• All About Financial Aid
  • Get Started with Financial Aid

Scholarship Basics

Person learning about scholarships

Scholarships are not just for high-flying academic achievers or exceptionally needy students. Find out how you might qualify!

College scholarships range from a few hundred dollars to "full" scholarships that pay all college expenses. You can get them from your college, the government, and private providers.

Qualifying and Applying for Scholarships

Although decent grades are usually important, leadership, talent, and community service are often just as critical. You can win awards based on your major, career plans, city or state residence, heritage, your commitment to military service, and more. Your financial need may also be a consideration.

Some scholarships have simple application procedures, such as writing a short essay. Others require nearly as much paperwork as a college application. Weigh the potential reward carefully against the time you can spare to apply.

Winning Scholarships Offered by Your College

Check with the admissions and financial aid offices at your target colleges. They can tell you how to apply for scholarships, and what the requirements are. Applying may be as simple as checking a box on your college application form or as complex as an entirely separate screening process.

Some college-based scholarships are specialized. If you know your major, check with the relevant department to find out about scholarships in your field. If you are interested in an athletic scholarship, be aware that they are awarded through the NCAA sports recruiting process.

Winning Scholarships Offered by Outside Providers

Thousands of scholarship sponsors look for students to award every year. In almost all cases, you must apply or get nominated, and compete with other applicants. Here are some organizations which commonly offer scholarships:

  • Local businesses, including your parents' employers
  • Religious groups
  • Unions
  • Chambers of commerce
  • Clubs, foundations, and associations
  • City, county, and state education offices
  • Your high school and school district

Local scholarships are often easier to win. There may be less competition for scholarships offered by sponsors in your community. Check with your high school counselor, library, and chamber of commerce.

What's Next?

Use the Scholarship Finder to find national or regional private scholarships.

Find out how to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship by taking the PSAT.

Find out how to qualify for an ROTC Scholarship by joining the military.

Financial information contained on the CollegeData website is for general informational purposes only and may not apply to you or your situation. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any financial content contained on the CollegeData website without consulting with a financial or tax advisor, or your parents, high school counselors, admissions representatives or other college counseling professionals. We disclaim all liability for actions you take or fail to take based on any content on the CollegeData website.