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SCHOLARSHIP FAQ

 

What is a scholarship?

Scholarships are funds used to pay for higher education that do not have to be repaid to the provider. Scholarships may be awarded based on any number of criteria including academics, achievements, hobbies, talents, affiliations with various groups, or career aspirations. They are available from the federal and state government, large corporations, local businesses, professional organizations, universities and individuals. Each scholarship has its own requirements which must be met. Our scholarship search can match you with the scholarships you qualify for and have the best chance of winning.

How is a scholarship different from a grant?

Though the terms "scholarship" and "grant" are often used interchangeably, there are a few differences between the two. They are both considered "free money", but in the majority of cases scholarships are awarded to students who are planning to attend or are already enrolled in some form of postsecondary education. Awardees are often required to maintain specific grade point averages, participate in certain activities, or take a certain amount of credits per semester to remain eligible for the scholarships they earned initially. Failure to adhere to these guidelines results in suspension or cancellation of the funding. Grant recipients, however, don't necessarily have to attend or plan to attend college: Grant applicatns/recipients often need the funds to finance research projects (recipients are expected to create proposals and update the donors regularly to maintain funding) or, in the case for entrepreneurs or natural disaster victims, require capital to help start or rebuild their lives.

How is a scholarship different from a fellowship?

Like scholarships, fellowships are considered gift aid and do not have to be repaid but they are typically only available for graduate students. Some fellowships include tuition waivers or payments to universities in lieu of tuition but most include a stipend to cover reasonable living expenses.

How do scholarships differ from loans?

The main difference between scholarships and loans is that while scholarships do not require repayment, loans do, with added interest. Loans are awarded federally (Stafford, Perkins and PLUS) as well as privately (through banks and other lenders like Sallie Mae) and can be either subsidized (no payments must be made while in school) or unsubsidized (payments must be made while in school).

Will winning a scholarship impact my Financial Aid package?

It may. The government takes student awards into consideration when offering aid. However, students should not be deterred by this. The effects are not likely to be great. Many schools use student money to offset loan eligibility, not grant awards. Students who receive little aid can benefit greatly from scholarships.

Can I still receive a scholarship, even if I do not qualify for financial aid?

Yes, there are plenty of scholarships that aren’t based on financial need. Play to your strengths: If you have a high GPA, apply for academic scholarships, if you’re a great writer, apply for essay and poetry scholarships. If you're creative, apply for art and design scholarships and so forth. You could have your entire tuition covered by scholarships if you do your due diligence, which means you'll graduate with zero student loan debt.

Why should I apply for scholarships?

Why would't you apply for scholarships? A scholarship is free money for college, that you don't have to worry about paying back, so you can spend more time focusing on classes. Whether it's grades, athleticism, creativity, or being tech savvy you are being rewarded for something you are good at, so why not take advantage of it? Many students don't want to apply for scholarships because they fear they will not win. But applying for the scholarships in our scholarship search will increase your chances of winning exponentially, because we match our scholarships based on applicants' specific qualities and interests. Scholarships can paired with financial aid to cover the cost of books, supplies, room and board, and even entire tuitions but you will never know if that's possible unless you apply.

What are the odds of winning a scholarship?

It depends on the scholarship you're applying for. National scholarships will have larger applicant pools than state - or major-specific scholarships but they are all judged on specific sets of requirements. If you follow the criteria, you will have a better chance of winning than someone who doesn't; the same goes for students who observe deadlines versus students who submit their applications late. You won't win a scholarship because of who you know; you'll earn it based on how well you follow directions, meet deadlines, and the caliber of your responses.

Can I win multiple scholarships?

Yes, but typically not from the same scholarship provider during the same award year. If you're applying to more than one scholarship, be sure to keep your applications organized. Sending the wrong materials to the wrong scholarship committee can guarantee you won't be receiving those funds for college.

Am I still eligible for scholarships if I am not a full-time student?

This varies from scholarship to scholarship. Some awards require students to be full-time students, others are valid for students attending part-time, and some are offered specifically to individuals who aren’t currently enrolled but plan to return to school during the next semester.

Can I win scholarships if I attend an online school?

This depends on the school and scholarship provider. A great place to start your search is Scholarships.com, where our scholarship search presents awards meeting your exact criteria. Contact your school directly and ask about scholarship opportunities available exclusively for enrolled students.

Where can I find scholarships?

You already have! Here on Scholarships.com, you can fill out a profile granting access to the 2.7 million scholarship awards in our database. For additional awards, speak to your guidance counselor, financial aid officer, volunteercoordinator, coach, employer or parents’employers. Scholarships are also distributed by large corporations, such as Google, and local businesses alike. The winners of business and corporation scholarhips will be drawn from a smaller applicant pool.

I'm not a strong writer. Will I have to write an essay for every scholarship I'm applying for?

While the majority of application processes entail some kind of essay to assess applicants' writing skills, not all providers require one. Keep in mind that scholarships that do not require essays can be more competitive. or have additional guidelines to ensure the right students apply. If you're having difficulty finding an essay-free scholarship, check out our "Scholarships by Type" section for easy scholarships or video scholarships, where applicants produce short multimedia pieces instead of writing traditional essays.

Who should I ask to write me a letter of recommendation, and when should I ask them?

Teachers, coaches, employers or volunteer supervisors are all excellent choices for letters of recommendation because they can detail your strengths and achievements in ways that appeal to scholarship committees. Do not ask parents, relatives or your peers, because their references carry less weight than a professional reference. Request their assistance at least 2-3 weeks before the application deadline. Professors typically write more than one, so asking in a timely manner is not only appreciated but will likely yield a more thoughtful letter.

When should I start applying for scholarships?

The sooner the better. Eligibility requirements such as "you must be a high school senior", "you must be a college sophomore majoring in computer science", "you must be under the age of 30, etc." vary. Regardless of the requirements, if you miss the deadline you will not receive a scholarship. For percaution, make sure your application packet is complete at least two weeks before the deadline; in case you have to resubmit due to a mailing/emailing error.

Can my parents apply for scholarships on my behalf?

Your parents can certainly help you throughout the process, however you must be the one to fill out the application, write the essay, complete necessary supplements and sign the appropriate forms. Your parents can assist you in securing your transcripts and even stamping your envelope but if it is determined that they did the bulk of the work, you will be ineligible to receive the award.

I have a question about the scholarship, can I contact the scholarship provider directly?

This should be detailed in the scholarship's regulations and guidelines. The scholarship provider may have the answer to your question but if they have a strict "no call" or "no e-mail" policy, DO NOT call or e-mail. Instead, speak to your guidance counselor or financial aid officer; they've probably encountered the same questions in past years and will be able to point you in the right direction.

Will I have to pay an Application Fee?

Scholarships.com does not list any scholarships that require application fees but there are some scholarships out there that might. It's ultimately your decision whether or not you want to apply for a scholarship that has an application fee.

How do I know if I've won a scholarship?

Someone from the scholarship committee should contact you directly via phone or email by a specific date so it's essential to make yourself as available as possible as that time draws closer. The funds will then be sent to you or the school you will be attending during the next semester. If someone from a third-party organization claims they need personal information (Social Security number, bank account numbers, and so forth) to complete the award process, it could be a scam; get as much information about the solicitor as possible without divulging your details and contact the scholarship provider directly to determine your next step.

Will I have to reapply each year, such as required for FAFSA?

Scholarships generally come in three varieties: one-time, renewable, or renewable with stipulations. One-time awards are granted only once, while renewable scholarships are granted each year. Some are dispensed automatically each year after the initial award but most renewable awards call for the recipient to reapply or provide transcripts and progress reports to ensure they are still meeting the guidelines set by the scholarship committee. If you were awarded for your stellar grades or athletic achievement, a low GPA or nonparticipation on a university team could discontinue your award so check with your scholarship provider to determine what is required for continued funding.