Imagine this: After spending 12 long years of education, it’s finally time to head to college. But hang on, because there’s a catch—tuition is much higher than you thought, and the school didn’t offer an academic scholarship.
One alternative for students can be to find a non-academic scholarship and keep pushing toward that dream. Here are tips on finding non-academic scholarships to help pay for a college education.
What Is A Non-Academic Scholarship?
Scholarships are one type of financial aid available to students, which importantly, don’t need to be repaid and are typically awarded based on merit or some other quality. Grants, which also do not need to be repaid, are typically awarded based on need and not based on academic or athletic merit.
Scholarships can be awarded for many different reasons, including academic achievement. However, just because someone isn’t an A+ student doesn’t mean they too can’t qualify for a scholarship. There are non-academic scholarships for just about anyone. Students may just need to put in a bit of legwork to find ones they qualify for and apply.
Places to Find Non-Academic Scholarships
Often, the first step in getting a scholarship is to find it. Here are a few places to start your search.
School counselor’s office
High school students can check in with their high school counselor to see about any non-academic scholarship they may know about. The office may have a list of options available to students, and, because they may know the student, their skills, and their future aspirations, they may be able to hone in on the right scholarship for them.
College admissions website
If a high school student has already been accepted to school, they may check in with the college’s admission website. There, they could find a list of potential scholarships offered directly by the school. Students should also reach out directly to the admissions office or future academic counselors for assistance.
Scholarship listing websites
There are several websites out there that roundup available scholarships to students, including destinations like FastWeb , Scholarships.com , and CollegeBoard . Here, students can sift through hundreds of available scholarships and find help with the application process as well.
Friends and family
Sure, it may not seem as obvious, but merely asking around for scholarship opportunities can’t hurt. Students should reach out to their network and let everyone know they are on the hunt for financial assistance. Someone may know of a specific scholarship that could be the perfect fit for the student.
Connect with the Community
Explore connections with local religious groups, business, and other organizations. Having an existing connection can potentially improve an applicant’s chances of securing a scholarship. Plus, students may face less competition when they apply for more local scholarships.
Non-Academic Scholarship Areas
Need a little help thinking about what type of non-academic scholarship may fit? Here are a few ideas to get students started.
Have a unique talent? There’s probably a scholarship available for it. For example, students who have the ability to write excellent essays can submit their work to a number of scholarships, including ones like “A Voice for Cats ,” an essay contest sponsored by All About Cats that awards $1,000 to the best essay.
Students may also find non-academic scholarships based on their heritage. Students from minority groups may find additional opportunities, for example scholarships for African American or Hispanic students.
Some scholarships may be available through churches, while others can be found on websites like College Board. There, students of various backgrounds can search for a suitable match.
Students can apply to non-academic scholarships based on their various interests too. For example, those interested in cars can apply for the National Corvette Club scholarship. Those students that love to cook can apply for the AAC Culinary Scholarships for High School Seniors . Know a student who spends their Sundays completing The New York Times crossword puzzle in pen? Have them apply to the Crossword Hobbyist Crossword Scholarship . No matter the interest, odds are there is a scholarship out there for it.
Area of Study
Future and current college students may be able to find a scholarship that suits their future area of study. Students hoping to become their own CEOs can apply for The National Association for the Self-Employed ’s Future Entrepreneur Scholarships, which helps promote “entrepreneurial thinking among aspiring business students.” The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants also offers scholarships for minority accounting students who maintain a 3.3 GPA.
Again, if there’s an area of study odds are there’s a scholarship available for it.
Students looking for a non-academic scholarship can search for regional scholarships on Scholarships.com. There, they’ll find options like the 16th District PTA Scholarship , given to high school seniors attending Fayette County Public Schools. There’s also the A.B. Noel Endowed Scholarship for current graduating seniors or former graduates of Wood River Rural High School in Wood River, Nebraska, the American Advertising Federation-New Mexico Scholarship Fund for New Mexico residents, and more.
Other Outlandish Options
There are scholarships available for less obvious reasons too. One of the more famous wacky scholarships is the Stuck at the Prom Scholarship Contest sponsored by Duck brand duct tape. Each year, the company awards a $5,000 scholarship to a teen who designs and wears a dress or tuxedo made out of their duct tape.
Want even zanier? How about the The Zolp Scholarship , which provides tuition assistance to Catholic students attending Loyola University. Here’s the catch: Their last name has to be Zolp. To apply, students must present their birth or baptismal certificate as proof.
Don’t Forget, There Are Other Ways to Pay for College
Beyond scholarships there are other ways to pay for a college education. Students interested in getting federal financial aid will need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA® each year. This allows the student to apply for all types of federal aid, including scholarships, grants, and student loans. States and colleges may also use the FAFSA® to determine state and school-specific aid
Unlike scholarships, student loans need to be repaid, typically with interest. Federal student loans may be subsidized, meaning the government pays the interest on the loan while the borrower is enrolled in school, or unsubsidized, where interest starts accruing as soon as the loan is borrowed.
For some students, federal aid and scholarships aren’t enough to cover the full cost of college and all of the related expenses. In that case, some students may consider borrowing a student loan from a private lender.
To apply for a private student loan, potential borrowers generally fill out a loan application with a lender, as one would for any loan or mortgage.
Unlike federal student loans, lenders will generally review an applicant’s credit score, among other factors to determine how much money, and at what rate, a potential borrower may be eligible to borrow.
Those interested in using private student loans to pay for college can consider SoFi as one option. Applying for a private student loan with SoFi takes just minutes and you can add a cosigner directly in the application.
SoFi Private Student Loans come with no origination fees, no late fees, and no insufficient fund fees.
And, once graduation day comes SoFi Private Student loans come with flexible repayment options, so you can repay the loan in your own time in a way that fits your budget. No duct tape dress required.
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SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change. SoFi Lending Corp. and its lending products are not endorsed by or directly affiliated with any college or university unless otherwise disclosed.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.