There's a perception that scholarships exist only for the top 10 percent of academic or athletic achievers. Not true. There is a wide range of scholarships available that are not based on financial need, academics or athletic abilities. While you may have to do a little extra work to find that right scholarship, the Internet provides a great tool for searching. Consider that just 20 years ago, high school graduates had to stick to the sources available through their high-school counselors and local libraries. The Internet truly broadens research options.
Where Does Scholarship Money Come From?
You can find a variety of sources of scholarship funding. While many of these scholarships come from schools looking to attract top academic and athletic students, there are plenty of private organizations and nonprofits that offer funding. Still, it's best to know about all the places to look. Here are six of the major granting organizations:
- Charitable foundations: Each year, the Gates Millennium Scholars Program offers "good through graduation" scholarships to 1,000 minority students seeking postsecondary education. The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation administers more than $3 million each year in scholarship and loan funds for New Hampshire residents. You can look to these and other foundations for scholarship leads.
- Community service: Service organizations in your community such as the Lions Club, Rotary or Soroptimists offer scholarships for students interested in careers in community service.
- Corporations: Some corporations offer scholarships to promising students as a recruitment tool. They pay for a portion of your education in return for your agreement to work for them after you graduate. These scholarships are highly competitive and often in high-demand fields like engineering. Scholarships are also used to increase corporate diversity by targeting women and minority students
- Institutional scholarships: Individual colleges and universities have their own scholarship programs. When you apply for financial aid, find out how to apply for scholarships at each school that you might attend.
- Professional associations: Organizations such as The American School Health Association, the Future Educators Association and the Future Farmers of America award scholarships in fields related to health care, education and agriculture.
- States: The state in which you live may have a state scholarship program. For example, California has Cal Grants, Nevada has Millennium Scholarships and most other states have tuition assistance scholarships.
Scholarship funding can come from almost any source and is available for nearly any college-bound student. You just need to dedicate yourself to finding the right scholarship and using your network of friends and teachers to look for more ideas.
Scholarships for Minorities
Scholarships can also be targeted toward specific groups of students. These can be related to areas of interest, past hobbies or even ethnicity. Leads to additional scholarships including the following for:
- Black students: Check with the United Negro College Fund or the Thurgood Marshall College Fund websites.
- Hispanic students: Go to websites such as the Hispanic College Fund or the League of United Latin American Citizens.
- Native American students: The Native American Rights Fund has a website with educational resource links for Native American scholarships.
- Women: WE Magazine publishes links to 100 grants, loans and scholarships specifically for women.
And, of course, everyone has heard of those "crazy" scholarships that are out there for left-handed students or twins or totally excellent skateboarders--not to mention the ones for those left-handed twins who love skateboarding. There's also money that could be had if you're tall, short or your last name is Gatling, Scarpinato, Van Valkenburg or Zolp.
Scholarships: Sign me up!
How do you find these scholarships? Don't bother with a costly scholarship search company because free, easy-to-use scholarship search sites provide the same information. Sallie Mae, for example, has a database with more than 3 million scholarships worth more than 16 billion dollars, according to the website.
You provide information about yourself and the database matches you to specific scholarships for which you might be eligible. You are then responsible for applying for the appropriate scholarships on your own with the information supplied on the search site.
You can also go online and do a search for "scholarships for _____." Fill in the blank with descriptors about yourself--writer, Native American, softball player or surfer--and you may find that there is a scholarship out there with your name on it.