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College Scholarships and Grants

If you can't afford to pay for higher education on your own, you may be able to obtain a college scholarship to pay for some or all of your college tuition and related expenses. Many students are eligible to receive a number of scholarships and grants based on their academic record and their higher education goals. You can find several free college scholarships and grants that will finance your education for one semester to several years. Whether you've just graduated high school or are already in college, it's important to start your search as early as possible.

Types of College Scholarships

College scholarships typically fall under one of two categories: merit-based and need-based. Merit-based college scholarships are awarded based on the student's academic performance and history.

These scholarships will take your GPA into account, as well as your academic record and your overall educational goals. Your application will be reviewed by a panel and you may be required to complete an interview, write a personal essay or statement to support your application, or meet with a group of individuals on the committee to discuss your application. If you are selected as a recipient of this type of college scholarship, you will be required to maintain good academic standing and may be eligible to reapply for additional funding in the future.

Need-based college scholarships are granted based on your family's financial standing or your individual income level. These scholarships and grants are usually given to students who prove they cannot afford to pay for their education, and to those who meet certain criteria.

You may also be eligible for other types of aid such as:

  • Athletic scholarships
  • Religious affiliation scholarships
  • Minority scholarships
  • Community affiliation scholarships
  • Heritage scholarships

Who Gives Out Academic Scholarships?

A number of organizations and entities award aid to students at all academic levels. Scholarships may be granted by federal and state government organizations, professional associations, high schools and colleges, and also by:

  • Employers
  • Individuals
  • Community organizations
  • Churches or religious organizations
  • Community leaders
  • National organizations

Finding Free College Scholarships

A number of organizations and entities offer a free scholarship for students who meet certain criteria, or as an award for an essay. When you do a search online, you'll find thousands of academic scholarships that you can apply for without paying any type of registration fee or application fee. Some organizations also offer contests or giveaways where the main prize is a free college scholarship.

Make sure to read all of the requirements and guidelines because, unfortunately, many are scams designed to collect your personal information.

Still, there are a number of websites and organizations that offer free college scholarship searches and can retrieve dozens within a few minutes. You can use these sites to find hundreds, even thousands of scholarships, grants, fellowships and even loans that you are eligible for. Using these search sites and tools can speed up your search and make it easier to filter results based on your individual needs.

Applying for College Scholarships and Grants

Applying can be time-consuming and stressful, but your efforts will pay off. It's important to stay on top of deadlines, because every scholarship and grant has its own timelines and requirements. Some important things to remember when applying and doing a search include:

  • Make copies of everything you submit
  • Be honest about everything you put on your application
  • Review all application instructions carefully
  • Double check the mailing address
  • Make arrangements to send transcripts to the appropriate party or office ahead of time
  • Write a cohesive, well-organized essay and get help from a tutor if you need to
  • Collect letters of recommendation as early in the application process as possible

Tips for Doing a Search

There are a number of ways to find academic scholarships that will finance your college education, and you can begin your search online. Many students also find it helpful to meet with a guidance counselor or academic advisor at their school to discuss different types of financial aid opportunities.

Use some of these tips when doing a search:

  • Do a personal inventory. Write down what your goals are, how much financing you need, and where you are planning to go to school
  • Research local scholarships first
  • Contact community leaders and local employers to find out if they offer a college scholarship to local residents and students
  • Use reputable free college search services such as FastWeb and SallieMae
  • Get in touch with your State Department of Higher Education for recommendations on available academic scholarships


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