Scholarships are forms of aid that help students pay for their education. Unlike loans, they do not have to be repaid. Generally, scholarships are reserved for students with special qualifications, such as academic, athletic, or artistic talent. However, awards are also available for students who are interested in particular fields of study, are members of underrepresented groups, live in certain areas of the country or demonstrate financial need.
A scholarship is considered gift money to assist you in financing your college education. Scholarship money comes from a variety of sources including state, institutional, and private resources. The scholarship process for private scholarships should be completed up to a year or more in advance of your monetary need. This process is in addition to the federal financial aid process, which should be completed as soon after January 1 as possible - many schools have March 1st deadlines for submitting the results of your financial aid application called Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The scholarship process should begin with finding as many scholarships for which you meet the eligibility requirements as possible. Scholarships may be awarded based on a unique set of criteria - criteria that will vary from one scholarship to the next. You should use all resources available to you such as the Internet, books on scholarships available in public libraries, your high school counselor, and the scholarship/financial aid office at the college that you are interested in attending. Be aware of scholarships that sound too good to be true. Learn to recognize and protect yourself from scholarship scams.
Use the results from your scholarship search to obtain applications from the sponsoring agencies. Remember that the more scholarships you apply for, the better your odds of receiving awards.
Complete the applications and make sure to include all the information requested on the application. Deadlines on applications vary, be sure to mail your application and all supporting documents by the stated deadline.