The time to prepare for college is near– that makes now the perfect opportunity to search for scholarships and grants that will help you pay your school tuition, along with other education-related expenses.
You have several options, but there can often be so many that searching through them will seem very intimidating. In this guide, you will gain insights into what types of scholarships and grants are available to you, and where you can find them.
Federal TRIO programs are open not only to first-time college students, but to those who have limited economic resources or disabilities. If you fall into one of these categories, a TRIO counselor can help you find the most appropriate scholarships and grants—these counselors will even assist you when it comes time to fill out your applications. You do have to apply to be accepted into this program, but you can do this by contacting the school you plan to attend and requesting a TRIO application (many universities may offer this application on their website).
Your High School Counselor
Make an appointment with your high school counselor! Your counselor will be able to help you find federal grants that you will not have to repay. A prominent example of this is the Federal Pell Grant, designed specifically for undergraduate students. If you can demonstrate that you have a financial need, you will be able to apply for this grant.
In order to be considered for this and other federal grants and scholarships, you will need to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (or FAFSA for short). You can complete this application online when you visit the Federal Student Aid website.
Your counselor can also point you in the direction of grants that may be available in your state. If you live in New York and qualify, for example, you can apply for the Tuition Assistance Program, which will help pay your tuition for any schools in New York.
Your Future School’s Financial Aid Office
Several colleges provide students with scholarships through their own programs. To learn about these, you should visit the financial aid office of the school you hope to attend. Some departments and areas of study even offer their own scholarship opportunities. For example, if you plan to be a chemistry major, you may visit the chemistry department and inquire about scholarships for chemistry students. You can also visit the school’s website to obtain this information.
ROTC advisers can inform you of the various Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarships in your area. To learn if your school is offering one of these scholarships, you can contact the College Army ROTC at 1-800-USA-ROTC (1-800-872-7682) to locate a local ROTC adviser. These scholarships have their own criteria, which is generally not based on financial need.
The Department of Veterans Affairs
If you are a veteran, plan to enter the military sometime in the future, or are related to a veteran or active-duty service member, there are numerous federal scholarships that are targeting your demographic. If you are a veteran (or the widow/dependent of a deceased veteran), you can visit the Department of Veterans Affairs, where you’ll learn about the educational benefits you are entitled to receive. You can fill out this application and email it directly from the VA website.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
Dependents of service members who died in Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001 may apply for an Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant. To meet this criteria, you must have been under the age of 24 at the time of your parent or guardian’s death. Otherwise, you may qualify if you were enrolled at least part-time in a college or trade school at the time of passing.
To apply for this grant, you can visit the Department of Education and fill out the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant FAFSA.
Active-duty service members, their dependents, and veterans can receive scholarships from several private organizations, including the following:
- The American Legion
- Disabled American Veterans
- Paralyzed Veterans of America
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
You’re encouraged to visit the websites for the above-listed agencies to find out which scholarships you may be able to receive.
The U.S. Department of Labor
CareerOneStop, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, contains a search tool that allows you to look for scholarships and grants of all types—you can even narrow your search down to very specific criteria, including ethnic, union or religious affiliation. You can try out their Scholarship Search Tool to learn more.
The U.S. Department of Education
Each state offers their own grants and scholarships, through programs funded by the state, or by the federal government. If you visit the Department of Education’s state grant agency directory, you will be taken to a page where you can learn more information—for example, if you live in Alabama, you can find the telephone number, website and more for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education’s Office of Student Assistance.
Private & Third-Party Organizations
Many organizations have students scholarships, and offer them for a multitude of purposes. For example, your parent may belong to a union that offers scholarships. In this case, you may contact the organization directly and ask if there is a grant or scholarship that you might qualify to receive.
If you don’t have much success with third-party scholarships, you may look into religious organizations. These groups have a strong desire to give back to the community, so they enjoy helping students who need assistance with their tuition, and other expenses. You may qualify for a scholarship if you plan to become a member of the clergy, or are an active member of the church.
While you may not be religious, you still have options, as there are religious scholarships geared toward agnostic and atheist students as well—there are even Wiccan and Pagan scholarships available, along with every type of religious affiliation, including Baptist, Buddhist, Catholic, Christian, Episcopalian, Hindu, Jewish, Lutheran, Methodist, Muslim, Presbyterian, and more.
If you belong to a religious organization, you can ask your congregation if there are scholarships or grants available. Alternately, you can visit websites such as scholarships.com to learn more about religious financial aid, as well as view an aggregation of religious scholarships on School Soup’s directory.
Diversity is becoming more important to employers. Therefore, some organizations like to help people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds pay their education costs. Some of these scholarships were designed specifically for people of African, Hawaiian, Finnish or Filipino descent.
There are many more scholarships designated toward specific ethnic backgrounds, and you can find these on the School Soup directory. For example, if you are of Armenian descent, you will find many scholarships that are offering several thousands of dollars to students. One organization is the Armenian Students’ Association of America Scholarships—you can apply right on the School Soup website if you qualify.
Scholarships for Women
Many scholarships are targeting women to encourage greater participation of this population in the workforce. If you have some other feature that sets you apart, you will qualify for even more scholarships that are geared towards women. For example, being female and disabled, or female and a single parent may qualify you for additional coverage.
The best places to find scholarships for women are on sites such as Scholarships.com and School Soup, but you can also search for these awards on the website of the school you plan to attend. Many professions are always looking for ways to increase the participation of women in their respective industries, including mechanical fields such as engineering. You can contact these organizations directly to find out more about them—one example is the Association for Women in Science. This institution awards scholarships to women every year who are seeking degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Foundations Offering Scholarships
Foundations serve as non-profit charitable organizations that donate funds for various causes, with a popular cause being higher education. Foundations can be public or private, and there are many that are currently accepting applications from qualified students.
The Coca-Cola Company is one entity that runs its own foundation dedicated to providing people with scholarships—this business has been operating the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation since 1989, and has made it possible for about 5,400 people to attend school.
The Coca-Cola scholarship is not your only option—your public library contains catalogs with lists of foundations that offer scholarships. These catalogs are updated on a yearly basis, and you can find them in your library’s reference section.
Another great resource is the Foundation Center. This association’s website contains a free foundation directory with approximately 90,000 different foundations.
An important way to qualify for scholarships is to begin performing community service as a student. The Rotary Club, Jaycees, Key Club or Circle K give students opportunities to join their clubs and make a difference in their communities. Once you become a member of one of these groups, you will be eligible for their scholarships.
High schools, colleges and universities often have chapters of the above-mentioned community service organizations on their campuses, so it can be very convenient for you to join.
Local Business Scholarships
Local business owners also like to do their part to help the people in their community. Small businesses often offer scholarships to young people who live in their city, county or community. Because of this, these scholarships can offer you a great opportunity due to the pool of applicants only coming from one local area.
Find local scholarships by performing a search on Scholarships.com. You will be able to create a profile that will return several relevant options to you. You should also ask people you know if they are aware of any local scholarships.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is another great resource for finding both grants and scholarships. The National Health Service Corps (or NHSC) is one of this agency’s subsidiaries, which offers scholarships for those planning to become doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners, certified nurse-midwives, or physician assistants.
These scholarships are highly valuable, as they offer students a sum of money to cover living expenses, in addition to funds for tuition, fees, and other education-related costs. You can visit the NHSC website to find out how you can qualify for this scholarship—the organization will begin accepting applications in the spring of 2015, but you can sign up for an email reminder in the meantime.