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Scholarships are basically free money that you are granted for academic purposes. And since it does not require repayment, the process of securing one is quite competitive. In fact, being a deserving candidate is not enough to secure a scholarship. You need to know about the application process and take several measures to receive it.
A majority of the students are not able to pursue their higher studies from their dream colleges or universities due to a lack of funds. While student loans can be useful in turning such dreams into reality, scholarships are always a better alternative as you do not need to worry about paying the amount back.
In this blog, we will discuss all the major aspects of a scholarship, the popular scholarships available in the country, and how you can secure one for yourself.
A Basic Introduction to the Concept of Scholarships
Scholarships are awarded to students to help them pay for college. Such financial aid can come from a school, professional groups, community organizations, religious groups, non-profits, social organizations, and more.
Depending on the type of scholarship, they can be based on the candidate’s academic achievements or a particular talent, such as the athletic or acting ability. Also, there are scholarships based on ethnicity, gender, religion, what major you have chosen, and even for specific characteristics.
The amount of scholarship varies significantly. While it can be a few hundred dollars in some cases, it can also be enough to pay for your entire college cost. However, the chance of getting a scholarship is about one in eight. And to give you a fair idea about the scholarship amount, it averages about $4,200.
Do You Need to Pay Taxes on Scholarships?
You will be glad to know that scholarships for tuition and textbooks are usually tax-free if the student is pursuing a certificate or degree. However, your scholarship can be taxable if you spend your scholarship money on room and board, transportation, and other living expenses. You should always categorize expenses to avoid unwanted reports. The taxable portion of your scholarship is reported by you as income on your federal income tax return.
What Is the Difference Between Scholarships and Grants?
Even though the terms scholarships and grants are thought to be the same by a lot of people, there are some key differences between the two.
- Grants are need-based. It means they are given to students who demonstrate financial need.
- Scholarships are merit-based. It means anyone with a proper demonstration of merit can receive a scholarship.
How to Determine If a Scholarship Is Legitimate?
While you look for scholarship offers on the internet, it is important that you steer clear of the scholarship scams. There are plenty of frauds on the internet who claim to offer a scholarship to students after taking a certain amount of token money. They simply take the money and personal information from the students and never deliver the scholarship.
Here is what you need to keep in mind:
- You should avoid those scholarship offers that ask you to pay for the scholarship application, administrative fees, or processing fees.
- You should not share a Social Security number, credit card details, bank account number, or other personal financial information while applying for a scholarship.
- As mentioned, the scholarships are often taxable, but you should never pay the taxes to the scholarship provider.
- If the scholarship provider sends you a cheque for more than the amount of the scholarship and asks you to refund the difference, don’t do it immediately. Check if the cheque they have sent is genuine or does it eventually bounce.
- You should never pay for a scholarship search. You can find a number of platforms in Google search or nearby your place where you can look for scholarships free of cost.
How to Find Scholarships?
If you are about to complete high school and looking for scholarships for your college education, you should ask your high school counselor for additional resources regarding scholarships. In case you are in college, you should ask the financial aid department how to locate scholarships for your current course.
You should also consider checking with the following organizations for scholarships:
- Community organizations, including the civic ones
- Ethnicity-based organizations
- Local businesses
- Religious organizations
- The grant agency in your state
- Professional associations based on your major
- Your employer (if you are working)
- Your parents’ employer
If you cannot get any lead on scholarship from these aforementioned organizations, you can check out the following websites which offer free scholarship search services:
- The College Board
Hopefully, you will find amazing tricks to get the scholarship that suits your requirements on one of these websites.
How to Apply for College Scholarships?
The scholarship application processes are quite similar to the college application process. The requirements of each scholarship program may vary from one another, they usually follow the process that I am about to discuss:
1. Find scholarships that suit your profile
There is no point in applying for a scholarship if that does not match your profile. So, you need to shortlist the scholarships that are specific to your profile. It means the scholarship should be in compliance with the major you have chosen, the college/university you are applying to, and other crucial factors.
2. Write an impressive essay
You may also need to prepare an essay based on the prompt provided by the scholarship committee. If you don’t consider yourself a good essay writer, you should try to get expert essay help for essay preparation.
3. Ask for letters of recommendations
While you apply for scholarships, having several letters of recommendation from teachers, professors, or colleagues who know you well, can increase your chances of getting the scholarship. Their recommendations can highlight your abilities better.
4. Download transcripts
It is recommended to get all the transcripts of your grades throughout your time in high school or college. Most scholarship programs will ask you to send PDFs instead of paper copies.
5. Find copies of your standardized test scores
If you have appeared for standardized tests such as the SAT or the ACT, you need to keep the test score at your disposal. However, if you feel you need to work more on those scores, you should start preparing for the tests this year.
6. Provide a demonstration of financial need
It is comparatively easier to receive a scholarship if you are in need of financial need for your education. You can self-report it or seek an assessment from the scholarship committee from your tax forms.
While these steps can improve your chance of securing a scholarship, you do need to fulfill other criteria of the particular scholarships to win them. For instance, some scholarships require you to maintain a GPA of 4.
Now that you have learned so much about the scholarships, you can start looking for one using the tips mentioned in this blog and secure a better future by pursuing a course from your dream college.