What is a Scholarship and How Can You Get One?

Scholarships are the golden ticket of the college application process, and it's no different for online degrees. Unlike loans which require the recipient to pay them back after a certain period of time, often with a hefty amount of interest, scholarships are, essentially, free money to help cover educational expenses. Whether you're short, tall, involved in sports or the arts, or even if you're left-handed or have a unique last name, you can be eligible for a scholarship. Let's look at different types of scholarships available with colleges and online universities and how you can apply for them.

University and college merit scholarships. These are often the highest-paying scholarships and the simplest to apply for. For some, you don't even have to fill out a separate application. Many scholarships that are offered by the college or university or online school you're applying to are included when you're considered for admission to the program. Inquiring with the financial aid or scholarship office of the school(s) you're applying to will help you to find out what scholarships you may be eligible for from within the college. After enrolled, you may be able to continually apply for scholarships toward your online degree based on your performance in the program. If you maintain a high GPA or show other exceptional effort and progress toward your degree, you may be rewarded with additional scholarship funds.

Local Scholarships. For high schoolers, local scholarships can be the extra boost needed to make college dreams a reality. For adult learners or other nontraditional students, local scholarships should not be ignored. While many are specifically for local high school seniors, many organizations may also have resources available for those in need who are pursuing an online education or going back to college. Local organizations such as the Elks Club, rotary club, golf club or yacht club can be great starting points to approach for scholarship inquiries. Other groups such as a council on aging, veterinary office, or even arts and music organizations can offer specific scholarships for students pursuing degrees in those areas of study.

Private Scholarships and competitions. Websites such as Scholarships.com and FastWeb.com contain databases of thousands of scholarships available from across the country and even across the globe. Once you've registered an account, sites like these will have you fill out an extensive survey about your background and interests, and will match you up with scholarships that you may be qualified for based on your answers. While this puts scholarship applications at your fingertips, you must also remember that these scholarships often have the most competition, since anyone online can find them. A well crafted scholarship application or essay, however, can set you apart from the competition and you may walk away with thousands of dollars toward your online degree.

While applying to the online or traditional college of your choice, be sure to seek scholarship opportunities at every turn. It's important not to get discouraged and to apply to as many scholarships as you feel you may be qualified for. You never know what may come through for you and help to make your educational dreams a remarkably affordable reality.

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