Scholarships 101 Analyzing the Scholarship Search

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Analyzing the Scholarship Search

As the cost for college attendance increases, many families seek scholarships to pay for an education’s hefty price tag. Navigating the challenges of finding the right scholarships, meeting requirements and making deadlines can be a daunting process.

One common misconception is that scholarships are awarded based on exceptional GPAs, test scores or winning essays, but the truth is that financial aid can be attained and offered to anyone. Rather than perceive the process of earning scholarships as a battle in the Hunger Games, it can be rewarding to know that they are attainable without overbearing stress. To alleviate the process, it’s important to keep these tips in mind.

Types of Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships are awarded to students who meet or exceed specified qualifications set by the scholarship provider. Qualifications range from athletics, involvement in competitive programs (debate team, for example) or academic achievements.

Need-based scholarships are dependent on a student’s proven financial necessity. Financial need is calculated from a student’s application to the FAFSA or California Dream Act. The aid given is a result of the difference between what the family is able to contribute and the cost of attendance.

Institutional scholarships are those offered by colleges and universities to qualified applicants. Whether an academic or personal achievement, the criteria for this reward varies according to the school.

Other scholarships are awarded based on specified groups of people such as women, minorities or military families.

Finding Scholarships

Every college offers financial aid and has counselors on-hand to assist with preliminary questions and applications. In order to receive federal student aid, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or California Dream Act. After applying, students can be either eligible for grants, loans or partake in work-study.

Grants are financial aids that don’t have to be repaid, whereas loans must be repaid with interest. Students can take part in work-study, which are work programs used to help students earn money to pay for school. Scholarships can also be found through state grant agencies.

Scholarship search engines such as,, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool are also popular methods to searching for scholarships. Students can search scholarships through a library’s reference section, ethnicity-based organizations, organizations based on career interest, various foundations and religious organizations.

Local Sources for Scholarships

Fortunately, a myriad of organizations in San Diego County provides scholarship opportunities for students. Students can find various options listed on the official website for The San Diego Foundation.

Each local source has its own specific applications and deadlines available for view on their official websites. The San Diego Foundation Common Scholarship application provides students with access to more than 100 scholarships.

Students can find in-depth information through California Colleges, College Gold Rush, WebGrants 4 Students, and College Abacus.

What to Know About Deadlines

Every scholarship deadline is different, so read the fine print. Look for a list of requirements and specific deadlines. Get started on scholarship applications sooner rather than later to avoid the stress of submitting at the last minute.

For high school students, it’s important to begin researching and applying for scholarships between junior and senior year. For college students, it is ideal to apply a year prior to the beginning school year. While most scholarships have deadlines, some are offered continuously. If you do miss a deadline, don’t fret and continue researching.

Keep these tips in mind and you could find the perfect scholarship to make the burden of tuition bearable.