What are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) that relate to scholarships, grants, and financial aids?
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Who are the contributors to this post?
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The quest for development is so intense in every sector of the world. And this is more pronounced in the sphere of education, as it can be observed in the desire of many students from various countries – underdeveloped, developing and advanced alike to afford quality education, but are limited due to their inability to access scholarships, grants, and financial aids.
Unfortunately, the sad reality is that many students and scholars are defeated in their desire to pursue research and development or education because they do not know of the existence of some great free scholarships, grants, and financial aids that are available to them.
And so, they rather go ahead in life by getting a job they believe would pay their bills, which, in some cases, is still unable to help them achieve their goals due to the limited income that it provides.
This article, to help alleviate the problems associated with getting free scholarships and grants, will discuss how folks can source and increase their odds of getting grants and scholarships. This will also be done by using the information provided by 11 diverse education and business stakeholders.
But before we get to that, what is the difference between a grant and a scholarship?
Difference Between a Scholarship and a Grant
The terms scholarship and grant are always used interchangeably in a way that makes them seem like one and the same word, which isn’t true as there is a world of difference between scholarship and grant. Now, while both of them are forms of financial aid that one would not be required to repay-- more or less like a gift, both of them are actually not exactly the same word.
Grants, for one, are awarded based on needs, which, for example, is the essence of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms that American nationals, who are students, are asked to fill in their quest for financial aid for a university degree.
The reason for this is to measure the financial strength of the student’s family to pay their tuition through the school and the university most times in partnership with the Federal government, to pays off the shortfall of tuition fees and other expenses.
While scholarships, on the other hand, are merit-based. This means that you have got to deserve or qualify for it through your outstanding academic performance or your expertise in the area of sports, art or any other extracurricular skill.
And now that is out of the way, some may wonder if these financial aids are still available?
Are Scholarships, Grants And Financial Aids Still Available?
The answer to this question is a big fat YES!!!!
Free scholarships, grants, and financial aids to pay for the tuition and living expenses of highly qualified, intelligent and brilliant students, and to also fund research and development are available from various funding agencies across the globe.
These funding agencies give partial or full financial support, which can be for specific nationalities or international students and scholars. Financial aids can also come from universities for the specific programs that they offer.
Government of various countries can offer scholarships, grants, and financial aids to their citizens, and not because of the intelligence of these citizens but because these students, scholars, and even business start-ups hail from the financial aiding country, or because these students are gifted and talented in some areas like sports/ extracurricular activities, work of art, leadership potentials, and community service, just to mention a few.
Okay, so scholarships, grants, and financial aids do exist, but who awards them in addition to the few already listed?
Sources For Getting Scholarships, Grants, And Financial Aids
A) Your country of citizenship or permanent residence
There are but a few students out there who know that their country can be one of the greatest sources of funding to explore.
And aside from funding from the government of your home country, you can also reach out to personal sources like large companies that give scholarships to students of their countries as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
The only clause to this is the demands of such scholarship or grant, which may require that you return to your home country, after the completion of your studies abroad, to apply whatever you learned during your study.
B) International Organizations
These include but are not limited to; United Nations, World Health Organization, Commonwealth, Joint Japan World Bank Scholarships, UNESCO fellowship programs, Chevening and so on
C) The University You Are Applying To
Available Information exists on whether the university course you’re applying for is fully or partially funded or if there are assistantships or scholarships. And the awards can be negotiated upwards when you have received an offer of admission from the university.
D) Private Sources
This can be from a renowned retired professor in a particular academic field, or a wealthy family that has a history of providing scholarships for less privileged students, or a Corporation that gives out scholarships, grants, and financial aids to students, for example, Wellington Region International Students Leaver Grants In New Zealand, and the MasterCard Foundation.
E) Foreign Governments Of Various Countries
There are always scholarships, either full or partial funding offers for international students. Find out what is applicable in your proposed country of study. Some of these scholarships and awards are; University of London Scholarships; Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships; University Of Hawaii International Awards (USA); Eric Bleumink Fund For International Students in the Netherlands
In all, eligibility for scholarships or grants differs from one funding organization to another and you would do yourself a world of good if you take your time to read through the terms, conditions and eligibility criteria for every scholarship you’re interested in before applying for it.
Watch the video below to have more understanding of the types of scholarships, grants, and financial aids that are available
But what are the benefits of applying for these scholarships or grants aside from the few previously briefly mentioned reasons:
Reasons To Apply For Scholarships and Grants
A) It eases the financial stress or burden of paying for college/university fees as you may not have to take loans or work odd hours to be able to go through school.
B) It could make your post-graduation successful because of your exposure to assistantships, oversea travels for conferences, fellowships, internships and also volunteering, which will give your resume an edge over others, increasing your employability status.
C) It could aid you in achieving your dream to study in the university, which you would not have been able to achieve, by yourself, due to little to no funding.
D) Your performances will most likely improve a great deal when you succeed in receiving a scholarship, grant or financial aid, and you will have better grades because an award of scholarship or grant could include paying for expenses like accommodation, living expenses, books and so on. This removes concerns that would have taken your attention away from fully focusing on your academics.
E) Grants, in addition to the above, can make it easy for institutions and businesses to raise the capital that does not need to be repaid, helping them place more emphasis on accomplishing their goals.
F) The process of applying for grants could lead to improve plans for organization growth
G) Applying for grants could also lead to developing a valuable partnership with people that may have similar project interest in mind.
And this now brings us to the part that you should pay more serious attention to:
How Then Do You Improve Your Chances Of Getting Scholarships, Grants And Financial Aids?
A) Start early and plan for it. Don’t wait until the last minute before you start applying for a scholarship, grant or financial aid for your education or business. Most applications for financial aid usually have an application window of three to five months. The demands of the application process -- the essays that you may have to write, and questions that you may have to fill out in the online application portal could become so overwhelming that you may want to give up. But don’t because it will be worth it in the end!
B) Get yourself a mentor in this regard. This could be someone who has received or qualified for scholarships, grants or financial aids in times past or alumni of the specific scholarship awarding body you are applying to. Whichever one you choose, the person should be someone with some form of experience, someone who has gone through the processes of applying for financial aid and has succeeded in it. When it comes to applying for scholarships, grants or financial aids, you really can never rule out experience.
C) Understand the terms and conditions of the scholarship grants or financial aids you are applying for clearly and thoroughly. This is important because any violation of the terms and conditions can result in the disqualification of your application or scholarship/grant award, which may result in the awarding body asking for a refund of what has been paid to you.
You should come to terms with the reality that what applies to one funding body may not apply to the other. So before you apply, make sure you have gone through the terms and conditions of the offer of scholarship or grant award properly, ensuring that you meet all the preconditions and eligibility criteria set for applying for the scholarship.
D) Look out for support groups for the particular scholarship, grant or financial aid you are applying for and join those groups. For instance, Chevening scholars, past, present and intending, have support groups on Facebook where you can get relevant information and answers to some of the questions that may arise during your application process.
Great information on what has helped past applicants, what to do and what not to do in your quest for the award of the scholarship or grant are available in these support groups.
So what you need to do is search for such specific support groups, that exist on social media, for the funding body you are applying to.
E) Pay serious attention to application essays. Most funding bodies require that you write essays as part of your application process for the scholarship, grant or financial aid that you desire, and so you must sharpen your writing skills in this area.
This is one of the areas where your mentor can come in to help you review your essays and tell you what works and what doesn’t. So, write and rewrite your essays again and again until you are satisfied (I can’t stress this enough).
Get your mentor/guide to review the essay with and for you, and make suggestions and/or corrections that will improve the total outlook of your essay. Do not be deceived as most funding bodies, that ask for essays, usually, have reading committees who read the essays as a critical part of the selection process.
F) Spread your tentacles. What do I mean by this? I am simply telling you not to put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure you apply to more than one scholarship/grant awarding organizations per time, provided there is nothing in the terms and conditions of any of the funding institutions that prohibits you from applying to the other.
Here is a secret that you need to know -- for bigger scholarship awards, the competition is always very keen. But fortunately, not many people apply for small scholarships and grants. So, apply for several small scholarships as there are no limitations as to the number of scholarships to apply to. After all, they say, “little drops they say, make an ocean.”
G) Work hard to increase your GPA. There are no two ways about this. Most scholarships, like I earlier explained, are merit-based. The requirement could be 3.5 out of a 5-point cumulative grade point system, which requires a relative amount of hard work to obtain. This entails increasing your study hours and reducing fun times so that you can be eligible for the scholarship or grant that you desire.
H) Do well on your test scores. Make an effort to pass your English language tests well because funding bodies usually have a defined score for students whose first language is not English and would want to study in an English speaking country. Some of these tests are IELTS, GRE, TOEFL, Cambridge and so on.
I) The last but not least and yet the most powerful suggestion that I have for you, in increasing your chances of success for grants, scholarships, and financial aids, is that you must be determined. This is because the process can be very tedious and tiresome sometimes, so it will take a “being really hard on yourself kind of determination” for you to go through with the process because I tell you sometimes you will feel like giving up, as the saying goes, nothing good comes easy.
To conclude on this, to qualify for scholarships, grants, and financial aids, you must wear tenacity like a badge. Refuse to be overwhelmed, refuse to throw in the towel. Search and keep searching until you get the kind of Scholarship or grant you desire. See possibilities, do not take no for an answer as you have all it takes to get that scholarship or grant.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between a scholarship and a grant?
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Are scholarships, grants, and financial aids still available?
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How can I source scholarships, grants, and financial aids?
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Why should I apply for scholarships, grants, and financial aids?
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How can I improve my chances of getting scholarships, grants, and financial aids?
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But these are just my opinions and recommendations as one who has gone through the process. And now, let’s read what these 11 contributors have to say. I would suggest that you pay attention to their recommendations that repeat themselves as these could be emphasizing points that folks should never take for granted when applying for scholarships or grants.
1) Lindsey Marx
I remember being a high school student and being completely freaked out by all of the costs of college. I had a mentor tell me to apply to one scholarship a week, and I remember thinking he was crazy -- that wasn’t going to be enough!
I agree with the following tips/advice on scholarships and will elaborate on what has worked for me, to be entirely on scholarship my four years of college, and LITERALLY not pay a penny (even textbooks and housing) for my education.
A) Know how to Sell Yourself -- If you can’t sell yourself, you are going to have a hard time writing about yourself. About 98% of scholarships require some form of essay where the committee wants to hear about YOU. You need to list all of the things that you admire about yourself.
Meet with professors, teachers, family members, mentors, counselors at school, anyone who can help you figure out what your top qualities are. Pick 3-4 that REALLY make you stand out.
For me, I chose to mention my community service, hard work, friendliness, and a love for trying new things. You don’t want to sound cocky, but be humble and still tell about yourself. It is tricky, but it is possible.
B) Start Early -- This is a huge factor because practice makes perfect in every situation, including scholarships. I started applying for scholarships for college as a freshman in high school. This gave me a two-year bump in which I perfected resumes, essays, and selling myself. I also was able to determine what I needed to add to be a stronger candidate, so that by my junior and senior year in high school, I was able to be super competitive.
Another advantage to starting early was FINDING the scholarships to apply for. This is the hardest part most of the time. I am going to tell you, don’t waste your time on Fastweb and Cappex and all of the other super popular scholarships. You will spend hours on end and never win. I have actually never seen these websites get updated in the last 8 years.
Yes, I have been applying for 8 years now, and just graduated. You need to spend your time looking for the smaller, less-known scholarships.
Did you know that local businesses have hundreds of thousands of dollars go wasted because they didn’t have scholarship applications? How crazy is that, right?? This leads to the next piece of advice, but before that, know that even if you don’t start at early as freshman year in high school, you can still apply as a senior. It is never too late, but it is easier to apply earlier.
C.) Look Locally -- Local businesses often have smaller scholarships, but smaller competition. Which, adds up in the end when you win several small scholarships. When I say locally, I mean LOCALLY. For example, I lived in Colorado growing up, I applied to 10 scholarships a day. That was my goal.
I spent my first two years of high school building a master scholarship list and in the next two years, I would apply and add to it. In Colorado, they have the VFW -- Veterans of Foreign Wars, DAR -- Daughters of the American Revolution, and Elk Club businesses. I’m sure local offices are around the nation, but in Colorado specifically, I was the ONLY applicant. So, I won these scholarships pretty easily. Now it may have only been a few hundred dollars, but all three of these added up pretty fast.
Local businesses all have scholarships of some sort. All you need to do is search on their website or talk to a manager. I can tell you that even the company I work for now, has a scholarship for local and non-local students. All you need to do is find them. I will say, it is worth it to try to apply for more nationally recognized scholarships like the Boettcher, Wendy’s Heisman, and AXA Achievement scholarships. I won all three of these, but wait until your senior year.
Make sure you practice, and honestly, don’t spend a ton of time on them. When you spend time writing essays over and over for several scholarship applications, work smarter, not harder, and try to use other essays and fine-tune them so that they work. The more time you spend on bigger scholarships, the less time you have for the smaller scholarships that you have a better chance of winning at.
D) Get Creative -- Scholarship committees get sick of reading the same responses over and over. Get creative in what you say and how you say it!
I remember one scholarship asked for an essay on American peace, and instead, I painted a picture of the statue of liberty. I ended up winning because I attached a short caption to go with it and explained how my painting represented American peace. I have had friends who will make videos of themselves doing things like service projects and time-lapse them instead of writing essays.
Get creative and think about new ways to portray the same thing you would have written. But, sometimes it is good to just write essays -- in that case, get creative in how you write the essay and how you portray the essay topic.
E) Find a Good Mentor for Recommendations -- I had an excellent mentor in high school who challenged me and gave me great recommendations. Find someone that you can trust, who also shares your passion and can help you search for scholarships and write you a great recommendation. Pick a counselor, teacher, or a couch (no family member, sorry!) because they need to have a personal and close relationship with you to vouch for you.
My high school teacher saw me regularly and I talked with him often about scholarships and recommendations. I also had a fabulous counselor who, before she retired, gave me her lists of scholarships to apply for locally because I spent an hour a day with her applying. I picked her brain and she was able to help me with her written recommendations and her lists of scholarships to apply for.
Get to know your high school’s counselor, they aren’t just there for those who need support, but for financial aid and college preparation. Establish a relationship early. If you can’t think of any good mentors, start volunteering and get to know the head of volunteers -- they can write pretty amazing recommendations and vouch for your community service, which is a topic on more than 75% of scholarship essays -- a double win for you!
F) Apply to Multiple Scholarships -- I can’t stress this one last piece of advice enough. TOO many students think they can apply for just one or two scholarships, as mentioned above, PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. I guarantee you, you won’t win the first scholarship you apply for. This doesn’t mean don’t apply, this means, apply to as many as you can and get feedback. Work on it. I remember attending a seminar in high school where the instructor told our class:
“Scholarships should be a part-time job -- you need to be spending 10-20 hours a week on scholarships to see results”
And it is TRUE!! I applied to 10 a day for 4 years! I won my first scholarship at the end of my junior year. It took that long to see results, but oh my goodness, the money just started coming in and honestly, I was being compensated more for my time, then I would have been at my actual part-time job as a lifeguard. It is worth it. Spend time. Start with 2-3 scholarship applications each day. You will find that the more time you spend, the less time you will spend on essays because you have already written them.
For those who don’t have exceptional SAT and ACT scores, don’t fret! Believe it or not, I was one of you. I was never a great test taker. And I still made it completely debt-free. Some scholarships will ask for your scores, don’t be ashamed, tell the truth, but knock it out on the essays and try to make yourself stand out in other areas.
For example, I did 700 hours of service my entire 4 years in high school and got an award named after myself, that helped me stand out a lot in my essays and scholarship applications. Find something truly unique about yourself and make it glow on your applications. If you can’t think of anything, then go volunteer, go start a new project, do something that can make you stand out. Participate in a club in high school and recruit students. Anything that makes you sound unique.
One last thing, NEVER pay to apply to scholarships. Don’t ever pay for the application. You should always be applying for free.
You can improve the odds of winning a scholarship by applying to every scholarship for which you are eligible.
Use a free scholarship finder or matching service to look for scholarships for which you are eligible. Don’t pay money to search through a scholarship database. The paid databases don’t have better or more up-to-date information. If you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam.
When using a free scholarship search site, answer all of the optional questions, not just the required questions, for about twice as many matches. Many of the optional questions are there to trigger the inclusion of specific scholarships in the search results.
When applying for a scholarship, depth matters more than breadth, especially in areas that are relevant to the scholarship provider’s goals in offering the scholarship. Scholarship providers want the student who best matches their selection criteria.
Google yourself and clean up your online presence. About a quarter of scholarship providers friend their finalists on Facebook, looking for red flags.
There are several really common reasons grants are denied, most of which you can control.
A) You timed the grant application wrong. Foundations move at their own pace. Make sure that you understand the milestones and deadlines for the application. It will take longer than you expect and will feel like a hurry-up and wait-for situation.
-Start your research as early as possible, and have yourself ready for the timeline.
B) You didn’t follow the guidelines! Let’s be honest. Too many 501c3’s are taking a shotgun approach to grants. Look online, copy and paste information and hit submit… repeat. If you are expecting an organization to hand over thousands of dollars, you had better make sure that your project lines up with their mission. I implore you don’t think that similar missions will translate in the mid of the grant reviewer.
-Tailor your proposal to the exact specifications of the grant you want to be awarded. Specifics matter!
C) Incomplete documentation. This one is related to the guidelines
above. Things like your IRS 501c3 certificate, your by-laws, financials, and list of staff are frequently requested
-- Again do your homework and provide everything the grantor asks for!
*One way to improve your odds going forward is to use the rejection as a learning experience. *
A) Ask for comments from the grant reviewer. Many organizations will give you their scoring rubric if you ask.
B) Don’t take it personally. This is a business transaction, act like a professional.
C) Hire a professional to either write the grant for you or,
if your budget is tight, have them perform a review, which can greatly save you some money.
4) Joe Bailey
These are my opinions on why some people don’t get the grants and/or scholarships that they apply for. I write as one with some experience handling scholarship and grant applications for several small organizations:
A) They do not customize their applications to fit the particular scholarship donor. Copy-pasting an application is a dead give away that you did not take the time to research the donor, their values, and requirements.
B) I’ve also noticed that people do not pay enough attention to the eligibility requirements specified by the donor. Most donors are very particular about the candidates they are seeking, and if you miss out on even one of these requirements, you are automatically disqualified.
*Bottom Line:* The major reasons for people not receiving the scholarships and grants they are applying for are that they do not customize their applications to fit the requirements of the donor, and they do not pay enough attention to the specific requirements stipulated in the scholarship/grant description.
5) Anna Serio
Not meeting all of the eligibility requirements is one of the most common reasons scholarship and grant applications get rejected. This is particularly true for grants, which are usually given based on financial need. Avoid wasting your time on funding you can’t qualify for by reading the requirements carefully before you do anything else. If they’re unclear, don’t be afraid to reach out to clarify.
Making mistakes in the essay is another major reason scholarship applications get rejected. Writing off-topic, leaving in sloppy spelling and grammar errors or making an unoriginal argument are all sure-fire ways to get your application sent straight to the “no” pile. You can avoid this by having someone else read your essay along with the prompt. Even better, have multiple people read it and listen to their feedback — especially if it’s for a highly competitive award.
Remember that most students don’t get every scholarship and grant they apply for. But you can increase your chances of getting funding by applying to as many as you can.
6) Jocelyn (Paonita) Pearson
Here are some quick tips to increase one’s chances of receiving scholarships /grants. I secured 6-figures in scholarships myself and have since helped families for the past 5 years secure scholarships as well.
A) When it comes to securing scholarships and grants, it takes practice. Students have to figure out the right story to share, the right essay and more. Many students don’t receive scholarships because they give up too soon. *Submitting 5 scholarships and not hearing back from any doesn’t mean you cannot receive money.* It just means you need to tweak your materials and try again.
B) Einstein’s saying comes into play here. *Submitting the same materials over and over again, expecting a different result, won’t work. *Students need to improve their materials to change the results.
C) One of the biggest mistakes we see when reviewing students’ scholarship essays is that* they do not answer the question*. Try to answer the essay prompt and only that essay prompt. For example, committees often ask for one’s characteristic or one’s experience. This means students should choose one (and only one) versus trying to list everything they can think of.
D) Scholarship committees like to feel like they are making a good investment when selecting a winner. This means *they want to feel like the winner will make something of themselves* in college and beyond. While many students do not know what they want to be for sure, we always recommend them choosing a potential path and speaking to that versus just saying they have no idea. This helps committees visualize their future investment paying off.
E) Have someone proofread the scholarship and grant applications before submitting them. *Silly grammatical errors or unclear writing can land your application in the trash.* Having a second set of eyes take a look can help prevent that!
Many applications get rejected outright because the applicant does not follow instructions or meet deadlines. We frequently get dozens of emails asking if the scholarship is still available? And this is weeks after we have selected a winner.
The winners all have a few things in common --
A) they follow instructions to the tee
B) they write clearly, professionally, and concisely
C) there is some degree of personalization that shows us they are not just bulk applying for awards but have actually read our guidelines.
Because our scholarship is based upon caregiving, the applicant’s individual story and their overall need definitely play huge roles as well. Believe it or not, academic performance is not a significant consideration for our scholarships.
8) Kristine Thorndyke
I won a local scholarship that awarded me a full-tuition ride to any school in Indiana. I am a HUGE proponent of seeking out local scholarships in your community. These scholarships tend to be larger in dollar amount as well as less competitive than national scholarships. Usually, a guidance counselor should have information for students regarding local scholarships that the student may apply for.
Speaking of local scholarships, these tend to be more focused on specific community service initiatives. I advise that students, starting their freshman year of high school, begin to scope out the local scholarships as well as look at students who have won them in the past.
The student’s high school career should have an emphasis on taking on volunteer positions, leadership roles, or to take part in community projects that would make the student more competitive for this scholarship. These leadership roles should be in accordance with values and initiatives that you are passionate about, as I do not suggest volunteering just to earn a scholarship.
9) Stacy Caprio
Many people write self-focused, generic essays instead of trying to understand what the scholarship team is looking for. To have a chance of winning any scholarships you’ll need to do your best to cater to the scholarship brand.
A scholarship company often gives a scholarship because of a specific cause, niche or because they are asking you to write a specific type of essay for them.
And so, I would recommend that you meticulously read their scholarship description and company site, do the research you need so your application can shine bright matching their values and exactly what they’re looking for.
I was able to find grants for foster youth only, which related to me because of my childhood experience in foster care. And so, that gave me better odds for winning money towards tuition and living expenses.
I also worked full time while going to school full time. My workplace had grants/tuition support that I could apply for, which enabled me to save about $3,000 off my tuition annually until I graduated with an undergraduate degree. I know Starbucks has free tuition at Arizona State University (ASU) and my current employee HollingsworthLLC.com also offers free tuition for qualified employees and their family members.
I also applied for scholarships that I found online. I used a template and it helped me streamline my grant application process. I applied to over 50 grants throughout college and got 12 of them.
11) Aqsa Tabassam
Many students with an average IQ earn a scholarship while some genius fails to do so. What is the reason behind it? Well, it happens because of many reasons. However, I will highlight the subtle ones.
Chase One Major Scholarship: Hundreds of thousands of students compete for the scholarship that covers the cost of everything, including tuition, books, fees, living, and traveling. It is a harsh reality that only 2% of the students secure it. If you do not consider yourself competent enough to achieve it, then instead of becoming the part of the rabbit race, practice the smart approach.
Many small scholarships collectively serve the same way as one full scholarship does. Go for them; you will face less competition, and chances of success are higher there.