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While there are scholarships available for practically any special talent, extraordinary intelligence, or volunteer service, finding them may prove to be more difficult than applying or winning them. The key is to be very thorough in your research, leaving no stone unturned, and to apply for a scholarship even if you think there is only a very small chance that you will receive it.

Don’t waste your time applying if you don’t meet all the requirements. Scholarships are free money, so you can imagine how many people will apply for just one scholarship. If you begin your scholarship search early, you may have time to build up to the requirements for the scholarship, like getting your grade point average just a little higher or working on a community development project.

You should focus heavily on the scholarships for which you are fully qualified, making sure to read all of the eligibility requirements carefully. Before submitting any application, essay, or proposal, take your time and have one or two well-educated friends or mentors review your work.

How to Find Scholarships?

Financial Aid Office

Start your search with the financial aid office at your school. They will have the inside information on any academic or departmental scholarships offered by your college and will often have the application and eligibility requirements right there in the office—a true one-stop shop.

College Departments

It never hurts to contact the department for your field of study to see if they know of any outside scholarships for which you may qualify. They might be able to put you in touch with a corporation or non-profit organization looking to assist students with college tuition.


Many businesses, organizations, and associations within your own community have set up scholarship funds to help give back to a community that has supported them. Start with religious organizations, civic clubs, and other non-profit associations.

Companies and Corporations

Many companies are willing to invest in the education of future colleagues. By helping a student in a particular field of expertise succeed, they are investing in the future of their business. Some may even keep you on their radar as a hopeful new hire.

Scholarships Databases

The internet is a great resource for finding scholarships. For example, if you are good at swimming, do a search on “swimming + scholarships.” There are even databases that provide a comprehensive list of available scholarships based on some initial information that it gathers from you. When using an online database, just be careful to avoid financial aid scams. A rule of thumb is that you should never have to pay to find scholarships. Any site that says it will find more scholarships if you pay to have them search for you is probably not legitimate.

Types of Scholarships:

Scholarships do not have to be repaid once you graduate from college. Most scholarships are merit-based, but some may be based on a combination of merit and need. Scholarships are not awarded by the government, so there is no limit on the amount of money you can receive. Additionally, you do not have to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) to apply for a scholarship, although it is recommended that all student complete and submit the FAFSA because you may qualify for federal grant money.

Academic Scholarships

The most common type of scholarship is an academic scholarship. An academic scholarship is based on your grade point average, and this is one type of scholarship offered by many schools. Good students are good investments for colleges, so many will reward hard-working students who maintain a high grade point average and/or do well on standardized tests like the ACT or SAT.

Minority Scholarships

You may qualify for scholarships just by being you. Minority scholarships can be based on race, gender, or ethnicity. A group of people that is or has been considered underprivileged have the right to an equal education, and this is where minority scholarships come into play. Good examples are scholarships for women and scholarships for Hispanics.

Athletic Scholarships

If you have a natural talent for any sport, you may qualify for an athletic scholarship. Many schools recruit for these scholarships but sometimes give consideration to athletes willing to work or play for the team for a year before being put on scholarship. Remember, it doesn’t have to be about the fame and glory of being a star athlete. Even if you sit the bench most games while earning a free education, it will be worth it when you graduate and start a career with no debt.

Merit Scholarships

Merit scholarships are generally awarded for special interests or academic, artistic, or athletic merit. A few merit scholarships do take into consideration an applicant’s financial need, but most are awarded based on one’s talent. Merit scholarship applicants must meet certain criteria in order to be considered for the award.


Some companies may award scholarships to their employees’ children or spouses, while other funding sources select recipients based on their involvement and contributions to their community. Membership organizations may award scholarships to students who have exhibited an interest in promoting their same goal. Some schools may use scholarships for a particular major as a recruiting tool to keep their college community diverse, encouraging a well-balanced representation.

Other Scholarships

There are many different types of scholarships out there for some of the most unusual things, such as scholarships if you know many facts about the FBI, like to skate, are unusually tall, or can write or draw. There is also a long list of scholarship providers for students who wish to study abroad.

Full Scholarships vs. Partial Scholarships

Most prospective students hope to secure enough scholarship money to pay for all college expenses, including tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and maybe a little extra just for fun. The chances of getting enough money to pay for all of those fees can be slim. That’s why it’s beneficial to apply for more than one scholarship, even if some of them only award small amounts of money.

Full Scholarships

Full scholarships generally cover the entire cost of attendance. These are usually awarded by the college and are given to the students with the most impressive academic success or abilities. Many athletic programs offer full scholarships to their most talented athletes.

Partial Scholarships

Don’t worry if your academic credentials aren’t at the genius level. There are still opportunities to receive one or more partial scholarships from a school. For example, you may qualify for a partial academic scholarship based on your grade point average and also be eligible to receive a departmental scholarship based on previous academic success in a particular subject.

Many outside scholarships are also partial scholarships, meaning they only pay for a portion of your educational expenses. A religious organization may award a partial scholarship for books, while a local business might pick up the tab for your room and board. The key is to piece many of these small scholarships together until you have at least enough money, if not more, to pay for all of your expenses.

Scholarship FAQs

What types of scholarships are there? Scholarships usually fall into two major categories: merit-based and need-based. Merit-based scholarships are based on excellence in a specific area while need-based scholarships are awarded based on financial need.

I meet some, but not all, of the eligibility requirements for the scholarship. Should I still apply? No. There will be too many applicants who meet ALL of the requirements, and your application will probably be tossed out in the first round. Focus your time and energy on those scholarships for which you are sure you qualify.

What are scholarship selection committees looking for? It really depends on what type of scholarship you are seeking. Each sponsor is looking for something different based on the criteria listed in the scholarship. Read the scholarship requirements carefully.

If I get a scholarship, can I still get other types of financial aid? You can still receive other types of aid, such as loans and grants (if eligible); however, your scholarship will reduce the amount of money needed to meet the financial need. This may affect how much loan or grant money you can receive.

Can I find more scholarship opportunities by paying someone to search for me? You will be able to find a scholarship just as well as anyone else. Typically, if someone claims they can find more scholarships for you for a fee or guarantees you a scholarship if you pay them to search for you, it’s probably a scam. Use caution when dealing with these types of companies or websites.

When should I apply for scholarships? You should start your search early in order to meet scholarship deadlines. Check the guidelines very carefully for each scholarship application. Most financial aid offices recommend that you start your scholarship search a year before you plan to begin classes.

How much does it cost to apply for a scholarship? Legitimate scholarships should not require any type of fee to apply. If you are asked to pay in order to submit your application, you should beware of a scam.

List of Scholarships for College Students:

  • Adelante! U.S. Education Leadership Fund College Scholarship
  • Air Force ROTC College Scholarships College Scholarship
  • American Architectural Foundation College Scholarship
  • American Art Therapy Association College Scholarship
  • American Council on Rural Species Education College Scholarship
  • American Geological Institute College Scholarship
  • American GI Forum of the US College Scholarship Fund College Scholarship
  • American Institute of Architects Foundation College Scholarship
  • American Mensa Education and Research Foundation College Scholarship
  • American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) College Scholarship
  • Bilingual Educators College Scholarship
  • Boettcher Foundation College Scholarship
  • Burger King Scholars Program College Scholarship
  • Central Intelligence Agency College Scholarship
  • CIA Summer Internship Program College Scholarship
  • Clavis Club of Morgan County, Inc. College Scholarship
  • Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Inc. College College Scholarship
  • College Board College Scholarship
  • College Bound Magazine College Scholarship
  • College in Colorado College Scholarship
  • College Invest College Scholarship
  • Colorado – Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation College Scholarship
  • Colorado Council of High School and College Relations College Scholarship
  • Colorado Educational Services and Development Assoc. (CESDA) College Scholarship
  • Colorado Society of CPA’s  College Scholarship
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc. College Scholarship
  • Denver Foundation College Scholarship
  • Denver Urban League College Scholarship Search College Scholarship
  • Department of the Interior College Scholarship
  • Discover Card College Scholarship
  • Duracell/NSTA College Scholarship Competition College Scholarship
  • Eisenhower~Evans College Scholarship Fund College Scholarship
  • Foundation for Science and Disability, Inc. College Scholarship
  • Google Anita Borg Memorial College Scholarship College Scholarship
  • Grant Program for Physically Disabled Students in the Sciences College Scholarship
  • Hispanic Annual Salute College Scholarship
  • Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities College Scholarship
  • Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – Denver College Scholarship
  • Hispanic College Fund, Inc. College Scholarship
  • Hispanic College Scholarship Fund College Scholarship
  • Hispanic Contractors of Colorado College Scholarship
  • Hispanic Education Institute College Scholarship
  • Hispanic Heritage Foundation College Scholarship
  • Hispanic Public Relations Association College Scholarship
  • Jackie Robinson Foundation College Scholarship
  • Kaplan/Newsweek College Scholarship
  • Latin American Educational Foundation College Scholarship
  • Latin American Support Organization College Scholarship
  • League of United Latin American Citizens College Scholarship
  • League of United Latin American Citizens College Scholarship
  • Margaret Howard Hamilton College Scholarships College Scholarship
  • Margaret Howard Hamilton College Scholarships College Scholarship
  • Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement College Scholarship
  • Mayor’s Office of Employment and Training College Scholarship
  • McDonald’s Corporation College Scholarship
  • Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund College Scholarship
  • National Academy of American Scholars College Scholarship
  • National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering College Scholarship
  • National Aeronautics & Space Administration College Scholarship
  • National Association of Hispanic Journalists College Scholarship
  • National Association of Hispanic Journalists College Scholarship
  • National Association of Hispanic Nurses College Scholarship
  • National Association of Letter Carriers College Scholarship
  • National Education Service Centers, Inc. College Scholarship
  • National Future Farmers of America College Scholarship
  • National Hispanic Coalition of Federal Aviation Employees College Scholarship
  • National Merit College Scholarship College Scholarship
  • National Scholars Foundation College Scholarship
  • National Science Foundation College Scholarship
  • National Society Daughters of the American Revolution College Scholarship
  • North Carolina State Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services College Scholarship
  • NSHMBA College Scholarship
  • Phi Delta Kappa International College Scholarship
  • Pinnacol Foundation College Scholarship
  • Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Teaching College Scholarship
  • Private Colleges and Universities College Scholarship
  • Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation College Scholarship
  • RC Easley National College Scholarship College Scholarship
  • Scholarships – Bill & Melinda GatesFoundation College Scholarship
  • Scholarships for Hispanics College Scholarship
  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Foundation College Scholarship
  • SOMOS College Scholarship
  • The Gates Millennium Scholars Program College Scholarship
  • The Westinghouse Science Talent Search College Scholarship
  • United Negro College Fund College Scholarship
  • United States Jaycees War Memorial Fund College Scholarship
  • US Department of Education College Scholarship
  • US Department of Health & Human Services College Scholarship
  • US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) College Scholarship College Scholarship
  • Vista College Scholarship Guide for Hispanic College Scholarship
  • Voices of America Youth Essay College Scholarship Contest College Scholarship
  • Wal-Mart Foundation College Scholarship
  • Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars College Scholarship
  • Washington Crossing Foundation College Scholarship