A scholarship is probably the first kind of financial aid that comes to a student's mind when he or she contemplates trying to get free money for school. Competition for these privately funded, merit-based awards is fierce; still most colleges and universities report more than half of all first-year students receive some kind of scholarship.
If you want to be in that lucky fifty percent of first-year students, you have to know how to find the money. One great way to search for scholarships is by using online databases such as EdFed's Scholarship Search. You should also check in with your college or university's financial aid office for school-specific awards.
As most scholarship recipients know, finding free money for school, like almost every other endeavor in life, is more the result of persistent, hard work than of blind luck. If you want to increase your chances of getting a scholarship, apply to as many scholarship programs as you're eligible for, and apply early.
Below is a small compendium of scholarships. You can use this list as a map to guide you to great sources of free financial aid. Tens of thousands of students have gotten sponsorship from their schools, community groups, and professional organizations. With diligence and some effort, so can you!
Scholarships by Field of Interest
All around the country, professional organizations are awarding scholarships to students who demonstrate interest and aptitude in specific academic disciplines. Millions of dollars await undergraduate and graduate students who apply to these programs.
In 2005, the American Medical Association gave away $100,000 to minority medical students. The American Dental Association lists 80 annual scholarships totaling $155,000. Nineteen separate awards were listed on the American Psychological Association's website.
But health and life sciences aren't the only fields with organizations that offer funds to students. The nonprofit Early Music America offers awards and a scholarship for performers and researchers of medieval music. American poet Amy Lowell, who died in 1925, established a scholarship in her will; the funds are used to sponsor a year abroad for a promising American poet. The American Dance Guild offers its annual Fanny Weiss Scholarship for dancers to attend professional dance school.
Be sure to inquire with any professional organization pertaining to your field of study to get details on what kind of funds are available to you.
Scholarships by Location
Other scholarships are awarded to those who demonstrate hometown loyalty. There's a good chance that, wherever you're from, your state, county, or city offers funds for individuals who have shown a commitment to that geographical area.
Montana's scholarship programs aim to help the state's brightest academic stars attend school. Some, such as the Governor's Postsecondary Scholarship, aim to keep students in-state. Most states in the U.S. offer competitive awards to encourage students in high-demand fields—especially teaching and nursing—to stay close to home.
In Gulf County, FL, students are offered scholarship money as an incentive for maintaining good grades and few absences and for scoring well on standardized tests. Many state universities also offer special scholarships to residents of adjacent counties.
Since 1995, the City of Boston has awarded more than $600,000 in scholarship funds to Boston applicants who attend Massachusetts colleges and universities. Each year, the City of Bedford, TX, awards scholarships to its Teen Court program participants; and the City of Miami Beach gives scholarships to residents and Miami Beach High School graduates who show an interest in the hospitality industry.
Scholarships for Diversity
Thousands of scholarships exist to support diversity in American colleges and universities. Students of color are eligible for myriad awards. For example, the American Library Association gives several $5,000 Spectrum Scholarships each year to students from underrepresented groups. A great source for information on similar scholarships is EdFed's Scholarship Search; you should also contact your school's financial aid office.
Definitions of diversity in higher education are also beginning to include those of varying sexual orientations. Eastern Michigan University's Stonewall Scholarship, named for the 1969 Stonewall Riot, is awarded to students "who have demonstrated leadership and/or involvement in organizations, activities, or issues that promote a positive gay/lesbian environment." The Stonewall Community Foundation also offers a scholarship of the same name for those who work for GLBT civil rights. An exhaustive list of GLBT scholarships on North America can be found here.
Scholarships by School
Almost every college and university in the United States offers scholarships to its students. Some are awarded based on academic excellence; others may be awarded based on the student's field of study. Make sure you peruse your school's and your department's websites to determine that you've exhausted all your options for scholarships.
Requirements and award amounts range drastically from program to program. Some schools automatically grant academic scholarships based on a student's GPA; no application is necessary. For other awards, you may be required to write a lengthy essay, submit a portfolio, or even audition. You could be awarded as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as the coveted "full ride," covering the entire cost of attendance.
Since each school's programs are different, and award amounts may change from year to year, students are strongly urged to contact the school's financial aid office to determine eligibility for school-specific scholarships.
Scholarships by Employers
Nearly 20 years ago, power company Dominion established its Minority Scholarship Program to encourage racially and ethically diverse students to pursue degrees in engineering and other professional disciplines.
Retail giant Target is well-known for its All-Around Scholarships. In 2006, Target plans to award more than $780,000—around 750 awards—to civic-minded high school seniors and college undergraduates.
Students should check with their current employers to see if a scholarship program exists. If not, now might be a great time to start one! Also look into getting funding from possible future employers. Many law firms, such as Dykema Gossett, PLLC, offer scholarships to candidates who later join the firms as summer associates and full-time employees.
No matter what school you attend, what organization you end up working for, what area of study you focus on, you will be able to find scholarships that fit you. Many scholarships are solely based on merit and academic aptitude; other awards consider financial need. Some programs will award you for your non-academic specializations or interests.
It's important for students to remember that although the market for free money is competitive, it's not impossible to find a scholarship if you apply yourself with diligence and tenacity. Search long and hard, remember to apply early, and good luck!
Article Title : Scholarships
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