The Ultimate Scholarship FAQ

Frequently asked questions about scholarships.

Photo: Thinkstock

A scholarship search is an important task, so turn to this scholarship FAQ to make things easier for yourself.

What are need-based and merit-based scholarships?

No one wins every scholarship they apply for so apply to as many as you can.

Need-based scholarships are awarded based on financial need. This can be done with an essay prompt, but is usually involves submitting a FAFSA with the government. Students and their families have to fall within a certain income range or have certain special needs that depend on the scholarship.

Merit-based scholarships are typically awarded based on a student’s academic or athletic accomplishments. The most common involve submitting GPA, test scores, and usually some kind of essay.

Should I still apply if I don’t meet all the requirements?

No, you shouldn’t. No one likes to feel left out, but if you have a 3.6 GPA when they ask for 3.7, just move on. So many students apply for scholarships that scholarship providers usually have to stay within their exact guidelines.

Your time is better spent finding other scholarships that you are eligible for, proofreading your applications or even just catching up on all the sleep you missed writing college essays.

Will I really ever win a scholarship?

It’s easy to feel like the job is too big when faced with paying for college and doing a scholarship search. But the truth is, someone’s gotta win. Why not you? As long as you show your best work and fit all the eligibility requirements, you have as good a chance as anyone.

No one wins every scholarship they apply for. That’s why the big winners apply to as many as they can. And remember that smaller or local scholarships often give you better chances and can add up quick.

Do I really need extra-curricular activities, volunteering, sports?

You certainly don’t need all of them, but they do give you an advantage. Not only do they show that you’re a well-rounded student, they are very common prompts for essay questions—especially volunteering and community service.

Knowing about these things firsthand gives you an edge when you have to write about them.

Is there a limit to how many scholarships I can have?

Not really. Schools and colleges often give out many different scholarships, and in those cases they won’t let you take all of them (even if you deserve them all). There are also monetary limits typically placed on federal financial aid, athletic and some tuition-only scholarships. Other than this, you are free and strongly encouraged to apply for as many as you want.

If I don’t win any scholarships, can I not apply again?

It’s very sad when students take the time to apply and are unable to take home any scholarships. But there are still tons of scholarships available for college freshmen, sophomores and juniors. In fact, you often have better chances with many of these scholarships, since sometimes students don’t realize they exist.

Search online and at your college to find scholarships for continuing students.

I have a low GPA. Can I still get scholarships?

Yes! Lots of scholarships don’t even require you to submit a GPA at all.

Is my aid eligibility affected by scholarships?

Yes, your college will either ask you to list your scholarships and the total amounts, or will be informed by the scholarship providers themselves, and will adjust your need accordingly. Generally, the amount of loans you are able to take out is lowered.

Quick Search: Find the College that's Right for You!



Visit Our Student Center

Get on track!

Visit our Student Center

And find out everything you need to know about planning for college.