A scholarship is an award of financial aid for a student to further their 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.
Scholarships versus grants
The term ‘”scholarship”‘ is sometimes used to describe any financial aid given to a student that does not have to be repaid. However, more precisely, and universally among college financial aid offices, scholarships and grants are quite different.
A scholarship is given to a student because of a reason: the student has qualified for or won it by academic or athletic ability, or by agreeing to follow a particular career, or has some special ethnic or other characteristic. Scholarships are not given for financial need alone.
Types of scholarships
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: Some private need-based awards are confusingly called scholarships, and require the results of a FAFSA (the family’s EFC).
- 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.
- 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 are given on the basis of academic and personal achievement.
- Athletic: Awarded to students with exceptional skill in a sport, so that the student will attend the college and play the sport on a college team. Like intercollegiate athletics as a whole (see College football#controversy), they are controversial. Some believe that awarding scholarship money for athletic rather than academic or intellectual purposes is not in society’s or colleges’ best interest.