How Do Scholarships Work? (With FAQ and Application Tips)

Updated November 21, 2022

As a high school student, university student, or graduate, you may apply for scholarships to help relieve financial costs and further your studies. While there are various scholarship schemes that you can apply to, they differ in their required qualifications and the amounts they award. Understanding the requirements surrounding scholarship schemes and applications can help you increase your chances of receiving one. In this article, we answer "How do scholarships work?", discuss other questions relating to scholarships, and provide tips for scholarship applications.

How do scholarships work?

If you're looking into how to manage your financial obligations while completing an educational program, you may be wondering, "How do scholarships work?". Private organizations and provincial or federal governments may set up schemes to award scholarships to individuals who meet specific criteria. First, they review applications from different applicants to determine those who are eligible for the award. Then, depending on the scholarship, they may pay the scholarship amount in a lump sum or in installments.

As an alternative to scholarships, there are student grants that you can apply for, which you receive with no obligation to repay. These grants are preferable to student loans with interest rates, which recipients pay back when they conclude their studies and get jobs. While some scholarships are complete and may cover both direct and indirect tuition costs, others may be partial and cover only a percentage of tuition.

Related: Writing a Recommendation Letter for Scholarship Application

Frequently asked questions about scholarships

Here are some answers to questions you may have about scholarships:

Where can students find scholarships?

The first step in applying for scholarships is to find ones that are available to you. There are different sources of information that you can leverage to identify scholarship opportunities. You can use these sources to narrow your search and identify offers that are compatible with your background. Some of these information sources include:

  • guidance counsellors

  • scholarship sites

  • career websites

  • organizations

  • federal sources

Who qualifies for a scholarship?

The various types of scholarships have different requirements. Some scholarship schemes may adjust or curate scholarships. The different types that you may qualify for include:

  • Scholastic: Scholastic scholarships are popular and usually focus on students with high academic standing. The scholarship schemes may award amounts to the most highly graded students out of a range or any that meet a set credit mark.

  • Needs-based scholarships: These scholarships generally apply to a wide range of students, as the committee awards amounts based on individual financial needs. The scholarship board assesses various factors, including financial background, minority status, and disability, and awards scholarships to those it considers to have the greatest need.

  • Sports-based: These scholarship schemes target talented athletes with impressive career prospects. They scout students who excel at sports in high school and sponsor their further education while the recipient competes on their university's team.

  • Unique abilities: Some scholarship schemes may award amounts to students with special skills, such as impressive academic records. For example, you may find scholarship opportunities for prodigies or people who have mastered a craft.

  • Music ability: Scholarships schemes may focus on individuals who have impressive singing capabilities or have mastered musical instruments. These scholarships may be available at institutions looking to admit highly talented music students.

Related: The Differences Between a Curriculum Vitae vs. Resume

How can students spend scholarship money?

Scholarship boards typically award scholarships for student tuition. Depending on the institution and the type of scholarship, some may cover other costs, such as living expenses, study materials, food, or transportation. Some scholarships include clear instructions on how you can spend the money. Otherwise, you may be able to use the scholarship for any expenses related to your studies. Some of the different ways you can use your scholarship money include:

  • Tuition: Most scholarships cover all or a portion of your school tuition. You may get this amount as a lump sum or receive it in installments throughout your study duration.

  • Computers and study devices: Some scholarships may award amounts for computers or study devices. This may be more common for courses requiring computers, such as tech or programming.

  • Textbooks: In addition to tuition, you may get an amount to cover any textbooks or study materials you require to complete your studies. This may be in the form of a cash deposit or textbook vouchers that you can use to buy your study materials.

  • Housing or living expenses: These scholarships usually apply to students who are studying abroad and require accommodation on campus or in an apartment. You may use the scholarship fee to secure accommodation for the duration of your studies.

  • Groceries: You may use your scholarship money to cover your daily food expenses. It may also be possible to use the money to pay for meal plans from the university.

Related: Magna Cum Laude vs. Summa Cum Laude and Their Career Benefits

What are the sources of scholarships?

The different sources of scholarships for students include:

  • Federal government: The federal government offers student scholarships, grants, and aids that students can apply for. These include military student aid, full-time student grants, and federal loans.

  • Province-funded scholarships: These scholarships are generally open to students based on their province and other secondary factors, such as financial need, skills, and academic background. Some examples of these scholarships include the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and the Ontario Graduate scholarship.

  • School-funded scholarships: High schools or universities may award scholarships to students based on excellent behaviour, extra-curricular activities, diversity, needs, and academic performance. They may also award scholarships based on community service, test scores, or sports activities.

  • Privately funded scholarships: Sources of privately funded scholarships may include religious organizations, notable individuals, charitable organizations, scholarship foundations, businesses, social groups, musical institutions, or sports clubs. These private businesses or individuals may award scholarships to recognize outstanding individuals, promote a cause or business, contribute to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) causes, or serve as a memorial.

Read more: What Is Corporate Philanthropy? (With Types and Benefits)

Tips for getting scholarships

Here are some tips you can consider when seeking scholarships:

Begin the process early

A vital tip to consider when applying for scholarships is to begin early. If you want to increase your chances of getting a scholarship offer, start researching options several months before applications open. Starting early helps you create a list of scholarships available to you, and you can conduct further research to shortlist those that align with your goals and that you have a higher chance of getting.

Next, start gathering relevant documents and drafting your scholarship essays. You can forward these essays and documents to former scholarship recipients or experts to assist in making corrections. Beginning this process early allows you to complete the preparation and send your applications immediately after the application window opens.

Read more: Guide to Writing a Resume for a Scholarship (With Example)

Focus on your unique strengths

When applying for scholarships, highlight your most appealing strengths. Scholarship committees usually receive many applications. Highlighting your strengths helps make your application unique. It may also help you impress the review committee. Depending on the scholarship, you may emphasize your background, skills, education, or personal experiences. Ensure that these unique strengths relate to the application and support your reasons for applying.

Related: How to Write a Scholarship Cover Letter (With an Example)

Complete simple applications

You can increase your chances of getting an offer by applying to several different scholarships. Create a list of scholarships that align with your financial, academic, or career goals. Then, depending on the application window and process, you may include some more accessible applications that you can complete by simply filling out a form and submitting a document.

While you may wish to submit multiple applications, scholarships that require a lot of effort, such as writing multiple essays, may take more time. Including some straightforward applications allows you to maximize your time. You can then allocate the time you saved to more intense applications that require multiple supporting documents. This increases your number of scholarship applications and your chances of getting an offer.

Related: How to Use Inspirational KSAO Examples for Job Applications

Track your application process

To make the process seamless, track your applications with a spreadsheet. For each application, include deadlines and reminders that help you understand what to do at each point in the application. The spreadsheet gives you a sense of progress as you mark off completed tasks. It also enables you to complete the preparation process early and submit your applications on time.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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