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College Scholarships Basics

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To some students and parents, the word "scholarship" is just another one of those confusing college terms: student loans, FAFSA, tuition and fees, EFC, grants, and work study. Little do they realize that knowing more about the scholarship process could save them thousands of dollars when trying to cover the cost of their education

What are scholarships?

Scholarships come in a variety of forms, but are generally considered to be "free money" for college. Unlike loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid to the scholarship provider. Some scholarships are awarded directly to the student in the form of a check, while other scholarships are written out to the student`s college or university. Several different types of providers issue scholarships: clubs and organizations, charitable foundations, businesses, schools, universities, government agencies, and others.

Who can get scholarships?

It is a common misconception that scholarships are only for straight-A students. In reality, there are all types of scholarships for all types of students, including those with less than perfect academic records. Some scholarships are for athletes; others are for students planning to study in particular fields; and others for community service. Some scholarship providers just want to reward students for living in a certain city or state! Students also mistakenly believe that only college-bound high school seniors can apply for awards. Scholarships are available for all levels of college study, from freshman undergrads to graduate and PhD students.

When should students look for scholarships?

Scholarship application deadlines vary greatly. There are thousands of scholarship programs with spring and summer deadlines, and thousands more with fall and winter deadlines. The key is to never stop searching for new scholarship leads, even after beginning the freshman year in college. A good rule of thumb is to continue searching for scholarships for the duration of the college career.

How do students find scholarships?

Finding scholarships can be a very time-consuming process, but not if students use a reputable and accurate scholarship search service on the Internet. There are several online resources for finding scholarships for college. Students can also ask their high school guidance counselors about any local or state awards that they qualify for. Students should contact the financial aid office at the college or university they plan to attend to learn if they qualify for any awards provided by the school.

Profile Matches Are Key

First and foremost, find a scholarship search service that has sophisticated matching technology. A good scholarship search service will match the personal information you provide to them with scholarships that you are eligible to apply for. This will minimize the time you spend browsing through lists of awards, and will give you more time to actually work on the application process itself. Beware of simple keyword search services or services that only ask a few questions about your background. Many such services will return hundreds of scholarships for you to wade through, wasting valuable time that you simply don`t have. Look for services with easy-to-use, thorough profile pages that generate results closely matched to your profile.

Up-to-Date Scholarship Information

Secondly, find a scholarship search service that provides accurate and up-to-date scholarship information. Reading requirements for scholarship programs from two years ago will not help you at all; in fact, using outdated information will simply slow your progress in actually securing scholarship funding for college. Remember, you need to find a service that offers scholarship information for the current academic year. Don`t waste your time on websites with out-dated contact lists, broken application links, and discontinued programs.

The Privacy Policy

Do not become part of a spamming list! When you fill out a profile with a scholarship search service, the service collects and stores your very personal information; such collecting of profile information is necessary for accurate scholarship matching. Make sure you read the privacy policy for any service you use so you know what happens to that personal information once you enter it into the website. Some websites actually make money by selling your information to third parties that want to advertise to you. Be very careful about giving out your personal information to companies without credible, clearly stated privacy policies - the last thing you need is an email inbox full of spam and a mailbox full of unwanted solicitations.

An Easy Process

Make sure the service is set up to save you time. If you take the time to fill out the profile, make sure the information is saved so you don`t have to start from scratch each time you want to look for more scholarships. Also, make sure there is a way to edit and update your profile, in case you change your major or improve your test scores or change your mind about the college or university you want to attend. Search services with such customer-oriented features will save you time and frustration in the search process, and that`s what you should be aiming for - saving time, avoiding scams, and finding money to pay for college!


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