5 Types of Scholarships to Look For

By Kaitlin Hurtado on February 9, 2017

Money is one of the biggest sources of stress during college years, sometimes even more so than the academic workload. While getting a job or taking out loans might be the first solutions, try searching for scholarships; there are scholarships tailored to every student based on their paths of study, career paths, past experience, cultural background, and much more.

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1. Academic and Merit Scholarships  

Academic scholarships have a variety of requirements; one may require a minimum GPA, while another will require a specific score on the SAT or ACT. These are typically offered by universities, so they are often easy to find through your university’s financial aid page or office. However, awards funded by your university or college often have deadlines for applicants, so be sure to keep track of financial aid deadlines as to not miss out on free money.

Merit scholarships can be awarded because of academic, extracurricular (like student government/leadership), sport, and/or artistic performance. If you are awarded a scholarship based on academic performance, be aware of the scholarship’s conditions, as some need you to stay in good academic standing in order to qualify for the scholarship.

2. Major-based/Career-based Scholarships 

Universities and colleges often offer scholarships to students based on their intended field of study. They can require a specific major or minor, but you can also qualify for many as long as your major lands in a specific school.

Along the same lines of scholarships for certain fields of study, you may also qualify for scholarships based on your future career, like the Tylenol Future Care scholarship for future medical professionals.

3. Community Service Scholarships 

Whether you complete community service because you wanted to, or if you were required to because of an extracurricular, your volunteered time can pay off in the form of scholarship awards.

Many scholarships have community service as one of their conditions, or sometimes only if it is funded by the organization you volunteered for.

Regardless of if community service is a condition for the scholarship application, it’s a great thing to incorporate into an essay if you learned something from your volunteered time.

4. Essay Scholarships 

While those “1-click-and-apply” scholarships seem like the best option and the easiest option, do not overlook the scholarships that require a written submission. It may seem like a waste of time writing for something you might not even get but thousands of other college students are probably thinking the same thought. The “1-click-and-apply” scholarships are the most attractive to students and are going to be the scholarships with the highest competition, and the essays that require more effort will have lower competition.

Most essay prompts will be based on your personal experiences, such as “Write about a difficult time in your life and how you got yourself out of it.” Others will be responses to a supplied reading — usually a novel or article.

If you’re struggling with writing an essay, here are a few tips to guide you on making the perfect scholarship essay.

5. Unique Scholarships

There’s a seemingly endless amount of scholarships and some qualifications aren’t exactly ones you would put on your typical resume, like being tall, having asthma, etc. An example of one of the many scholarships that have strange qualifications is the Chick Evans Scholarship for Caddies, which requires applicants to have experience as a caddie.

Don’t be afraid to invest some time in your scholarship search to find unique ones that you qualify for. The more unique and/or specific the award’s conditions are, the less competition you will have in order to win the scholarship.


Most importantly: know where to look for scholarships and always read the scholarship’s fine print.  

Be aware of a scholarship’s conditions to see if you qualify to begin with. Some allow applicants to have only one qualifying characteristic, but others require all from applicants. Another thing to watch for is what is expected of you after you get the scholarship.

Some scholarships run on a pay-it-forward basis; once you win the award, you are expected to pay it back in the future to fund the award for future winners. These types of scholarships can be binding or non-binding, so pay attention to whether or not paying the award back is optional or not.

In high school, counselors and teachers were there to aid in the scholarship search, bringing up opportunities as they came up and helping match students to scholarships. In college, however, you are pretty much on your own when it comes to finding your own opportunities.

There are plenty of websites available to help you in your search for scholarships, like Niche, Uloop, Chegg, and more. Websites like Niche allow its members to build a profile consisting of their intended field of study, extracurriculars, work experience, cultural backgrounds, and much more. The scholarship sites then use your profile to match you to scholarship opportunities, whether they are “1-click-and-apply” or require more effort.

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