Complete Guide to All Types of Scholarships

Everything students need to know about receiving scholarships for college


A scholarship is an award of financial aid based on academic merit for a student to pay for college. Scholarships can also be awarded based on various criteria including test scores, athletic ability, or artistic ability and does not have to be repaid.


There are several types of scholarships available for every student seeking to further their education.

  • Academic Scholarships: These scholarships are also referred to merit scholarships. Academic scholarships are among the most competitive for students with GPAs around 4.0, a rigorous class schedule, and years of community service and extracurricular activities. Merit scholarships are often pay the most money and are often national awards, so they are quite prestigious.
  • Athletic Scholarships: While this scholarship focuses on strong physical skills, academics are also considered. There are athletic scholarships for every single sport including gymnastics and cheerleading. With an athletic scholarship, students can play their desired sport while receiving money to pay for school.
  • Community Service Scholarships: For those students who enjoy spending time giving back to the community, there are scholarships tailored to what they do in their free time. There are some scholarships and awards that are based on the number of hours accumulated throughout the academic year Some organizations offer scholarships to volunteers who have shown extreme dedication to their work. An example of this type of scholarship is the Federal Work Study program that allows students to receive funding based on performing community service activities.
  • Creative Scholarships: There are several scholarships that reward students for pursuing artistic passions such as music, art, and dance. These scholarships usually require an audition of some sort or request that students send in a portfolio of their work. While students may be talented in the arts but plan to study a different subject, creative scholarships are normally awarded to those who plan on studying in the creative field.
  • Female Scholarships: There are specific scholarships for women pursuing specific degrees. STEM areas are particularly generous in awarding women scholarships to study in those fields. However, scholarships for women are available in almost every single field. Male-dominated fields even have scholarships for women that aren’t that competitive.
  • First in Family Scholarships: The school system encourages students to attend college, even if no one in their family has previously attending. There are scholarships that range from full tuition to covering room and board for a student that is the first in their family to get into college.
  • Military Scholarships: Those participating in any branch of the armed forces can receive numerous scholarships and grants. There are military scholarships for members of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy as well as for veterans and their families.
  • Minority Scholarships: Minority scholarships are available and catered to individual ethnic groups. Applicants can even apply if their only part of a certain ethnicity. Students get the opportunity to represent their culture and win money for school in the process. An example would be the Gates Millennium Scholars Program that is open only to African American, American Indian and Alaskan Natives, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic American students.
  • Student-Specific Scholarships: Just as in the name, there are scholarships for people specific to religious background, interest in global initiatives, or even being a single mom. There are plenty of organizations and local groups that award scholarships to people based on their unique, personal attributes. The American Cancer Society offers scholarships to students that have a history of cancer. International scholarships also fall under the category of student-specific scholarships.
  • Odd-Ball Scholarships: Unusual scholarships are a great way to get money for college for interesting hobbies and talents. These scholarships range from a variety of requirements from being left-handed to being able to create a dress out of duck tape. Competitions are meant to be fun and don’t usually focus on academics at all.


There are so many different sources that allow students to apply for a variety of scholarships. Scholarships are available through the following:

  • The college or university the student plans on attending. Contacting the admissions office or financial aid center of the college to receive a list of all the scholarships they offer and how to apply. Scholarships can be awarded every year or semester depending on the type.
  • The students’ high school. Guidance counselor’s will have the most current information in terms of available scholarships and can help students get in contact with the right people. They can offer lists and information that are best for the student to begin their search.
  • Employers or parents’ employer. Some employers offer scholarships to their employees that can be extended to their children. Some employers include Best Buy, Coca Cola, and Verizon.
  • Foundations and businesses. Religious groups and global organizations help students that are part of their foundation. They may award money based on community service work or outstanding performance for giving back.
  • Scholarship datatbases. While Google is a good start for searching, it’s important to watch out for scams. There are plenty of reputable sources that students can use to organize scholarships based on due dates, school, or intended major. Some scholarship databases include or
  • Non-profit scholarships. Most non-profit scholarships reward scholarships are need based for those students who demonstrate financial need to attend school. These can also be awarded for community service or students who fall in line with the non-profit’s values.


  1. Gather information such as financial records, school records, and transcripts to make filling out applications easy. Some colleges may require recommendation letters or other statements from teachers and employers; keep these on-hand as well.
  2. Use the aforementioned search engines to begin narrowing down what types of scholarships you will be applying for. Bookmark or print out any information you may need for the future and keep deadlines in mind.
  3. Separate your materials based on due date and organize essays and any supplemental things you may need. Now that you’ve searched through every type of scholarship and you’ve decided which ones you will apply for, by now you should know the due dates and when to send in transcripts, essays, or portfolio items.
  4. Fill out the applications as accurately as possible. Provide any information that may make your application stronger such as test scores, community service, or extracurricular activities and awards.