Scholarships, grants, and work-study programs are a debt-free option for funding your education. You should, therefore, maximize student aid from these sources. Generally speaking, scholarships and grants are gifts of aid which do not have to be repaid. Research all the possible sources of scholarships and grants in your local community and state, such as schools, colleges, religious, and civic organizations.
The term "scholarship" can have different meanings but basically a scholarship awarded based on merit in academics, athletics, or a particular field of study. Scholarships also may be awarded based on ethnic and religious affiliations, special interests or proposed major field of study. Outside scholarships may also be available to students whose parents work for a particular company or to students who are eligible for scholarships sponsored by church or civic organizations.
Before you apply for a scholarship, you should understand what the eligibility criteria are and how to apply for it.
- What are the qualifications for applicants?
- Where can you obtain an application?
- Is an interview required? Are references required?
- What is the deadline?
Grants, like scholarships, generally do not have to be repaid. When you apply for federal financial aid programs, your eligibility for federal grants will be considered. Grants are awarded to students who demonstrate financial need. You can get applications forms from the school's financial aid office.
The Federal Work-Study Program is a third debt-free option for defraying the cost of your education. It provides jobs for undergraduate and graduate students with demonstrated financial need attending eligible postsecondary schools. The program allows students to earn money to pay educational expenses.
Pay is based on federal minimum wage standards and varies with job requirements, skill, and experience levels. When you apply for federal financial aid by completed the FAFSA, you can indicate on your application that you want work-study assistance.
Finding Scholarships, Grants, and Work-Study Programs
As a first step, public libraries have scholarship guides in the reference section. Campus libraries carry these resources as well. Ask your librarian or guidance counselor to recommend a scholarship guide. This research can help you identify scholarships available to you.
You can also search the Internet using keywords such as "student aid," "financial aid," and "scholarships." Some sites allow students or their families to complete an application online. But be a savvy surfer and be aware that there some scholarship scams online.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), although there are a number of legitimate companies that assist students and their families in identifying available scholarships, there are also a number of scholarship scams. The FTC encourages students to watch out for companies using any of the following phrases:
- "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
- "You can't get this information anywhere else."
- "I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
- "We'll do all the work."
- "The scholarship will cost some money."
- "You've been selected by a 'national foundation' to receive a scholarship" or
- "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.
You should also consider asking the schools where you intend to apply. Colleges and universities administer scholarships from private endowments and organizations. Most college-sponsored scholarships do not require additional application and eligible students will be considered. Others may require a separate application. Contact the financial aid office at the school where you intend to apply and find out what school-sponsored scholarships are available and how you can apply for them.
Finally, some employers provide scholarships to children of employees. The human resource department is usually the place to find out what is available. Be sure to obtain all application forms and information about deadlines in order to complete the application on time.
To obtain more information on scholarships, grants and work-study program, contact the financial aid office at the school you plan to attend, or your high school guidance counselor.