Types of Scholarships

Ready to start your journey?

If you’re ready to being your educational journey, you may be wondering what types of scholarships are right for you.

Types of Scholarships

A scholarship can help you go to college while saving money on your degree. Scholarships do not have to be paid back and are awarded on a variety of eligibility requirements. For example, you can apply for a scholarship that is merit-based, need-based, or location-based.

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We’re going to define the most common types of scholarships for college students so you know how to tell when you’ve found the right one.

Different Types of Scholarships

Scholarships are a great resource for students entering college or going back to school later in life. They can help you budget your degree program properly ensuring you start your future off on the right foot. There are many different types of scholarships available and you may find that more than one suits your needs or skills, including:

Below we outline the common type of scholarships available.

Athletic Scholarships

College students with Athletic Scholarships

Many students are familiar with these types of college scholarships, though the qualifications can be very rigorous.  As the name implies, athletic scholarships are awarded based on a student’s performance in a particular sport.

Schools that participate in NAIA or NCAA Division I and II sports may offer scholarships to students to encourage them to attend– and compete on behalf of– a particular school. Schools with very competitive clubs or non-team sports may offer scholarships for students who excel at those sports, as well.

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Frequently, athletic scholarships have a minimum GPA requirement in addition to top-notch performance in a chosen sport.

Career Specific Scholarships

Students granted of Career Specific Scholarships

Have you known what you want to do for a living since you were 10? Do you know what you want to major in, where you want to intern, and what company you want to work for? If so, our hats are off to you you’re quite the planner!

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Career-specific scholarships are made for people like you or at least for students who know what they want to major in. They’re awarded by industry-specific and career-oriented organizations looking to help the next generation of professionals succeed!

College Specific Scholarships

students with College Specific Scholarships

Once you know where you want to go to college (and get accepted), you could be eligible for a scholarship awarded by that college. These types of local scholarships are sometimes given to help students who have a financial need, but can also be awarded on the basis of personal or academic achievement.

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And now you know what the five major types of scholarships are! Although there are many kinds of specific scholarships available, for the most part they fit into one of these buckets. Hopefully, this knowledge will help you as you begin (or continue) your scholarship search.

Community Service Scholarships

Students with Community Service Scholarships

Students who engage with and strive to make an impact on their community may be eligible for this type of scholarship for college. Frequently, applicants are asked to complete an essay and demonstrate their dedication to community service, education, and improvement.  You may also be asked to complete an interview to discuss your achievements.

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These types of scholarships are often offered through various professional organizations, community associations, or corporate entities that champion the idea of getting involved and giving back. In some cases, community service scholarships can include networking and professional development opportunities.

Employee Scholarships

Father and daughter applying for Employee Scholarships

If you are heading to college following high school, your parents or guardians may wish to check with their employers to see if a company scholarship is offered.

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If you are employed at the time you plan to attend college, you may wish to check with your employer as well to determine what scholarship opportunities are available. While not all employers offer scholarships, some do provide tuition assistance or reimbursement, so it may be very beneficial to look into this type of program.  Your employer may pay you and pay for your education, as well!

Government Scholarships

Students with Government Scholarships

Government scholarships may be offered in a variety of scenarios.  These types of awards may be offered at the Federal, state, or local level.

If you, your parents, or your guardians currently work for the government, you may be eligible to receive additional funds for your education. Your state government may also offer identity-based, needs-based, or situation-based scholarships.

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It’s a good idea to search specifically for scholarships offered by your state for students from various backgrounds. You may also be able to apply for scholarships offered to students in your county, city, or town.

Location Based Scholarships

Students with Location Based Scholarships

Scholarships for students from a specific region or location are not always sponsored by the local government, though.

Local organizations, such as businesses, professional groups, or community groups may have a scholarship fund offered to help students from the area.  The money from these scholarships is often donated by local individuals or through fundraisers.

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Students who apply for these scholarships are frequently asked to provide proof of residence and submit essays that explain how they believe a college education will change their lives. You may or may not have an association with the organization providing the scholarship in order to apply.

Merit Based Scholarships

students with Merit Based Scholarships

These are the most common types of scholarships that can serve as financial aid for student college costs. They are awarded to students who can demonstrate high levels of achievement in a certain area.

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Often, that simply means they go to people with a really great GPA or rock star test scores. But merit scholarships can also be awarded on the basis of athletic ability, extracurricular involvement or even volunteerism.

Military Scholarships

military student checking available Scholarships online

Active and reserve military members as well as veterans of the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy may be eligible for military scholarships. In some cases, scholarships are offered to children of military members and veterans.

The types of scholarships can vary based on the military branch and stipulations of the scholarship, but many are offered to students following discharge from service. Military colleges and academies may also provide scholarships for enlisted students.

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Some schools with less direct affiliation with the US Military may offer Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) scholarships, too.

Need Based Scholarships

Friends researching on Need Based Scholarships

As you might expect, these scholarships go to students who really need them, financially speaking. The majority of need-based scholarships come from the federal government and are awarded based on the information you’ll supply in your FAFSA.

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However, there are also tons of organizations with need-based scholarship programs. It’s just a matter of finding them.

No Essay Scholarships

Student searching for No Essay Scholarship

Many different scholarships for college have an essay requirement, but there are some that do not.  Some of the qualifications for these scholarships can be unique and specific.

No essay scholarships often have the easiest application process, but may not be so easy to win due to the high number of students who are interested in the award.

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In some cases, students are entered into a raffle-like process, where the winner is chosen at random.  In others, students are asked to provide an alternative to an essay, such as a performance, creative project, or portfolio.

Scholarships for Minorities

Immigrant students who availed of Scholarships for Minorities

There are a variety of scholarships offered based on an individual’s nationality or ethnic identity. These scholarships may be offered at the national level, by private donors and organizations, or through school diversity programs or Greek organizations.

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Some scholarships are offered specifically to individuals who have immigrated to the United States, while others are based on ancestry and heritage. Common scholarships for minorities are based on a specific race, ethnicity, or country of origin, though this is not always the case.  Some scholarships are extended to all students who identify as minorities at a particular college.

Scholarships for Women

College students granted of Scholarships for Women

Some scholarships are specifically offered to female students.  These awards may be for women who attend a particular college or study a certain field.

Scholarships may be offered for women who pursue historically “non-traditional” or male-dominated degrees, such as technology, or very specific fields, such as wildlife management or statistics. Additionally, some needs-based scholarships are for women who have faced a particular scenario or hardship, such as being a single mother or living within a certain financial bracket.

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Eligibility for these scholarships may be merit or financially-based, though many take both aspects into consideration.

STEM Scholarships

Friends with STEM Scholarships working on their project

Some scholarships are offered to students who choose to study a particular field.  Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) scholarships are available to students who choose a major in any of these fields.

In order to qualify for this type of scholarship, a student must announce their intention to major in one of these fields.  Frequently, they will also be asked to maintain a certain GPA throughout their studies.

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Some STEM scholarships are extended to students based on their ethnic or gender identity, though this is not always the case.  Some major-based scholarships are based strictly on academic performance.

Student Specific / Individual Scholarships

Two students checking scholarship opportunities online

These are the scholarships you can get just for being you! Student-specific scholarships are given out to people who satisfy the specific requirements of the organization giving out the scholarship. So, a scholarship awarded because of your ethnic background would be considered a student-specific scholarship.

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Common types of student-specific or individual scholarships include religious scholarships, legacy scholarships, identity-based scholarships, and first-generation scholarships. These scholarships are tailored toward what makes a student unique.

Alternatives to Scholarships

Students checking on Alternatives to Scholarships

There are more opportunities for financial aid beyond scholarships.  If you wish to pursue sources of funding beyond or in addition to scholarships, here are a few alternatives to consider:

  • Grants: This type of financial aid is provided by a variety of sources.  They may be offered at the Federal or State level, but many grants are offered by private donors.  These donors may be businesses, professional organizations, or individuals who wish to assist students of a particular school, major, program, or activity.
  • Federal Student Loans:  These loans are provided by the Federal government to undergraduate and graduate-level students. Loans funded by the United States Government are often provided on a needs-based scale.  To determine if you are eligible for a loan, the first step is to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Private Student Loans: Private student loans are frequently offered by banks or other financial institutions.  You may be asked to complete a credit check, and the terms of the loan will be determined by the lending institution.

    You may wish to explore options available through your school or community to learn more.

    What Are Scholarships?

    different type of scholarships

    Scholarships are a type of financial award provided to students.  Each scholarship has certain criteria by which students are offered that specific award, and may be directed towards a specific expense, such as tuition, room and board, or supplies.

    Furthermore, the qualifications for each scholarship will differ from school to school, so it’s a good idea to review each’s school’s specific outlines for the scholarships they offer and how you may be eligible for them.

    What Are Full Ride Scholarships?

    Student showing her Full Ride Scholarship award to her friend

    Among the many scholarships for school are what are called “full-ride” scholarships.  These types of college scholarships provide financial support for all expenses, including tuition, room and board, meal plans, books, and supplies, and may even provide extra for living costs.

    Not all schools provide full-ride scholarships, though some full-ride scholarships are offered through external sources, such as state-sponsored, government-funded, or military service-based awards. Though full-ride scholarships are common enough that many people are familiar with the term, they are not awarded frequently.  An estimated 1% of students may be offered a full ride.

    How Long Do Scholarships Last?

    student with Scholarship studying in the library

    Scholarships are a financial gift, and as such, the organization, institution, or individual offering this gift frequently chooses to put stipulations on their award. This means that your scholarship may cover only specified expenses, depending on certain terms and conditions, and have an expiration date.

    While some scholarships roll over from year to year, some have an annual reapplication process that students should complete in order to keep their scholarships.  Additionally, the awarding party may state that the scholarship is to be used within a certain timeframe.

    What’s the Difference Between Grants vs. Scholarships?

    student working on his scholarship application

    Grants and scholarships are often similar, in that they are gifts of money towards a student’s education and do not have to be paid back.  There are a few differences, though.

    A grant:

    • Is often based on a student’s financial situation
    • May come from government or private sources
    • May have an application process that asks for your and your family’s financial history

    A scholarship:

    • Is frequently merit-based
    • Often provided directly from a donor
    • May have an application process that includes essays, activities, transcripts, and performance aspects

    It’s a good idea to research the stipulations and process for any award you may receive.

    Are Scholarships Worth It?

    scholar studying with friends in the library

    Yes, scholarships are worth it for many students.  Scholarships have been helping students pay for their college experience for many years, and can be very beneficial for those who may otherwise not be able to afford college.

    Some scholarships are easier to obtain than others, but keep in mind that there is a vast variety of opportunities available. You may find scholarship opportunities in your community, employer, professional organizations, private donors, and associated with specific demographics.

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    A scholarship can help you achieve your career goals allowing you to afford college and earn your degree. For example, if you earn a STEM scholarship and earn your degree in environmental science, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), environmental scientists are expected to see a 5% growth over the next decade.

    Getting Your Scholarship

    Friends discussing about getting Scholarships

    If you are interested in receiving help when paying for your education, you may wish to investigate the types of scholarships that are available to you.  This may involve a significant amount of research, so it’s a good idea to get started early.

    As you review the various accredited schools you may wish to attend, consider reviewing the scholarship opportunities posted on the school’s website.  You may also wish to reach out to an admissions representative for further details.

    While some scholarships have many stipulations, it can be a very rewarding experience to win financial assistance for your education.

    Ready to start your journey?
    Jason Collins
    WRITTEN BY Jason Collins

    Jason has a bachelor in English Literature from Loyola Marymount University with a minor in history. A life-long learner with a love of science, philosophy, and history, he works in career enrichment, professional development, and improved business practices.