Don’t leave money on the table

When you hear the word “scholarship,” chances are you think of competition, complete with extensive essays and people going over your grades with a fine-tooth comb.

While some scholarships do feature strict qualifying criteria, you may be surprised by just how many scholarships are out there, as well as how easy it is to tap into them.

How to get scholarships
Your first step to being awarded college scholarships is understanding how they differ from other forms of financial aid. While both grants and scholarships represent free money you don’t have to pay back, grants are typically based on need, and are awarded by government institutions. Scholarships are based on specific qualities you may possess, from academic prowess to ethnicity, and are often provided by private organizations or individuals.

Your next step is researching and applying. There are numerous online resources dedicated to collecting and listing college scholarship opportunities, such as StudentScholarships.org. School counselors are also an excellent resource for finding scholarships for college students.

Finally, consider your background and passions. Understand what sets you apart from other students, whether it be protected status, athletic ability, unique career pursuit, or anything in between. Chances are there’s a scholarship out there tailored to you.

College scholarships off the beaten path
Most people associate scholarships with academic or extracurricular activities. However, there are numerous scholarships available for all sorts of individuals.

For instance, Scholarships for Women has collected various funding opportunities geared toward women of all ages and backgrounds, including single mothers, women 35 years old and over, and women pursuing careers in defense and national security, to name a few.

There are similar scholarship programs in place for so-called “non-traditional” students, which includes everyone from returning veterans to older individuals attending school to improve their career opportunities.

Some scholarships might even be considered a bit strange, such as:

Clowns of America, International Scholarship: This scholarship is awarded to aspiring clowns or people engaged in family entertainment educational programs.
Common Knowledge Challenge Scholarship: Forget writing an essay, this scholarship is awarded to trivia whizzes who take an online quiz.
Debt.com Scholarship for Aggressive Scholarship Applicants: Perseverance pays off for this scholarship, which is awarded to individuals who apply for lots of different scholarships.

No matter your grades or background, odds are there is free money out there to help you go to college. Don’t leave it on the table! Do your research and see what’s available.

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