The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. Please improve this article and discuss the issue on the talk page.(December 2013)
A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further his or her education. Scholarships are awarded based upon various criteria, which usually reflect the values and purposes of the donor or founder of the award. Scholarship money is not required to be repaid.
The most common scholarships may be classified as:
Merit-based: These awards are based on a student's academic, artistic, athletic or other abilities, and often factor in an applicant's extracurricular activities and community service record. The most common merit-based scholarships, awarded by either private organizations or directly by a student's intended college, recognize academic achievement or high scores on standardized tests. Most such merit-based scholarships are paid directly by the institution the student attends, rather than issued directly to the student.
Need-based: In the United States, these awards are based on the student and family's financial record and require applicants to fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify if the scholarship is a federal award. Private need-based scholarships also often require the results of a FAFSA, which calculates a student's financial need through a formula that looks at the expected family contribution and cost of attendance at the intended college.
Student-specific: These are scholarships for which applicants must initially qualify based upon gender, race, religion, family and medical history, or many other student-specific factors. Minority scholarships are the most common awards in this category. For example, students in Canada may qualify for a number of aboriginal scholarships, whether they study at home or abroad. The Gates Millennium Scholars program is another minority scholarship funded by Bill and Melinda Gates for excellent African American, American Indian, Asian Pacific Islander American and Latino students who enroll in college.
Career-specific: These are scholarships a college or university awards to students who plan to pursue a specific field of study. Often, the most generous awards to students who pursue careers in high-need areas such as education or nursing. Many schools in the United States give future nurses full scholarships to enter the field, especially if the student intends to work in a high-need community.
College-specific: College-specific scholarships are offered by individual colleges and universities to highly qualified applicants. These scholarships, given on the basis of academic and personal achievement, usually result in either a full-ride to the college, or for a reduced rate of tuition.
Athletic: Awarded to students for showing exceptional skill in a sport provided by the college.
It is typical for people to find scholarships in their home regions. Information on these can be found by asking local institutions and organizations. Typically, these are less competitive as the eligible population is smaller.
Guidance counselors: When starting to explore scholarship opportunities, most high school students check with their guidance counselors. They can be a reliable resource for local scholarships.
Non-profits and charitable trusts: Most non-profit organizations have at some point of their history founded scholarships for prospective students. The Good Schools Guide, a guide to schools in the UK, states "Charitable grant-making trusts can help in cases of genuine need," and goes on to outline several instances where this may be the case, including an "unforeseen family disaster" and a "need for special education".
Community foundations: Many counties and cities and regions have a local foundation dedicated to giving money in the form of grants and scholarships to people and organizations in the area.
Music teachers: Some music teachers offer reduced-cost or free lessons to help low-income children gain access to an arts education. In addition, some local non-profits provide free music classes to youths.
Foundations: Certain foundations in the United States offer scholarships for entrepreneurial endeavors.
Labor/trade unions: Major unions often offer scholarships for members and their dependent children.
Houses of worship: The local house of worship may or may not have any scholarships for their members, but the religious organization or headquarters may have some available. Of course, theology study is highly encouraged.
Chamber of commerce: Many chambers of commerce offer (usually small) grants to students in the community, especially those planning on careers in business and public service. Even if they do not offer any themselves, one can usually get a listing of members, and many of them may offer small scholarships to local students.
Other volunteer organizations: Many organizations offer scholarships or award grants to students whose background or chosen field overlaps the field of the organization. For example, local chapters of professional societies may help the studies of exceptionally distinguished students of the region. Similarly, charity organizations may offer help, especially if the late parent of the student was a member of the organization (e.g., a Masonic lodge might help the orphan of a lodge brother.) This kind of scholarship is mostly ad hoc.
School: Old, well-known schools are often endowed with scholarship funds.
University: Old, well-established universities may have funds to finance the studies of extremely talented students of little means. Eligibility often requires that a student belong to some special category or be among a nation's best. However, universities provide information on scholarships and grants, possibly even internship opportunities.
PSAT/NMSQT: In the United States, students are offered the opportunity to take the PSAT/NMSQT test, usually in their junior year of high school. National Merit Scholarship programs are initially determined by the scores received on the PSAT/NMSQT test. Some private scholarship programs require applicants to take the PSAT. The test can be used as preparation for the SAT.
Disabilities: Students with disabilities may be able to apply for awards intended for people with disabilities. Those scholarships may be intended for disabled students in general, or in relation to a specific disability.
It has become more prevalent today that scholarships are misconceived[by whom?] to have a discriminatory quality to them. For example, as demonstrated by student-specific scholarships, minorities are thought to have a priority over Caucasian students when it comes to receiving these scholarships.
These beliefs are known to come from college students themselves who have been affected by their failures at obtaining adequate financial aid. Mark Kantrowitz, author of Secrets to Winning a Scholarship, explains that the average family tends to overestimate their eligibility for merit-based awards and underestimate their eligibility for need-based awards. In turn, the most persistent target of this disapproval tends to be high-profile, minority-based scholarships.
Most scholarships are based on merit or talent, withholding any designation regarding race or nationality. While Caucasians account for 62% of full-time college students in America, they receive 76% of all scholarships.