There are many different types of scholarships available to students, and each one has its own set of requirements and eligibility criteria. Some scholarships are awarded based on financial need, while others are merit-based. Additionally, some scholarships may cover the full cost of tuition, while others only cover a portion.

The truth is, there is a huge list of scholarships out there that reward very different types of student characteristics. Given that this is the case, it will help you to know how your student profile stacks up to various scholarships. This will tell you where you might be best positioned to apply for scholarships to help pay for college.

Knowing what to look for and what to avoid when searching for scholarships can help empower you to find the right scholarships to apply for. This starts with a good understanding of scholarships by type. Here’s a breakdown that can help you navigate your college scholarship search and pay for your college education!

Understanding Different Types of Scholarship Opportunities

Below, we cover eight major types of scholarships that are available to students. However, it’s important to know that these are general categories. Many of these common types of scholarships will have additional terms and conditions, which you should read carefully. For example, certain scholarships and grants may award money specifically to high school students or students already enrolled in a college degree program. In other words, one prize is given to students who don’t yet go to college, while the other is for students already there.

There are other eligibility criteria, too. For example, you may have to live in a certain state or county. You may have to work a part-time job. Or, maybe you’ll have to have a certain hobby. In other words, scholarships are usually awarded for specific reasons so be sure to read the fine print before applying.

Merit-Based Scholarships: Academic Performance & Community Service Excellence

Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students for excellent academic performance or extracurricular achievement in high school or while attending college. If you have an exceptional GPA or have scored well on standardized tests, you may be eligible for an academic scholarship.

Other merit-based scholarships reward you for outstanding extracurricular activities, particularly in the categories of leadership, innovation, and community service.

Merit-based scholarships can be worth a lot of money, and they are typically competitive. National merit scholarship competitions tend to attract motivated high school seniors and college students who have an impeccable track record of academic achievement and community service.

Needs-Based Scholarships: Financial Aid to Pay for College

Needs-based scholarships are available for students whose household income falls under a particular amount. Scholarships that are awarded for financial need don’t always have the same stipulations on income so be sure to investigate terms and conditions.

Most needs-based scholarships will ask for family income statements and a budget forecasting expenses for the current or upcoming academic year. This is where students can outline all college costs including tuition, books, residence fees, etc.

In the US, students may have to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and show that they qualify for financial aid. In other countries like Canada, students may have to apply for government student loans. For example, students in the province of Ontario may have to qualify for student aid through the Ontario Student Assistance Plan (OSAP) in order to meet eligibility criteria for a needs-based scholarship.

Many colleges and universities have needs-based scholarship or college grant programs, so check with your institution’s financial aid office if you’re already an undergraduate student. There may be scholarship opportunities available to help you offset the cost of college.

Student-Specific Scholarships: Scholarships for Women, Scholarships for Minorities, & Much More

Student specific scholarships tend to have unique eligibility requirements that invest in students for a wide variety of reasons. Some of these reasons include gender, race, religion, family, and medical history.

For example, there are scholarship prizes specifically for Hispanic Students, African-American students, scholarships for women or women in science, scholarships based on ethnicity, scholarships for immigrants, minority students, scholarships for veterans or military scholarships, travel abroad scholarships, community service scholarships, local scholarships (awarded to students in a particular town or county), and even scholarships for students who have specific medical ailments (for example, Crohn’s and Colitis, various mental health diagnoses, etc.).

There are other kinds of unique scholarships, too, like those for bird watchers or for tall people. In short, if you’re part of any community, no matter how obscure you may think it is, chances are that a scholarship exists for students like you (there are many weird scholarships available that may surprise you!). Communities of all kinds want to invest in students who share their values, so do a search based on your affiliations because you might be surprised to find that scholarship money is available.

Also keep in mind that the more unique a prize is, the less competition there will be. When eligibility requirements are very specific, it will decrease the amount of students who can apply. 

Scholarships By Major or Career-Specific Scholarships: Scholarships to Help Students Enter Certain Fields

These are scholarships awarded to students who plan to study in a particular field or enter a certain line of work. For this reason, sometimes these prizes are called career-specific scholarships.

When conducting searches for these prizes in scholarship databases or at your college or university, you may want to look for language related to your field of study. For example, you can do a search for scholarships for engineering students, STEM scholarships, scholarships for history, scholarships for graduate students, etc.

State governments also invest quite heavily in areas of the labor market that are in high demand. For example, some states help you pay for college if you agree to work as a teacher for a certain amount of time. Ultimately, there are plenty career-specific scholarships out there from both private organizations and universities themselves, so cast a wide net in your research.

Institution-Specific Scholarships: A Common Type of Scholarship Awarded by Schools

Many schools offer scholarships to their own students. College-specific scholarships can often be found on a college institution’s financial resources page or under resources offered by a college registrar. If you can’t find these resources, ask! Not all institutions will have an easy-to-find list of featured scholarships.

College-specific scholarships can be diverse and range from academic merit to needs-based. The great thing about these prizes is that they are not open to students outside of your college or university, which will diminish the amount of competition you face.

Athletic Scholarships: College Scholarships for Elite Athletes

Athletic scholarships are given to college students who have exceptional athletic abilities. Collegiate sport is an big part of campus life for many universities, and sport scholarships exist to attract students to study, and perform, at particular schools.

While most students think that athletic scholarships are given out by specific colleges, there are also scholarship providers or athletic clubs that offer scholarship opportunities for top athletes who don’t have a full-ride scholarship. For example, there is scholarship money for curlers, martial artists, most major sports, and general athletic scholarships whose eligibility requirements are not specific to a particular sport. Ultimately, if you excel at any sport, a scholarship search for these types of prizes may help you find money to assist with tuition. 

Brand Scholarships: A Common Type of Scholarship Available

Brand scholarships are those that are offered by businesses or corporations. They are typically meant to bring positive exposure to the scholarship provider by giving students money for college, a move that everyone can get behind.

Brand scholarships are often promoted widely. For this reason, you will find brand scholarships on many scholarship finders, scholarship databases, scholarship directories, and scholarship platforms. When researching awards, you may also find that many of these scholarships are littered all over social media. Brand scholarships tend to attract many applicants because of the high level of promotion behind them.

Creative Scholarships: Scholarships for Students with Artistic Abilities

These scholarships typically ask students to submit a creative piece of work in addition to, or in place of, a scholarship essay. Creative scholarships are designed to reward students who show promise or some kind of innovation in their creative endeavors, including art, photography, music, video editing, animation, and many other pursuits. So, if writing scholarship applications isn’t your thing, you may want to try this route in your scholarship search.

There are Many Different Types of Scholarships to Help You Pay for College!

There are many different kinds of scholarships available, so it’s important to do your research and find the ones that are best for you. Applying for scholarships can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it if you’re able to secure funding for your education. Be sure to start your search early and give yourself plenty of time to fill out applications.

While financial aid for college may be driving you to submit applications, scholarships aren’t just about the money. If you can get a scholarship (or many scholarships), it will help build your profile for future opportunities. As a complement to your academic record, a history of scholarship wins can help your resume stand out in competitive employment opportunities, law or medical school applications, or anything you decide to do following college. Ultimately, scholarships today mean opportunity tomorrow!