If you have your sights set on attending college, you’ll eventually need to figure out how you’re going to pay for your education. For many students, the answer is college scholarships. Unlike student loans, college scholarships are a free gift that you don’t need to pay back. They can be given to you for any number of reasons: for getting good grades, for having unique talents, and for being a generally awesome person.
Plus, there’s no limit to the number of college scholarships you can apply for. You can literally rake in so much scholarship dough that it exceeds the cost of your tuition!
Needless to say, applying for college scholarships is definitely one of the better strategies for financing your education. But how do scholarships work, anyway? To clear up some of the confusion, Tallo is dishing out everything you need to know about college scholarships.
First Off, What Are Scholarships?
College scholarships are a form of financial aid designed to help cover the cost of education. Although they don’t need to be repaid, they may come with a few strings attached. For example, some scholarships require students to maintain a certain GPA level or participate in a sport throughout the school year to receive scholarship money.
Scholarships can come in relatively small amounts (~$100) or huge sums that cover the entire cost of tuition (i.e., The Gates Millennium Scholarship). They can be publicly or privately funded, or a combination of the two.
Got It — So, How Do Scholarships Work?
How scholarships work can vary by quite a bit. Some scholarships require you to reapply for each year you’re in school, while others are a one-time occurrence.
Another way scholarships can differ is in how the money is distributed. Private scholarships may send the money directly to your bank account. Some scholarship-givers send the money to the school, where it’s used to cover your outstanding fees. Any scholarship money that is left over is usually sent back to you in the form of a check.
Scholarships may not be a cash reward at all, but an in-kind reward. This is a type of non-cash reward that may waive education-related expenses such as the cost of tuition, textbooks, or housing.
Some scholarships require that the money be used for specific things, while others let you decide how to spend the money. If you win a scholarship with no strings attached, we strongly recommend using it to cover your education-related costs.
Types of Scholarships
Many, but not all, scholarships are merit-based. Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students by exceeding certain requirements set by the scholarship-giver.
There are also need-based scholarships. Similar to most grants, need-based scholarships are given to students based on your family’s financial situation.
(Psst…Wanna know more about grants? Learn about the difference between a grant vs. scholarship on the Tallo blog.)
Many scholarships are available to particular groups. For instance, do you give back to Mother Earth? There are scholarships for students who are passionate about green living. Are you going to graduate school? Scholarships for graduate students can be found through a variety of organizations, companies, and civic groups to help fund your studies.
There is literally a scholarship for almost anything you can possibly imagine, so don’t write yourself off for receiving free money!
Where to Find Scholarship Opportunities
No matter what your background, grades, interests, or financial situation, there are college scholarship opportunities out there for everyone. You just need to know where to find them — and that’s where Tallo can help.
We offer students thousands of dollars in scholarships each month. And did we mention how ridiculously easy they are to apply for? Just create your Tallo profile, brag about yourself a little, tell us about your interests, and our platform will connect you with all sorts of scholarship opportunities. We even offer two easy Tallo scholarships each month – all you have to do is create a profile to enter to win.
If you want to broaden your scholarship search, here are a few additional sources of information about scholarships:
- High school counselor
- Financial aid officers at colleges and universities
- Federal agencies
- Online databases such as Niche and Fastweb
The Application Process
The secret to scoring more free money for college? Knowing how and when to apply for scholarships. Scholarships all have different deadlines and rules for application. Since many scholarships require you to include transcripts and letters of recommendation, you’ll want to get those ready ASAP.
Give yourself plenty of time to read the requirements for each scholarship carefully and fill out the application. Scholarships are a numbers game, so you should apply early and often to maximize your chances of winning.
If you win a scholarship, the scholarship-giver will send you an award letter congratulating you and telling you what to expect. If the letter isn’t clear, don’t be afraid to ask!
Beware of Scams
Although scholarships often ask for transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation, one thing they rarely ask you for is money. If the scholarship website wants you to pay to apply, be on your guard! It could be a scam. Instead, take advantage of easy scholarships that don’t require an application fee (ahem, like ours 😉). That way, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.