Scholarships are fantastic tools that can help you cover at least part of your overall education expenses. While finding a scholarship that is the right fit for your background, qualifications, course of study, and financial situation may seem daunting, there are a variety of options out there—you just have to know what to look for!
Know Which Scholarships Are Available
As you begin your scholarship search, it is important to get familiar with the types or categories that are most commonly presented to qualified students.
- Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students who meet certain academic requirements. These scholarships reward top learners for their education-related accomplishments—usually via GPA minimums or standardized test performance.
- Need-based scholarships are offered to students based on their demonstrated financial need. These scholarships are typically reserved for learners who come from families hitting a certain income threshold, live in a particular community, or study in certain fields with prolonged degree pathways (such as medicine or law).
- Community service scholarships are awarded to students who have positively impacted their communities through volunteer work. As many high schools require a certain number of volunteer hours before graduation, this may be an easy way to earn financial support for the good deeds you’re already doing!
- Athletic scholarships are given to students who are top performers in team or individual sports. If you’re a competitive athlete with a strong record, athletic scholarships could be the right path for you.
- Identity-based scholarships are typically created to support underrepresented members of the student community (gender identity, race, ethnicity, or other background information).
- Employer scholarships are usually offered by the company at which you (or a family member) are employed. Chipotle, Starbucks, Walmart, CVS, and other major companies have scholarships or tuition reimbursement programs, as do certain branches of the US military. Your part-time job after school may be your ticket to reduced college or university expenses!
- Extracurricular scholarships are a great way for students involved in activities outside of sports and community service to secure financial support for education. These activities can range from theater to artwork to unusual contests.
All scholarships come with their own sets of requirements for application, though some are more stringent than others. And these opportunities can come from sources you wouldn’t expect!
For example, Wiley’s Accounting and Finance Scholarship supports a wide range of students by highlighting a different qualification each month. Our monthly $1,000 scholarship for those in finance and accounting programs is awarded to first-generation college students, students of color, women in the industry, and more! See if you can apply for this month’s scholarship now.
Know the Difference Between Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships are typically provided by private organizations, such as businesses, foundations, religious institutions, nonprofits, or other groups, while grants are administered through federal and state governments. Separately, fellowships are scholarships awarded to graduate students.
- Scholarships are awarded by private entities to individuals who meet specific merit-based or need-based requirements.
- Grants are distributed by the government based on financial need.
To apply for a grant, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by the stated deadline. Most need-based scholarships will also require proof of filing the FAFSA.
Find Your Scholarship
You can find free scholarship information online and from different organizations, such as your school’s financial aid office, in your library’s reference section, from the federal or state government, from religious or ethnic-based organizations, and more. For accounting-specific scholarships, you can also view the accounting scholarships compiled in Wiley’s Ultimate Guide to a Career in Accounting.
Be on the lookout for scams and “traps” as you research scholarships. There are legitimate commercial financial aid service companies out there, but there are also fraudulent organizations trying to steal unsuspecting applicants’ sensitive information or advertising services you don’t need (like a paid scholarship search that is available for free).
Here are things to look out for:
- You will not have to pay to apply for a scholarship, so an application fee is a red flag.
- “Guaranteed aid:” If a company is offering you guaranteed aid after you pay them a fee, they can fulfill their guarantee with a student loan or minor scholarship. Make sure the offer is worth the investment and it is fulfilled via a legitimate company.
- Scarcity tactics. Don’t fall for an advertisement telling you that you will miss out if you don’t pay for their information. You can find all the scholarship information you need online for free.
Apply to Your Selected Scholarship(s) or Grant
Once you have found the scholarship(s) you qualify for, it’s time to apply! Double-check the specific scholarship deadline and requirements, read the application carefully, and fill out the application to the best of your ability. If you are awarded the scholarship, the awarding organization will either provide the aid money directly to your college or will send you a check. If you’re not sure how the scholarship money is distributed, ask the scholarship provider.