Many people believe scholarships are only for people with exceptionally high grades or exceptional talent in sports or music. This is not true. There are two types of scholarships: need-based and merit-based.
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Need-based scholarships are exactly that: scholarships based on your financial need. The vehicle for proving financial need is called the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Although it was created specifically for those applying for money from the federal government, many schools now use it also to determine the degree of your financial need.
Financial assistance of this type is generally based on factors outside your control. Aid from governmental entities are usually based on a strict formula: either you qualify or you don't. Colleges and universities aren't bound by law as to how need is determined, so their formulae for determining need is often quite flexible and may include merit-based elements.
The "merit" in merit-based scholarships isn't as much worthiness as it is whether you have specific characteristics or traits the aid provider is looking for. This means that these scholarships can be based on an infinite number of criteria:
As you can see, many (if not most) of these of these factors are within your control.
There are books and web sites which catalog thousands of scholarships. And because there are so many scholarships available, and because finding those you qualify for is tedious, there is a lot of money that goes begging for takers every year. A lot of money as in billions of dollars.
All it takes to become a recipient of scholarship money is patience and organization. What follows will give you a few ideas for where the money lies. And if you prefer books to surfing the Internet, your ESO may and most public and college libraries will have a number of books you can look in to find scholarships you qualify for.
Before you dive into a few scholarships' web sites and get overwhelmed, you should develop an organized strategy for searching and applying for scholarships.
If you're serious about finding money for school, you should treat this part as seriously as you treat a job search. And by far the best resource I've read for developing a scholarship strategy to find and apply for scholarships is How to Go To College Almost for Free by Ben Kaplan.
When the first edition of his book came out, the author was written up in the news magazines, interviewed on the network morning programs, CNN, and elsewhere mainly because he'd succeeded in paying for a bachelor's degree from Harvard with scholarship money ($90,000 worth). Read his success story, "How College Scholarships Can 'Show You the Money'".
Since he first published the book, he's created a web site that has a great deal of extremely useful information (City of College Dreams).
I highly recommend Mr. Kaplan's book, videos, and web site – and that you develop a strategy before you start looking for scholarships via links below or any other sources.
SUGGESTION: When searching for scholarships, look for the ones others are unlikely to find or be eligible for. Your odds of being selected to receive a scholarship are better when you're one of only a few people applying for it.
The scholarships that are the easiest to find will almost certainly have the most applicants, which lowers your chances of winning them.
On the other hand, while there are many legitimate and extremely helpful web sites and other sources of scholarship information, keep in mind, while searching for scholarships, that there are also con artists out there waiting to take advantage of your need for college financial aid. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a web site devoted to Scholarship Scams that you should check out.
The links below are to small number of web sites of various types. Some are to the sponsors of individual scholarships, some are meta sites with collections of individual scholarship sites, and others are search engines to scholarships.