Where Do I Find Scholarships to Pay for College

How to Find Scholarships to Pay for College

Paying for college can be one of the most stressful parts of higher education (and the application process). But it doesn’t have to be.

Every year, millions of students find ways to finance their college tuition, allowing them to follow their passions or lay the foundation for their careers. One of these ways is by finding and securing scholarships.

According to Next Gen Personal Finance, about 63% of undergraduates received at least one grant or scholarship to help them cover tuition costs as of 2021. In this guide, we’ll show you where and how to find scholarships to pay for college.

What are scholarships?

Unlike other types of financial aid, like student loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid. Instead, scholarships are a form of free money that students can use to pay for college expenses.

And unlike grants, which are awarded based on financial need, scholarships are typically awarded to students based on merit for academics, athletic ability, or a specific talent. They are given to talented students who excel in certain areas or show potential for future success.

Scholarships generally require a separate application or essay to apply, and they come from many different sources, including:

  • Colleges and universities
  • Employers
  • Individuals
  • Private companies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Communities
  • Religious groups
  • Professional and social organizations
  • Philanthropists

What types of scholarships are available?

According to the Sallie Mae/Ipsos 2022 College Confidence survey, 45 percent of students believe that scholarships are only available for students with exceptional grades or abilities.

But, this is not completely true. What these students don’t know is that you can qualify for a scholarship based on a wide range of factors. Let’s unpack a few.

1. Merit-Based and Academic Scholarships

Students earn merit-based scholarships by meeting or exceeding specific criteria set by the scholarship-giver. For example, they might be awarded based on academic achievement or a combination of academics and a unique talent, trait, or interest.

Additionally, if you have a high GPA and standardized test scores, you can often qualify for an academic scholarship from a university or nonprofit organization .

2. Athletic Scholarships

Students who excel in football, basketball, swimming, lacrosse, and other sports can receive athletic scholarships. While helpful, these scholarships typically only cover some of the student’s college costs, and fewer students qualify.

3. Community Service Scholarships

Some schools offer scholarships based on an applicant’s commitment to community service. These scholarships may be given to students who volunteer at animal shelters, participate in local cleaning efforts, or host nonprofit fundraisers, for example.

For instance, the Disabled American Veterans Jesse Brown Memorial Youth Scholarship Program awards scholarships to students under 21 who assist veterans in the community.

4. Diversity and Underrepresented Group Scholarships

Schools and organizations are making a more concerted effort to support and encourage students belonging to traditionally marginalized groups. For example, a student may qualify for a scholarship based on race, gender, ethnicity, or religion.

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund awards scholarships of $500 to $5,000 to students of Hispanic heritage pursuing university degrees.

The Gates Scholarship also awards scholarships annually to bachelor’s degree-seeking students who are Pell-eligible and from a minority group, including African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic American students.

How to Find Scholarships for You

Students learn about scholarships in several ways, including contacting the financial aid office at the schools they are interested in attending and checking the information in a public library or online.

There are also various free online resources available to find scholarships, such as:

  • BestColleges
  • College Board
  • Fastweb
  • CareerOneStop
  • Scholarship America
  • Peterson’s
  • Unigo
  • Chegg
  • Cappex
  • Scholarships.com
  • Niche

Students should research to ensure the scholarship information and offer they receive are legitimate. Be wary of any service that requests you to pay to find scholarships or other financial aid.

If you know which school you will be attending, do not hesitate to reach out to their financial aid team for guidance. They can talk to you about any institution-specific scholarships available through the college or university, or point you in the direction of resources where you might find other scholarship opportunities. They can help you understand which types of scholarships you might qualify for, and advise you on how to begin a scholarship search online.

How Do I Apply for Scholarships?

Each scholarship has its own eligibility requirements and application process.

Students should review a scholarship’s website to learn how to apply and become aware of the deadlines for that scholarship.

Common application steps are:

  1. Check your eligibility.
  2. File the FAFSA.
  3. Complete the assigned questions, essay prompt, or video assignment.
  4. Assemble the required materials and documents. (i.e., school transcript, ID, test scores, and letters of recommendation)
  5. Meet the scholarship deadlines.

A scholarship might cover the entire cost of your tuition, or it may be a one-time award of a few hundred or thousand dollars.

Either way, they are worth applying for as they are an effective way to pay for college and offset the out-of-pocket costs of your higher education. Students should research and apply for as many scholarships as they can. You can stack scholarship awards to support your tuition bills.

The Office of Student Financial Services at University of Bridgeport (UB) is committed to helping students navigate and understand the financial aid process. UB participates in various federal, state, and institutional programs, including grants, loans, and scholarships.

In fact, as of fall 2021, 99% of University of Bridgeport students received some financial aid or scholarship. Learn more about scholarships, verification, and more via telephone or video. Our counselors are available Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM. So let’s start your future together!