By Brian Fairbanks
If you’re thinking about returning to school or becoming a student for the first time, you’re also likely trying to figure out how to pay your tuition. A scholarship can be an excellent option because, unlike student loans, you won’t have to repay them.
Many people mistakenly believe that the only way to receive a college scholarship is to apply right after graduating high school. The thinking is that, if you have a good GPA, struggle financially and/or participate in your community, you’ll be eligible for scholarships. The fact is there are many college scholarships and aid opportunities out there, and many types of students are eligible when looking for options that can cover tuition costs.
Read on to learn all about these, including undergraduate college scholarships, and how you might be able to apply successfully for a scholarship to cover part of your college tuition!
A scholarship enables a university student to lower the tuition costs for which they are responsible. This, in turn, may reduce the need for student loans.
As the federal government notes, "There are thousands of [scholarships] offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups and professional and social organizations." These might cover anything from a tiny percentage of a semester’s tuition to every dollar of your education. And, again, they do not need to be repaid to the issuer, which removes some of the debt burden from a student’s shoulders.
Undergraduate students have a number of scholarship options for which they may apply. Here’s a breakdown of what each scholarship entails, and the typical qualifications required for each.
These are based on GPA, high school achievement and other education-centric factors. Additionally, some academic scholarships pay not only for tuition, but also all textbook costs and many personal expenditures.
Here’s one for the creatives, the inventors and other people who achieved or participated in something that was not part of an athletic competition. Think hobbies like design and music.
These can go to students who took time out of their weekends, afternoons and/or holidays to help their local communities.
Underrepresented, immigrant or minority students may find there are several scholarship options out there specifically geared toward them. Some scholarships may be focused on a person’s gender (including gender-nonconforming identities) too.
Some employers implement scholarship programs and encourage high school graduates to apply. These employers typically like to see that their workers are improving their career prospects and/or bringing newfound skills back to the workplace.
Are you thinking about breaking into a niche field? Several scholarships reward students who focus on a certain area of study, like pre-law classes for example.
Members of the U.S. Armed Forces have several unique scholarship opportunities as well, and their dependents qualify for military-specific college scholarships anywhere they serve. Start with this resource to learn more about military scholarships.
This may be exactly what it sounds like to you — a single scholarship that covers all four years of tuition in one go. This type of scholarship may be awarded to students who have an exceptional GPA or who score well on the SAT or other tests. They may also be awarded to students who cannot afford tuition but have the academic qualifications to attend a state or private university.
Many high school graduates are advised to complete their scholarship application(s) at least one year ahead of starting at a university. This is great for students pursuing undergraduate studies right after high school. But other scholarships for returning and adult students are available throughout the year. Start looking as soon as you consider pursuing higher education so you don’t miss a deadline — and so you get familiar with all the options out there!
Also, there are several free options to help students through the application, essay and consideration process. (More details on this can be found below) And if you receive more scholarship money than you need (for example, if you are awarded $1,000 above the cost of tuition for the semester/year), you may not be permitted to accept the surplus. If you receive a scholarship directly and it exceeds your tuition costs, you’ll need to let your school know. But some scholarships are permitted to cover educational living expenses. Therefore, it’s important to carefully review the terms should you receive a scholarship or other form of financial aid.
Can you write a great essay? Was your high school education full of academic achievements? Do you come from an unusual and/or diverse background? Have you faced adversity as a high school student? If you answered yes to any of these questions, try searching the links below for scholarship opportunities!
Regardless of what you’re applying for, pay close attention to deadlines and essay requirements. You should plan months ahead of time and double-check that the scholarship is good for the coming year. For example, if a deadline is listed as "July 8," make sure it wasn’t the previous "July 8" before you spend time applying. If there’s a discrepancy or the deadline is unclear, contact the scholarship organization directly to request clarification.
Scholarships can be an excellent way to help you pay for a degree and make education more affordable, but not all scholarships are available to all students. Each scholarship has a particular set of criteria that recipients must meet to qualify, meaning students should determine what potential scholarship opportunities they qualify for before starting their search.
Rather than applying for any and all scholarships, finding your perfect fit requires seeking out realistic opportunities. However, many students may not know where to start.
Chris Conway, Director of Financial Education Initiatives at University of Phoenix, said that students can save time and money by being smart about how they search.
"Not all scholarships are based on merit or financial need. What’s important is that you apply for scholarships that you are likely to receive, meaning those for which you meet the criteria," Conway said. "It does take time and effort, but every scholarship you earn could be that much less you have to find elsewhere or perhaps borrow."
Some scholarships may require a demonstration of financial need. In that case, it is important that you fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, also known as a FAFSA® application. The U.S. Department of Education website has a checklist to walk you through the steps, but you can always contact your college’s financial aid office if you need help.
At this point, if you are a prospective student, you should have a list of institutions you are interested in attending. You’ll want to take a look at the school’s website to get an idea of the types of institutional scholarships you can apply for. While each institution likely has its own deadlines, including priority dates for submitting your FAFSA® form, there is also a federal deadline that you have to keep an eye on.
Conway recommends a time commitment of two to four hours per month searching and applying for scholarships. She suggests making use of the following public online search sites.
Since these are public sites, Conway reminds students that creating accounts and initiating use of the sites will often result in communication, likely in the form of an email.
Conway says the key takeaway for scholarship seekers is to be smart about how you search. There are many nuances to the process and doing the proper research can help save time and energy in the long run. For other questions about how to find potential scholarships, she suggests visiting the Frequently Asked Questions page on phoenix.edu.
As mentioned above, not all scholarships are based on merit (grades) or financial need. What’s important is you apply for scholarships that you are likely to receive, meaning those for which you meet the criteria.
Here are 5 strategies to find the perfect scholarship:
1. Reach out to your employer
Remember how many businesses offer scholarships or grants directly to employees? Reach out to your supervisor to see if there are opportunities through your employee benefits program.
2. Check locally
Some smaller scholarships offered by individuals, town organizations or small businesses are advertised locally. Check with your local chamber of commerce to see if there are any hometown scholarships.
3. Focus on the small offers
Are you applying for a high-dollar scholarship? Great, but so is everyone else. Be sure to also apply for smaller scholarships. You may find that multiple small scholarships are helpful.
4. Practice self-reflection
Many scholarships want to know who you are as a person, what your goals are, what inspires you and why you will succeed. This often comes in the form of a required essay answering a prompt. A well-crafted essay that eloquently represents you can help your essay get noticed. Conway suggests saving your applications and essays to see what you can recycle, but make sure you customize them for each application.
Keep plugging away
One could argue that the key to success is determination. In fact, determination brought you to this very moment! The same applies to scholarships. Don’t get discouraged if you receive a, "We regret to inform you," message. Rejections are part of applications, so don’t let that stop you from continuing your search.
University of Phoenix offers several online scholarship opportunities, including up to $1 million in scholarship opportunities this month. (Click here to see what’s available at present.)
Before you apply for financial aid and/or college scholarships, you’ll need to apply to and enroll at University of Phoenix. From there, you can find which scholarships you qualify for and apply accordingly. Finally, enroll in specific classes as mandated by the scholarship or aid itself. (For example, you may have to enroll in healthcare-focused classes if you receive a healthcare-focused scholarship.)
University of Phoenix occasionally offers The Phoenix® Scholarship, an opportunity that is geared toward bachelor’s or master’s degree students who have "at least three years of work experience." (The scholarship can grant students up to $1,000 toward a University of Phoenix bachelor’s or master’s degree.) Learn more or get an application today!
It is also worth noting that federal regulations require University of Phoenix to monitor student financial aid packages. This ensures students remain within their financial need-based eligibility. To learn more about financial aid and other funding options, visit our Financial Options site.
Finally, if you can’t decide where and when to apply, contact University of Phoenix for help.
About University of Phoenix
As pioneers in online higher education since 1989, University of Phoenix is an accredited online university for working adults. We are proud to offer quality educational pathways through flexible, career-focused online degrees, certificates and professional development courses that fit into your life and options to save you time and money. Our students are supported every step of the way, including career services for life.
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