How Do Scholarships Work?

by Gregory Hamel

What is a Scholarhsip?

A scholarship is a grant of money designed to pay for the costs associated with higher education, such as college, graduate school or professional school. Because scholarships are grants, they do not need to be paid back by the student like student loans do. Generally scholarships are meant to be attributed toward the cost of tuition but may sometimes also be put toward room, board, books and other expenses. Scholarships are not normally meant to provide any income beyond a student's higher education expenses.

Types of Scholarships

There are thousands of different scholarships available to assist students seeking higher education each year. These scholarships can be split into two main categories: school-sponsored scholarships and privately sponsored scholarships. School-sponsored scholarships are those that a particular educational institution offers to its incoming students. Common types of school-sponsored scholarships are academic scholarships, which grant money for exceptional student performance; athletic scholarships, which grant money for exceptional athletes; and need-based scholarships, which provide grants for those who may not have the means to pay for college. A privately sponsored scholarship is a grant given to a student by any other individual or organization for any purpose. Often private scholarships have very specific criteria for eligibility, such as that the student is a member of a certain race, religion, gender or field of study, while others have no specific guidelines. Generally a student must have displayed superior performance in some area--such as athletics, academics, volunteer work, essay writing or other extracurricular activity--to secure a private scholarship.

Maintaining Scholarships

Although scholarships are essentially "free money" because they do not need to be paid back, one who receives a scholarship will not necessarily be entitled to that scholarship for her entire college career. Some scholarships are one-time grants that are paid toward a certain year of higher education, while others are recurring grants that are renewed each year a student is in school. For recurring scholarships, a student must often maintain a certain level of performance in order to keep his scholarships. For an academic scholarship, this usually means maintaining a certain grade-point average, while sports scholarships usually need strict attendance and participation in sports competitions.

About the Author

Gregory Hamel has been a writer since September 2008 and has also authored three novels. He has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from St. Olaf College. Hamel maintains a blog focused on massive open online courses and computer programming.

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