Getting Financial Aid Part 4: What is a scholarship?
The answer may surprise you…
I am going to dispel what may be the most popular misconception in financial aid: that scholarships are reserved exclusively for straight-A high school students. If you already have your diploma or GED, if you’re currently in a “gap year” between high school and college, or if you’re enrolled in community college, I want you to think outside the box, and consider some unconventional alternatives to scholarships you might qualify for.
You don’t find what you don’t look for, so the most important step in finding grants and scholarships is to actively search for them. US News & World Report’s education department is helpful in a great many ways, and their piece on top scholarship search engines is an excellent starting point to embark on your search. They link to the most respected search tools available on the web.
Yet actively searching is only half the battle. You have to know what to look for as well. If you’ve already graduated from high school, or if you’ve found your groove in community college after a not-so-scholarly high school performance, scholarships are still out there for you. Here are a few unconventional sources of scholarship money, along with some examples to give a better idea of what to look for:
Scholarships for Current College Students
Once you start taking actual college-level courses, your high school record quickly becomes irrelevant. So you can definitely makeup for lost time, or bad grades, by hitting the books now. One major source for free scholarships and grants for college students is the industry-specific, corporate scholarships offered by such large companies such as CocaCola, WalMart and Exxon Mobile.
AXA Achievement Scholarship
TYLENOL Future Care Scholarship
Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest Information
Activism & Community Service
If you’re passionate about something outside the classroom, this can be a major asset in your quest for available scholarships. Whether you excelled in an extracurricular activity or took your own initiative to volunteer for a cause, or you simply feel strongly about a certain issue, both colleges and scholarship groups want to reward you for your thoughts and efforts.
FORECLOSURE.COM Scholarship Program
America’s Best Blogging Scholarship
Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund
Hardship & Adversity
Many charitable foundations take great interest in students that must overcome tragedy to achieve their goals. If you have endured adversities such as illness, disability or serious injury, death of family members, or social/economic challenges, and you’re seeking an education despite such setbacks, there are definitely scholarships for you.
Horatio Alger Association Scholarships
Microsoft Scholarships for Students with Disabilities
The American Legion Legacy Scholarship
Who You Are
There are a wide variety of scholarships available based on personal characteristics such as race, gender, or sexual orientation to name a few. But identity-based criteria go even further with some scholarships. For example, among scholarships for women, there are some for women of certain religious affiliation, women with military service, moms, even for women of a certain height. Now, more than ever, diversity is an asset; use the personal qualities that make you unique to the your utmost advantage.
American Association of University Women Grants & Fellowships
Gates Millennium Scholars Program
The Point Foundation Scholarships for LGBT Students
The X Factor
If you have an artistic inclination, or even if you have a modest hobby, there could be college aid awaiting you. Students have been awarded scholarships for interests as random as speaking Klingon, skateboarding, duck calling, or being able to make a prom dress with duct tape. So no matter how unique your hobby, talent or favorite pastime may be, there just might be a scholarship for it.
Harlequin Floors Dance Scholarship
L. Ron Hubbard Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contest
Target Stuff Scholarships
And that is the main point: You never know what you might qualify for, so start looking! The only obstacle to getting scholarships is the misconception that you don’t qualify for any.