It is important to review the eligibility criteria when applying for scholarships, as well as the requirements to continue to receive the aid. Some scholarships do have attendance, GPA, or other requirements. Students need to make sure they follow the requirements, or they risk losing out on the award. 

As you start your college career, scholarships should be on the top of your to-do list. Now that you know what they are and where they come from, it’s time to start applying.

We are not affiliated with the U.S. Department of Education. Federal Student Aid (FSA), an office of the U.S. Department of Education, makes the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form and assistance available to the public for free at fafsa.gov.