College is right around the corner for 2014 high school grads. With the rising cost of college tuition and student loan debt,  some may still be scrambling for a way to pay for their continuing education without adding to the country’s escalating student loan debt. There’s still time to find college scholarships with some basic knowledge and savvy search skills.

What is a scholarship?

Scholarships are money awarded to students based on academic merit, skill, or unique characteristic or other achievements to help pay for education expenses.  Some scholarships are based on Scholarships generally do not have to be repaid. Types include:

  • Merit-based Scholarships. Based on a student’s skill or ability. For example, a merit-based scholarship might be awarded based on a student’s high grades.
  • Need-Based Scholarships. Based on a student and family’s financial need usually determined by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid FAFSA.

How much are scholarships worth?

Scholarships range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars and can even cover the entire cost of tuition.

Who offers scholarships?

There are thousands of them, offered by a wide range of groups, including schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations.

How do I search for scholarships?

Cast a wide net. There are a range of online and in-person strategies to uncover scholarships that may be right for various students. The local public library’s reference section, school counselors, or the financial aid office at a college or career school are all good resources.

Databases such as Big Future and Sallie Mae are great free resources. At K12 partner schools, students have access to their own search tool known as Pathfinder as part of college and career preparation tools. Additional resources include:

  • the U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool
  • federal agencies
  • your state grant agency
  • foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups
  • organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest
  • ethnicity-based organizations
  • your employer or your parents’ employers

Finally, never pay for a scholarship service and learn more on how to avoid scams.

How do I apply?

Applications vary but typically include a personal or topical essay. Above all, meet deadlines and submission requirements. The College Board offers more tips on how to apply.


Image credit: “Graduation Caps” by John Walker / CC BY 2.0

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