Paying off your student debt fast is great but not having student loans is even better! Here I will walk through how to apply for school scholorships and help reduce your cost for getting an education.
To lessen the financial burden of attending an institution of higher learning, whether it is at a community college, college, or university, scholarships are a very viable option. Scholarships are essentially money granted to students for the purpose of pursuing their educations, and do not need to be repaid. Scholarships can be divided into several categories: need-based scholarships, merit scholarships, and athletic scholarships.
Why apply for a scholarship? The process can sometimes be convoluted, but the results are worth it. Scholarships can reduce the need for loans, and also relieve what is often the parents’ burden of having to pay for an expensive education.
Need-based scholarships are the most common form of scholarship offered. Sometimes these scholarships will be full-ride, meaning that they cover the full cost of tuition (and sometimes will offer stipends to cover additional costs, like textbooks and other school materials). Other times, the scholarship will cover part of the tuition. How large a need-based scholarship is dependent on two factors: the demonstrated financial need of the scholarship applicant, and the scholarship funds available to the source, whether it is on the federal, state, or individual university level. At the very least, a need-based scholarships will require the scholarship applicant to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
More information about this can be found on the Federal Student Aid website, http://studentaid.ed.gov/, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be accessed here: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/.
Merit-based scholarships are much more selective and reserved for those that demonstrate academic distinction. This can be demonstrated by having an excellent grade point average, standardized tests, awards, prizes, and recommendations. Typically, merit-based scholarships will also require that the applicant submit essays and undergo an extensive interview process. Merit-based scholarships are offered by universities, and corporations, the latter of which may have stipulations on obligatory service to the given corporation after completion of the degree. One example of a corporate scholarship is the Coca Cola Scholars Program for which high school students in their senior year can apply to. Information about scholarships can be found on the individual financial websites of their respective colleges or universities, as well as the corporate websites of the sponsoring companies.
Athletic scholarships are often full-ride, meaning that they cover the full cost of tuition. In some cases, the NCAA will offer specific stipends on a per semester basis with the intention of allowing student athletes to buy athletic equipment. Division I and Division II schools will offer athletic scholarships, whereas Division III schools will not. However, Division III schools will often give scholarships to athletes that are euphemistically named “Leadership Scholarship”, for instance, in order to cover the cost of an student athlete’s education.
It is important to note that Ivy League universities do not offer athletic scholarships. However, a recent tactic that Ivy League institutions have adopted in their recruitment strategies is to target athletes that live in specific low-income areas, which allows for the university to offer a need-based scholarship to the student, thereby affording the student an Ivy League education as well as strengthening the athletic capacity of the university itself.