Knowing how to find and apply for scholarships can help students save thousands of dollars on their college tuition. Unfortunately, many students only ever apply for a fraction of the scholarships that could help them pay for school. The process of applying for scholarships isn't complicated; all it takes is a knowledge of the system. The top three places to start your search for scholarships include college admissions offices, online scholarship databases (such as the free tool offered on Sallie Mae's website) and sources of scholarships for minority students such as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Ask the following questions when applying for scholarships that can help you cover your tuition.
Once you've found a few scholarships that you feel you're qualified to receive, you'll need to make sure you have all the scholarship information you need to correctly apply. Some scholarships require an essay, for example, while others require only an application form. Talk to your financial aid officer or do a search online to determine what, exactly, is needed to apply for the scholarships you've chosen.
Do I need to pay taxes on scholarship money received?
Scholarship money is generally not considered taxable income except in certain situations. If in doubt, talk to your school's financial aid office or contact the IRS directly to find out whether the money you receive will be considered taxable income.
Is there a limit to the number of scholarships I can apply for?
Generally speaking, you can apply for as many scholarships as you want, and you should apply for as many as you can. The fact is, you aren't going to receive every scholarship you apply for, and you will likely need several different scholarships to cover your tuition.
How often can I apply for this scholarship?
Some scholarships are available only once per student while others can be reapplied for each year (or semester, in some cases). Talk to your financial aid office or the organization offering the scholarship to find out how often you'll be eligible to apply, assuming you still meet the criteria. You can also do an online search for more information on specific scholarships.
What happens if I get scholarship money and stop going to school?
In some cases, scholarship money will need to be paid back if you don't complete the classes the scholarship money was used to pay for. This varies from scholarship to scholarship, though, so talk to your financial aid office or to the organization that's offering the scholarship. As a general rule, however, you should make every attempt to complete all classes you register for, especially if you've accepted scholarship money to help cover tuition costs.
What if I no longer meet the criteria for a scholarship I already applied for?
Scholarship applications can take a while to process, and sometimes circumstances change between when you filled out your application and when they process it. If you feel you no longer meet the criteria for a scholarship you've already applied for, your best bet is to talk to the scholarship organization directly to let them know. If that's not possible, talk to your school's financial aid office or do an online search to find out what your next steps should be.
How much money can I expect to receive from this scholarship?
Each scholarship offers a different amount of money, so make sure you know how much money you can expect to receive from each scholarship. This will help you budget for tuition and expenses, and also let you know whether you need to apply for other forms of financial aid, in addition to scholarship money.
What is the best way to find scholarships?
There are hundreds of scholarships available through private and non-profit organizations, as well as scholarships offered through schools and universities. Finding the scholarships you might be eligible for can feel like a daunting task, but there are now many websites dedicated to providing scholarship information to students, allowing you to search based on your own criteria. For more ways to find scholarship information, talk to your school's financial aid office.