How To Pay For College Using Financial Aid

How To Pay For College

Find scholarships to pay for college expenses!

After you've researched and applied for financial aid from grants, you should apply for scholarships to help pay your expenses.  Like grants, college scholarships are another form of financial aid that doesn't have to be paid back. There are several types of scholarships available to help you pay your college expenses.  A "merit scholarship" is defined as "financial aid provided to a student on the basis of academic grades or achievements", and is granted to students who have achieved high grades or who show exceptional scholastic, athletic, or artistic aptitude or accomplishments. There are also college scholarships for students that aren't based on grades or scholastic achievements and are granted to those with with certain qualifications, such as artistic or athletic skills, living in a certain place, financial need, being part of a specific minority, and more. You can also find scholarships that are granted based on your field of study, such as sports scholarships, business scholarships, arts scholarships, community scholarships, and many more scholarships available to someone willing to take the time to apply. 

Another form of financial aid is Fellowships. A fellowship is defined as "money granted (by a university or foundation or other agency) for advanced study or research". College scholarships and fellowships can help pay for college, and are "free money", in that you don't have to pay it back. In order to qualify or apply for some scholarships, you may have to write an essay or other piece of literature. Here are some sample scholarship essays and scholarship essay tips to get you started.

There are college scholarships awarded based on many different criteria. A common misconception is that you have to be a straight-A student to receive a scholarship. You can also qualify for a scholarship based on some of the following criteria:

  • Where you live,
  • What you intend to study
  • Where you intend to go to school
  • Being a member of an underrepresented group
  • Being able to demonstrate financial need
  • Athletic ability
  • Artistic ability
  • and even which college you plan on attending.

Another common misconception is that only low-income or applicants with a severe financial need will qualify for college scholarships. Merit Scholarships are generally designed to award those who demonstrate academic, athletic, or artistic merit.  Some Merit Scholarships factor in financial need, but rewarding scholars or future scholars for their aptitudes or accomplishments is the main goal. 

No matter what type of scholarship you are applying for, do your homework and make sure you qualify for, or have performed the steps necessary for the scholarship you're applying for. Not meeting the criteria or pre-requisites stated for a scholarship is a sure way to have your application dismissed or thrown out without further review.

There are local, national, and college-specific scholarships available for industrious students looking for ways to pay for their education.

Here are some scholarships being awarded based on specific criteria:

Travel Scholarships

  • Smithsonian Student Travel Liberty Scholarship
  • Smithsonian Student Travel will award $20,000 through the Liberty Scholarship Program this year . Their mission is to help as many students explore our nation as possible. The Smithsonian Student Travel Liberty Scholarship helps students pay for their tours and gives more people the freedom to explore their country.

    Your entry must be received by Smithsonian Student Travel at least 150 days prior to your tour's departure date to be considered. Students can apply for the Liberty Scholarship by completing an entry form and answering an essay question, "Why is traveling on this tour important to you?"

  • SYTA Youth Foundation (SYF) Road Scholarship
  • The SYTA Youth Foundation (SYF) is the non-profit, philanthropic sister organization of the Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA®). The Road Scholarship was created to award funds to youth who are unable to afford the cost of their group's travel. Each year the SYF awards 30 or more scholarships to deserving youth. Scholarships are awarded based on circumstances and need as documented in the completed application form. There are 3 application deadlines for Road Scholarships, September 1, December 1, and April 1. Click here for the Road Scholarship FAQ and entry form.

College Scholarships for High Achievers

  • AXA Achievement Scholarship
  • The AXA Achievement Scholarship offers college scholarships of $10,000 and $25,000 to high school seniors who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in their activities in school, the community or the workplace.  the scholarship are sponsored by the AXA Foundation, in association with the U.S. News & World Report.

    Fifty-two students, to be known as AXA Achievers, will be selected to receive $10,000 scholarships, one form each state, the District of Colombia and Puerto Rico.

    From among the state recipients, 10 students will be named national AXA Achievers. They will be selected to receive additional national awards at $15,000 each for a total of $25,000 per national recipient.

    The 2012 program is closed. Winners will be announced in Spring 2012.

    Register to receive information about the 2013 program

College Scholarships for Non-Traditional Students

  • Daniels Opportunity Scholarship
  • Daniels Opportunity Scholarships are distributed to two- and four-year colleges and universities in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming that provide scholarships to support non-traditional students including adults entering or returning to college; students from alternative schools, juvenile justice facilities and youth offender programs; GED recipients; former foster care youth, returning military, and others.

    For more information, use the contact form, or call 877-791-4726 (toll free). The application process for the 2012 Daniels Scholarship is now closed

College Scholarships for being Creative

  • Doodle 4 Google Scholarship
  • Google.com is sponsoring Doodle 4 Google, a competition inviting K-12 students to work their artistic will upon Google's homepage logo. Google is inviting U.S. kids to exercise their creative imaginations around the theme, "If I Could Do Anything, I Would …" Prizes include a $15,000 college scholarship.  Click here for a complete prize listing.
    Doodle 4 Google 2012 is launching in January 2012. Check back in early January for all the details. .
  • Stuck at Prom Scholarship
  • The Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck on Prom Contest is open to students age 14 years or older who are attending a high school prom in the spring. US citizenship is required. Entrants must enter as a couple (two individuals) and attend a high school prom wearing complete attire or accessories made from duct tape. The submission must include a color photograph of the couple together in prom attire. First place prize consists of a $3,000 scholarship for each member of the winning couple and a $3,000 cash prize to the school that hosted the prom. Other prizes include $2,000 for second place, $1,000 for third, and Duck Tape sportswear for honorable mentions.

College Scholarships for Students with Special Circumstances

  • LIFE Lessons Scholarship Program
  • The Life Foundation sponsors the Life Lessons Scholarship Program for college students and college-bound high school seniors that have experienced the death of a parent or legal guardian. Qualified entrants who submit essays or videos about how the death of a parent or guardian impacted their lives are eligible for a Grant Prize of $10,000 in scholarship money. The Grand Prize winner will be chosen from the pool of First Runners-Up from the essay and video categories.

    LIFE awards LIFE Lessons Scholarships once a year. Typically, applications are solicited during the March/April timeframe and scholarship recipients are notified in mid-July. The deadline for the 2011 scholarship program has passed. If you’re interested in applying for a scholarship, visit the Life Lessons site.

College Scholarships by Degree or Interest

  • National Dairy Promotion and Research Board (NDB) Undergraduate Scholarship Program
  • The NDB is awarding scholarships based on academic achievement, an interest in a career in a dairy-related discipline, plus demonstrated leadership, initiative and integrity. Candidates are expected to complete an application form, submit a transcript of all college courses, and write a short statement describing their career aspirations, dairy-related activities and work experiences.

College Scholarships for Minorities

  • Women in Focus, Inc Scholarship
  • Applications must be completed and postmarked by February 15, 2012.
    Women In Focus, Inc., a Madison-area women’s service organization, uses funds raised through its annual “I Have a Dream” Ball, the Miss Annie Mae Hat Auction and other events to award scholarships to deserving college-bound male and female students selected by its Scholarship Review Committee. The amount of the scholarships is determined annually, with minimum individual awards of $2000.
  • United Negro College Fund
  • Various scholarships offered to UNCF Members or students attending UNCF Colleges.
  • AARP Foundation
  • Applications for 2012 Scholarships are due March 30, 2012
    The AARP Foundation Women's Scholarship Program is helping win back opportunity for low-income, 50+ women by funding education, training, and skills upgrades that can lead to better employment and increased financial security for women and their families.
  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund
  • The Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) is the nation's leading organization supporting Hispanic higher education. There are several scholarships you can apply for.
  • Jeannette Rankin Foundation
  • Applications for 2012 must be postmarked by March 1.
    The Jeannette Rankin Foundation provides scholarships for low-income women, age 35 or older. You must be a U.S. citizen.
  • Scholarships4Moms.net
  • Entry Deadline March 15th, 2011
    Scholarships4Moms.net is offering a $10k scholarship for single or married Moms. You must be at least 18 years of age to enter.
  • Women Leading Kentucky Scholarship
  • The application cycle for 2012 is now closed.
    The Women Leading Kentucky group strives to create business and leadership opportunities for women in the state of Kentucky. Through this scholarship program 8 students will be selected to receive $1,000 scholarships and another 8 students will be awarded $1,500. More info ...

College Scholarships for Christian Schools

  • $1,000.00 Seminary & Graduate School Scholarship Drawing
  • The scholarship runs each year from June 1st through May 31st.
    The scholarship recipient must be taking classes at a Christ-centered seminary or Christian graduate school within 16 months of being notified by The Christian Connector, Inc. that he/she has won
  • $1,000.00 Christian Distance Learning Scholarship Drawing
  • The scholarship runs each year from June 1st through May 31st.
    The scholarship recipient must be enrolling for course(s) with a Christ-centered Christian college, Bible College, Seminary or Christian Graduate School within 16 months of being notified by The Christian Connector, Inc. that he/she has won the drawing.
  • $2,500 Christian College Scholarship
  • The scholarship runs each year from June 1st through May 31st.
    The scholarship recipient must have plans to enroll for the first time as a full-time student at a Christ-centered Christian college or Bible college within 16 months of being notified by The Christian Connector, Inc. that he/she has won the drawing.

College Scholarships for Students with disabilities

  • AG Bell College Scholarship Awards Program
  • The Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) offers several scholarships for full-time students who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. This is a merit-based scholarship program with award selection being extremely competitive. While the number and value of awards varies from year to year, last year 144 eligible applications were received and 18 awards were granted, which ranged from $1,000 to $10,000.

    The 2012 College Scholarship Program is currently accepting applications for the 2012-2013 academic year.

College Scholarships from Organizations

  • Elks National Foundation's 2011 Most Valuable Student Scholarship Contest
  • The Elks National Foundation will award 500 four-year scholarships to the highest-rated applicants. the 2012 application deadline has passed.
  • Scholarships for Military Children
  • If your mother or father is active duty, reserve/guard, or retired military personnel or you are the survivor of a deceased member, and you have a military dependent I.D. card you can apply! You must be planning to attend a U.S. college or university on a full-time basis.
  • American Red Cross Scholarships
  • The American Red Cross is awarding scholarships for students who plan and organize a blood drive and collect a minimum number of units. You can also submit an essay to be entered for a scholarship award.

General College Scholarships

There are also scholarships that aren't based on your aptitude, your financial situation, or membership in a particular organization. Apply, exercise some creativity, and you could win a free scholarship. This money can be used for tuition, computers, books, housing, or just about anything you want. Here are some Free Scholarships that are being given away.  Be sure and register for as many as you can! There's no limit to the amount of scholarship money you can receive.


Entry Deadline March 15th, 2013
Multiple entries allowed.
You must be 18 to enter.
Enter Once every 7 days.

Must fill out profile on Zinch.com to qualify.

Entry Deadline Mar 31, 2013
Multiple entries allowed.

In the sections above, we've barely scratched the surface of the surface of the number and types of scholarships available. Our goal is to demonstrate the extremely wide variety and criteria for scholarships, in order to encourage you to spend some quality time researching the many various sources of free money for college!

For access to more than $3 billion in scholarships, visit our partner, FastWeb.com. They are a reputable company, using an award-winning matching technology, with a scholarship database that is highly accurate and up-to-date. This service is recommended by more than 16,000 high schools and 3,600 colleges. Visit FastWeb.com today to start your scholarship search!

There are several "off-line" places you can check to find scholarships and fellowships too. Your school guidance counselor should be able to provide a list of grants and scholarships that you can apply for. You can also check with the financial aid offices of the colleges and universities that you are considering. They should be able to provide you with scholarship application forms. The internet is also a great place to find scholarships. You should also be wary of anyone that wants to charge you to find scholarships, or offers to "get" a scholarship for you. Be sure you know how to avoid scholarship scams.

After you've applied for Grants and scholarships, you may still have college expenses that you're not quite ready or able to pay for. Student Loans provide low interest rate loans that can often be paid back after your graduate. You may also consider a student job to generate extra money for college expenses or social and living expenses.

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