Scholarships For College

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Earning a college degree can cost a lot of money, but luckily there are many scholarships for college available that may ease the burden.

Scholarships For College

Although many of the scholarships and financial aid for students come from the colleges they attend, there are ways you can get a head start on paying for college now.

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Beginning your search for scholarships early can help keep you from missing out on excellent money-earning opportunities.

Scholarships for College

Many students seek financial aid for college. Between tuition, room and board, and textbooks, the expenses accumulate quickly.

There are many ways to earn college student scholarships. Many people are familiar with scholarships for academic or athletic achievement, but those are just two options.

Here we’ve accumulated a list of different types of scholarships for undergraduate students:

Exploring your options may help you determine which scholarships path is right for you.

Full-Ride Scholarships

Full-Ride Scholarships

Full-ride scholarship opportunities for college students have a bit of mystique about them. It’s true that they are among the more rare types of university scholarships. These types of scholarships often include more than tuition, though.

Frequently, a full-ride scholarship will not only cover tuition, but book and materials prices, university fees, and room and board, and may even provide a stipend for cost of living expenses. Full-ride scholarships may be offered by the university, private donors, or through government programs.

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Each awarding party will determine its own criteria for full-ride eligibility. Some common examples include:

  • Academic merit
  • Leadership skills and community service
  • Financial needs

Some full-ride opportunities may be established based on legacy attendance, cultural identity, or involvement in government programs, such as ROTC. While full-ride scholarships may not be the most easily obtained type of college student scholarships, there are many opportunities for these that you may wish to explore when applying to college.

Minority Scholarships

Minority Scholarships

Some scholarship opportunities for college students are tied to their heritage, culture, sex or gender identity, ethnic heritage, or other minority groups.

University scholarships for minority groups are often provided to encourage diversity and opportunity for all students, and some schools offer their own minority scholarships. Minority scholarships may also be offered by community, professional, or national organizations or in conjunction with specific majors or career paths.

These types of scholarships often include a rigorous application process. They often take into account each student’s community involvement, academic performance, financial challenges, and extracurricular involvement, including employment as a student.

While each scholarship can establish its own guidelines for application, minority scholarships may include those offered to those who are:

  • Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color (BIPOC)
  • Of a specific faith or religious group

If you identify as a member of a minority community, you may wish to explore scholarship opportunities within your community.

No-Essay Scholarships

No-Essay Scholarships

As the name implies, no-essay scholarships are those which do not require applicants to submit an essay. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to do any work in order to receive these college student scholarships.

Some ask applicants to submit a photo, video, or project to be eligible for the award. So, while you don’t have to worry about completing a lengthy, poignant essay, you may wish to carefully review each option to determine:

  • Who is eligible to apply? Some offer scholarships for current college students, while others are strictly for high school students applying to college for the first time.
  • What are the requirements for the application? These may be a video, project, or online form.
  • How often is the award offered? You may find opportunities awarded on a semester or quarterly basis.

If essays are not your strongest skill, this type of scholarship may be worth considering.

Scholarships for Community College Students

Scholarships for Community College Students

There are a variety of reasons a student may choose community college. While tuition expenses are often less than that of a larger college or university, fees, textbooks, and commuting can quickly become financially stressful.

The scholarships offered to community college students are primarily needs-based but may also take into consideration a variety of other factors, including:

  • A student’s major or professional aspirations
  • Minority status
  • Whether the student plans to transfer to a 4 year college program

Other scholarships may be offered for academic accomplishments and demonstrated leadership skills. Those who are eligible for Phi Theta Kappa honors society may also qualify for additional scholarships.

Community college scholarship opportunities are frequently offered by private or corporate organizations. Some are offered at the national level, while others may only be available to those in your community. Some community colleges provide their own programs for students who are challenged by finances.

Scholarships for Women

Scholarships for Women

Only in recent years has the number of women enrolled in college begun to match and even overtake the number of male enrollees.

While women may be eligible and encouraged to apply for other scholarships, including those for minorities, some scholarships are exclusively extended to women. These scholarships are frequently offered by national or professional organizations, corporations or businesses, and private donors. Some are memorial degrees established in trust.

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The eligibility requirements for these scholarships can vary. Frequently, scholarships for women can be categorized based on:

  • Area of study, such as STEM or liberal arts
  • Minority status
  • Career plans, such as medicine or education

Women’s scholarships for undergraduate students and graduate students alike may be available based on financial considerations, as well. Women may wish to investigate scholarship opportunities for their planned field of study and professional goals, as well as personal identity and financial challenges.

STEM Scholarships

STEM Scholarships

The STEM fields—Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math—prepare students for some of the fastest-growing career fields today.

If you are interested in professions that involve research, innovation, application, and evaluation, you may wish to consider STEM scholarships. In many cases, you will be asked to officially declare a major in these fields. Often, these scholarships are created and awarded by large corporations within STEM fields, including medical manufacturing, global engineering companies, aeronautics leaders, or biochemical suppliers.

Those who are interested in STEM scholarships may wish to narrow down their options based on:

  • Field of study they are interested in
  • Future professional roles they may pursue
  • Personal identity, including gender, race, religion, or other minority designation

The applications for these scholarships may be rigorous. They may require interviews, video conferences, photo or video submissions, or tests, tasks, or projects to complete to demonstrate your current proficiency and process.

Unique Scholarships

Unique Scholarships

The term “unique” refers to the eligibility requirements for these types of scholarships. Some are specific to degree types, such as STEM fields, education, computer science, or culinary arts.

Others request that applicants complete an essay on a specific topic or construct a final project that meets certain requirements. Unique scholarship entries are treated as a contest, with each entry submitted prior to the deadline judged on a variety of merits.

Some of these scholarships are intended to gauge applicants’:

  • Creativity and ability to work within exact parameters
  • Talent in an area not part of most academic programs
  • Ability to communicate their knowledge of a particular topic

The many types of unique scholarship opportunities for college students are often provided by businesses and corporations as part of their community involvement initiatives. As a result, the requirements can be oddly specific or just plain odd, so it’s important to review each application carefully.

Tips on How to Apply for Scholarships for College

student applying for college scholarships

Since there are many different types of university scholarships, there is no singular “right” way to apply. You may find yourself better prepared to navigate the scholarship application process by considering some of these helpful tips:

  • Set aside plenty of time to research the many options and opportunities available to you, as some are more publicly known than others.
  • Select several different scholarships and financial aid possibilities to improve your chances of receiving one.
  • Stay organized through the application process to avoid confusion or challenges.
  • Read everything carefully, including eligibility, application requirements, essay or project guidelines, dates, and submission method.
  • Review the application process in detail before you start, including how to follow up on your application once submitted.

It’s a good idea to hunt for as many potential scholarship opportunities as possible to help you pay for college. That may mean doing a significant amount of research through professional organizations, corporations, community groups, and even social media.

It’s also important to keep track of each different scholarship, including the award amount, deadlines, and requirements. This will not only help you decide which ones to pursue but also keep you organized throughout the process.

Apply for Scholarships Today

applying for scholarships

Scholarships are based on your academics and talents, as well as your extracurricular activities, leadership roles, and community service work. They provide money you don’t need to pay back.

According to Cyndi Sweet, former executive director for admissions and financial aid of Maryville University (MO), sophomores and juniors can begin an online scholarship search anytime.

“While they may not be able to apply right away, they will be able to research the types of scholarships that are available and the qualifications and criteria needed when the application is available,” she explains.

“The Federal Student Aid site is a great place to gather information about grants, scholarships, and loans, as it breaks down the process into easy-to-understand steps. Other reputable sites include Fastweb, Chegg, and College Xpress.”

Kate Brittain, director of recruitment and enrollment for Rutgers University (NJ), agrees that Fastweb is a good source of information for finding money for college, along with Unigo and others.

“They both list literally millions of scholarships available from freshman year of high school all the way through graduate school. The U.S. Department of Labor also offers a website to search for scholarships based on the education level you are pursuing (CareerOneStop),” Brittain explains.

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There are even schools that offer free tuition for low income students. Local and community foundations, professional associations, ethnic organizations, churches, nonprofits, and corporations all offer scholarships. There are scholarships for all types: for students under 5 feet tall, for students with red hair, for students who volunteer, and even for students who write a 250-word essay on what ice cream flavor they’d like to be.

tips for applying college scholarships

To find local scholarships, you may search the terms “scholarship foundations” and your city or state. It is also important to ask others, including teachers and high school guidance counselors, your boss, your parents’ employers, and leaders of school and community organizations you participate in, about scholarships or other awards you may apply for.

You may also be able to find opportunities through national or regional professional associations related to your preferred field of study. An admissions counselor can help you with this, or you may do a web search for the academic major and association scholarships (e.g. dietic association scholarships).

As you start your search, a word of caution:

“Legitimate scholarship providers want to help students attend college, not earn a profit from the student,” explains Brittain. “Students should also be wary of unsolicited scholarship offers. Legitimate scholarship providers are not looking to reward a student who hasn’t applied or put forth any effort in receiving the award.

Like anything, students should read the fine print and make sure they understand the terms. For instance, are there any specified renewal criteria they should be aware of?” When in doubt, it’s important to remember that legitimate scholarships will not ask you to pay to apply.

Write or Create Videos that Offer Money for College

Man searching for contests that offers money for college

“Scholarships for high school sophomores and juniors are typically smaller in dollar amount, but individual awards can add up over time,” says Sweet. “Many of these scholarships are based around competitions of some type, which may include essays, projects, or interviews.”

“The nice aspect of [essay contests, etc.] is that they broaden the criteria used for awarding scholarships,” says Brittain.

“Academic performance is no longer the main factor, and instead, talents, interests, expression through an essay, community service, residency, membership to a certain association, etc. … would be considered, which allows a younger audience to join the pool of candidates.”

Other than the format, video contests are like essay contests in terms of content and creative expression. Large corporations and other organizations often offer these types of contests. Organizations determine the topic or subject for the contest. Then you get to be creative and have fun while trying to earn prize money.

National competitions often require local or state competitions prior to advancing to the national level, so it’s important to look for these opportunities early in your sophomore and junior years to meet the deadlines.

What Are Scholarships for College Students?

college students applying for scholarships

Scholarships are one of the many types of financial aid for college. They may be offered to high school students preparing for college and current undergraduate students.

Scholarships are funded by a variety of donors. Those that are offered directly through the university may be based on alumni contributions. Others may be funded by the government, corporations, community initiatives, or private individuals.

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University scholarships may be offered to students based on financial status, academic or athletic performance, hobbies and interests, personal identity, or declared educational and professional goals.

How Do Scholarships Work?

Scholarships can work in many different ways, so it’s a good idea to review the terms of each award during the application process.

Some scholarships are offered as one-time awards in a lump sum payment. These may be issued to you directly or sent to your school’s financial aid department for processing toward your academic expenses. Other scholarships renew and are paid on a regular basis, such as each semester. These are frequently arranged for direct payment through your school’s bursar office to cover tuition expenses.

Do You Have to Pay Back Scholarships?

student searching for scholarships online

Generally speaking, you do not have to pay back scholarships. Like grants, these are considered gifts directly from the donor or awarding party.

There may be stipulations surrounding scholarships. For example, if you receive a scholarship based on your declared major and switch your major, you may wish to review what implications that may have in regard to your scholarships.

Loans are financial aid options that have to be paid back. The terms and conditions of paying back student loans are discussed throughout the application process.

Where to Apply for Scholarships?

Many different businesses, professional organizations, communities, interest groups, government entities, and employers offer scholarships.

Starting your search for scholarships for undergraduate students can be tough, but there are several places you can look, including:

  • Scholarship websites and directories
  • Targeted online searches through search engines
  • Federal, state, and local government agencies
  • Social media
  • Local and national hobby or interest groups

It’s important to take your time and carefully conduct your search because there are many options to consider.

When Should You Start Applying for Scholarships?

student applying for scholarship online

Most experts encourage students to start applying for scholarships after their junior year of high school, but there are many opportunities to apply, depending on the scholarships you choose to pursue.

As you are beginning to apply to colleges and universities, it’s not a bad idea to start investigating scholarship opportunities. As you do so, it’s important to keep an eye on the deadlines and application guidelines. Some scholarships are earmarked for a particular academic year, while others select applicants and award recipients throughout the year.

Can You Apply for Scholarships in College?

Yes, undergraduate students may apply for scholarships while they are actively enrolled in school. Though many scholarships are offered to incoming college enrollees, many are also awarded exclusively to those who are already studying.

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College student scholarships may be offered for those pursuing a specific major or professional path because many students do not declare their major until their sophomore year. Many scholarships for current college students are based on academic merit, as well, and may require an essay or references as part of the application process.

What’s the Difference Between Grants vs. Scholarships?

grants vs scholarships

Grants and scholarships are quite similar, in that each is considered a free “gift” of money to apply towards your education.

There are a few differences.


  • Offered by the school and federal or state governments
  • Frequently associated with income levels


  • Can be offered by many types of donors
  • Frequently based on merit and an application process

While both provide financial assistance to college students, the source and application process is often different.

Is a Scholarship Worth it?

student seeking scholarships

Yes, a scholarship is worth it for many students. When seeking financial aid for college, it can feel like the options and stipulations of many opportunities are overwhelming, but doing so can be very helpful.

Scholarships are usually gifts from a particular party, which means you don’t have to worry about paying it back or changing interest rates. The BLS notes that unemployment rates are lower and median weekly earnings are higher for those who have completed some college over those whose highest education level is a high school diploma.

A scholarship may help with the financial stress that occurs when pursuing your college degree.

20 Scholarships for College

Here are a variety of scholarships you can explore:

  1. Excelsior Scholarship – Up to $5,500
  2. Coca-Cola Community College Academic – $1,000 to $1,500
  3. National Merit Scholarships – $2,500
  4.  Hispanic Scholarship Fund – $500 to $5,000
  5. Niche No Essay $50,000 Scholarship – $50,000
  6. Sallie Mae Scholarship – $2,000
  7. Be Bold No-Essay Scholarship – $25,000
  8. Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship – Up to $35,000 over four years
  9. AISES Polaris Vocational Trades Scholarships – $1,500
  10. Tylenol Future Care Scholarship – $5,000 and $10,000
  11. Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program – Up to $7,500
  12. Dell Scholars – $20,000
  13. Davidson Institute Fellows Scholarship – $10,000, $25,000 and $50,000
  14. Fisher House Scholarships Program – $2,000
  15. Washington Crossing Foundation – $500 to $5,000
  16. Foot Locker Scholar Athletes Program – $20,000
  17. BMW/SAE Engineering Scholarship – $1,500 per year
  18. Microsoft BAM Scholarship – Up to $20,000 over 4 years ($5,000 per year)
  19. McDonald’s HACER National Scholarship – Up to $100,000
  20. GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program – Up to $40,000

Each scholarship opportunity will have its own qualifications and application process. You can also research any local scholarships that may be available near you.

Getting Your Scholarship for College

student researching scholarship for college

There are many college student scholarships available, but searching for them can take some time, patience, and organizational skills.

If you are considering your undergraduate degree, you may wish to begin the process of searching for scholarships at the same time as you narrow down your choices of accredited schools and programs. Scholarships are intended to help students with the financial stress of paying for college.

Taking your time and applying to many of the different options presented here may help alleviate your expenses and make your collegiate dreams a reality!

Ready to start your journey?
Elizabeth Abner
WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.