Know Your College Scholarship Options
Published on Jan 24, 2022 by Bridgette Cude
Understand the variety of scholarship types and how and when to apply for them.
As you look for ways to pay for your college education, you'll probably hear this a lot: "There are scholarships out there! You just need to find them!" But the world of college scholarships and financial aid can be overwhelming. Where do you even start? And when?
We talked with Cameron Neal, Full Sail's Senior Financial Aid Manager for Student Services who oversees both online and campus financial advisors, to cover some of the basics as well as areas you may have missed in your search.
And maybe you've already heard this one too: "It's never too early to start looking for scholarships," says Cameron. "Right around the time you really start sending out those college applications, that is probably the best time to start."
But did you know, in some cases, it's never too late? That's because some scholarships can apply to things other than tuition, like reducing your loan debt, living expenses, and housing.
"You might think that once you're started, and you're active in your studies, that that window is closed. No, that's a window that's always open," he explains. "As long as you are active in your degree, be on the lookout, be applying for scholarships."
As for where to start, Cameron says the options are vast. However, he does have some tried-and-true recommendations, like this free, customizable search from Sallie Mae and Full Sail's Scholarship Guide, as well as some new ideas, like checking out scholarship apps like Scholly.
Of course, your school of choice is another huge resource for finding scholarships you may qualify for. At Full Sail, your enrollment guide can walk you through your options (including a range of scholarships offered by Full Sail and even give you advice for your best start date for earning the most funding. Don't forget to talk with your high school college advisor as well. Some schools may offer college scholarships of their own.
Scholarships aren't made for just one type of student either. Each will have their own unique application criteria. Here are some of the most common types to keep in mind as you look for scholarships:
Academic and Merit Scholarships
Academic scholarships are presented to students who demonstrate exceptional academic performance. They might be based on your high school grades, SAT or ACT scores, or another standardized test.
Merit scholarships can be awarded as a result of a demonstrated talent, such as athletic, artistic, or musical ability; competitions in science, math, public speaking; etc.
Most academic scholarships will also require the student to maintain a certain GPA to qualify or keep their scholarship.
Community Service Scholarships
Usually associated with an organization, community service scholarships are awarded to students who volunteer for a specific cause or service. Some organizations ask you to complete service requirements prior to applying, while others ask that you devote a few hours a month to service over the course of your college career.
If you're interested in these types of scholarships, find a cause that you're genuinely passionate about so you can stick to it for the long run and have a good time doing it.
In addition to being a potential avenue for scholarships, community service looks great on a resume once you graduate.
Already know what you want to do after graduation? Look for scholarships specific to your future industry, job title, or the company you'd like to join.
These types of scholarships are usually funded by schools, alumni, or companies who wish to encourage the growth of a specific field. They're looking to invest in students who show an interest or talent in a particular type of work so they can ensure a stronger workforce down the road.
As with academic scholarships, these types of awards generally require students to maintain a good GPA, and funds can only be applied toward degree programs associated with a specific line of work.
These scholarships are determined by a recipient’s individual need. Since they’re usually based on income, students applying for this type of aid should be prepared to show proof of income in the form of tax documents or pay records.
Awards may be provided in the form of a lump sum, or they might be distributed incrementally by semester.
Scholarships based on demographics are wide and varied, though they typically provide aid to marginalized populations. Race, gender, income, geographic location, and family history are just a few examples of information these scholarships may take into account.
Many of these types of scholarships aim to support first generation college students. Others seek to diversify the workforce in certain fields.
Hobby or Wildcard Scholarships
Although less common, there are scholarships geared towards specific interests, hobbies, and populations. Get creative with your search. Are you left-handed? Do you like to knit? What's your favorite book?
You might be surprised by the unique and hyper-specific scholarships out there that have nothing to do with the your typical application requirements.
Finally, there's no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for, so get to searching! For more information, download Full Sail's Scholarship Guide or contact Full Sail’s Financial Aid department.
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