There are many types of scholarships available. Finding scholarships can be difficult, but this article will inform you about types of scholarships, how to look for scholarships, and places to look to find scholarships, making your search easier.

With the cost of tuition and the state of the economy, having a scholarship to help offset college costs sounds like a pretty good idea. But figuring out how to find a scholarship can be a bit daunting, especially if your family is new to the college research scene. This article will help you sort out a good way to begin the processing of finding scholarships.

Types of Scholarships

Scholarships, unlike grants - which are usually awarded to meet financial need, are usually based on some unique factors that you must meet to be eligible. In addition, they very rarely have to be repaid; that is, they're a gift. Typical factors include:

  • where you live (residency)
  • the degree program you will be pursuing
  • the subject area you plan to study
  • your cultural or ethnic heritage
  • your extracurricular activities
  • your academic achievements
  • your standardized test scores
  • your place of employment
  • your parents' places of employment
  • your relationship to an alumni of the college
  • your demonstrated leadership
  • your writing ability
  • and sometimes, your financial need.

Since scholarships are competitive, your presentation of your eligibility - often in an application, occasionally in an interview - can be quite important in the outcome.

Other Considerations

One thing to keep in mind as you pursue scholarship opportunities is a) what kind of financial aid package you're likely to receive and b) how receiving a scholarship will  impact your financial aid. For example, if your potential college has a program that insures that you'll leave without having to take a loan, and you have a demanding course schedule, you may wish to forego a scholarship, even though prestigious, in favor of ending your last year of high school with a slam-dunk.

On the other hand, if a scholarship could make the difference in you being able to go to the college of your choice or not, you may want to begin your scholarship hunt in your junior year to allow plenty of time for applying for every possible one.

How to Look

Here are some places to look for scholarship information. As you look, keep in mind that scholarships are very carefully targeted. A scholarship may require that you must be of a particular descent (Lebanese), play a particular musical instrument (harp), have been in foster care, work for a particular company (Hannaford Supermarkets), be fluent in a particular language (Korean), or have a parent who went to a particular high school (Evanston Township High School). As with these examples, there is usually no doubt whether you qualify or not. You'll save yourself both time and trouble if you move on as soon as you see a qualification that rules you out, no matter how peachy the opportunity looks.

Scholarships awarded as a result of an essay or other specific entry require a different kind of judgment. In this case, you need to predict whether it is worth your while to take the time to fulfill the entry requirements given the chance you think you have of obtaining the scholarship. You may wish to consult your parents and/or guidance counselor as you make these decisions.

Places to Look

  • At School

Start in your school's guidance office. If they haven't yet given out the usual packet of materials that guidance counselors provide to families embarking on the process of choosing a college, you can ask for it early. If your guidance office has a library, check out the resources there. You may find a special scholarship section just waiting to be mined. In addition, you may wish to speak to your particular guidance counselor, who may be able to cut through the maze and direct you to a few options that are just right for you.

  • Your State's Non-profit Student Assistance Organization

This organization may have not only a library or resource center, but also a counseling staff to help you in your search. Specific state-focused assistance is their purpose, so they're likely to have good, up-to-date information. Also, check to see if they have any online information that could be helpful, such as a scholarship list or downloads.

  • Online Sources

Speaking of online, check out the scholarship section of the College Board website, as well as the following:

  • Places of Family Employment

Ask your boss, and ask your parents to ask theirs, whether there are any company scholarships available.

  • Your Potential Colleges/Universities

Look for online listings on the websites of the schools you are applying to. Note the deadlines, because they may be earlier than the admissions deadlines.

  • Reference Books from the Library or Bookstore

The College Board, Kaplans, Peterson's and others offer scholarship listings. In addition, there are a number of books explaining how to pursue college scholarships for the best results. You may find it worth your while to invest in these.