A scholarship is an award of access to an institution, or a Student financial aid|financial aid award for an individual student scholar, for the purpose of furthering their education. Scholarships are awarded based on a range of criteria which usually reflect the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award.
Scholarships may be classified into the following primary groups.
- Merit: This is financial aid for which financial need is not used to determine the recipient. The recipient may be determined by students’ athletic, academic, artistic or other abilities. The actual monetary value of the scholarship may be negligible, the scholarship being meant to motivate the student and promote the study of the subject. However, this is not always the case and the largest scholarships are almost always merit-based.
- Need: This is financial aid for which the student and family’s financial situation is a primary factor in determining the recipient. Usually such scholarship will cover all or part of the tuition and may even cover living costs. Very often even need-based private scholarships require the awardees to be distinguished students, as the deed founding the award may include a phrase like "for the studies of founder's favourite subject in founder's favourite institution of higher education for a talented youths of limited means from founder's home town/county/state, etc."
- Sociology: This is financial aid where applicants must initially qualify by race, religion, or national origin. After filtering the applicants based on their ethnicity, additional factors are taken into consideration to determine the final recipients.
- Institutional: These are scholarships awarded by a specific college or university (institution) to a student planning to attend that institution.
- General: These are other scholarships which are awarded for a variety of reasons that do not fall into one of the above categories. These may be for reasons of the student's association with the objectives of the sponsoring organization. For example, some corporations give scholarships to their employees' children or based upon academic success.
Some scholarships have a "bond" requirement. Recipients may be required to work for a particular employer for a specified period of time or to work in rural or remote areas; otherwise they may be required to repay the value of the support they received from the scholarship. This is particularly the case with teacher training scholarships and currently with health and medical education scholarships for people from or prepared to work in rural and remote areas in Australia. The programs offered by the uniformed services of the United States]] (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, [[United States Air Force|Air Force, United States Coast Guard|Coast Guard, NOAA Corps|National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commissioned corps, and Public Health Service Commissioned Corps) sometimes resemble such scholarships.
It is typical for persons to find scholarships in their home region. Information on these can be found by asking local persons and organizations. Typically, these are less competitive as the eligible population is smaller.
- Guidance counselors: When starting to explore scholarship opportunities, high school students should definitely check in with their guidance counselors. They can be a great resource for local scholarships.
- Non-profit organizations: Most non-profit organizations have at some point of their history founded scholarships for prospective students:
- Community foundations: Many counties / cities / regions have a local foundation dedicated to giving money in the form of grants and scholarships to people and organizations in the area.
- Labor unions: All the major labor unions offer scholarships for members and their dependent children.
- Houses of worship: The local house of worship may or may not have any scholarships for their members, but the religious organization or headquarters may have some available. Of course, the best-supported area is the study of theology.
- Chamber of commerce: Many chambers of commerce offer (usually small) grants to students in the community, especially those planning on careers in business and public service. Even if they do not offer any themselves, you can usually get a listing of members, and many of them may offer small scholarships to local students.
- Other volunteer organizations: Many organizations offer scholarships or award grants to students whose background or chosen field overlaps the field of the organization. For example, local chapters of professional societies may help the studies of exceptionally distinguished students of the region. Similarly, charity organizations may offer help, especially if the late parent of the student was a member of the organization (e.g., a Masonic lodge might help the orphan of a lodge brother.) However, this kind of scholarship is mostly random.
- School: Old, well-known schools have often been endowed with scholarship funds.
- University: Old, well-established universities may have funds to finance the studies of extremely talented students of little means. To be eligible for them, the student must usually belong to some special category or be among the nation's best. However, universities have information available on scholarships and grants, possibly even internship opportunities.
- PSAT/NMSQT: In the United States, students are offered the opportunity to take the PSAT/NMSQT test, usually in their junior year of high school. Not only does it help them to prepare for the SAT later on, but National Merit Scholarship programs are determined, in the first step, by the scores received on the PSAT/NMSQT test. Some private scholarship programs require the applicants to take the PSAT.
Other sources of information on scholarships are library|libraries, newspapers, the yellow pages, and Internet search engines.
- DiFiore, Laura, et al. "Tips on Finding Scholarships." FreSch! Free Scholarship Search. 1997.