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To some students and parents, the word “scholarship” is just another one of those confusing college terms: student loans, FAFSA, tuition and fees, EFC, grants, and work study. Little do they realize that knowing more about the scholarship process could save them thousands of dollars when trying to cover the cost of their education.

What are scholarships?

Scholarships come in a variety of forms, but are generally considered to be “free money” for college. Unlike loans, scholarships do not have to be repaid to the scholarship provider. Some scholarships are awarded directly to the student in the form of a check, while other scholarships are written out to the student’s college or university. Several different types of providers issue scholarships: clubs and organizations, charitable foundations, businesses, schools, universities, government agencies, and others.
Who can get scholarships?

It is a common misconception that scholarships are only for straight-A students. In reality, there are all types of scholarships for all types of students, including those with less than perfect academic records. Some scholarships are for athletes; others are for students planning to study in particular fields; and others for community service. Some scholarship providers just want to reward students for living in a certain city or state! Students also mistakenly believe that only college-bound high school seniors can apply for awards. Scholarships are available for all levels of college study, from freshman undergrads to graduate and PhD students.
How do students find scholarships?

Finding scholarships can be a very time-consuming process. Some students choose to peruse through pages and pages of award information in scholarship books or in files found at local libraries. But other students use reputable and accurate scholarship search services on the Internet to save time in the searching process. Using online resources is a good idea if the website offers updated, current data and some type of quality matching technology. Students can also ask their high school guidance counselors about any local or state awards that they may qualify for, and should be sure to contact the financial aid office at the college or university they plan to attend to learn if they qualify for any awards provided by the school. Finally, students should ask their parents and friends to be on ‘scholarship alert’ for them, always checking local newspapers and bulletin boards for local scholarship listings.

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