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. For example, Pell Grants are federal grants awarded to undergraduate students who exhibit exceptional financial need.
Recommended: What are Pell Grants?
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.
School counselor’s may also have helpful information on navigating the financial aid process. One piece of the funding puzzle may be undergraduate loans — if scholarships don’t cover all of the costs. Students may consider private student loans after exhausting federal aid including federal student loans. This comprehensive private student loan guide dives into more detail.
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.
As the school year nears, you may consider checking in with your college’s financial aid office to see if they can guide you to unclaimed scholarships.
Scholarship Listing Websites
There are several scholarship search tools out there that roundup available scholarships to students, including destinations like FastWeb or 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, you can find scholarships for duck calling , dance, drawing and much more.
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.”
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 many online databases. SoFi runs a state-by-state grant and scholarship database so you can take a look at what is available in your area.
Other sources for regional or location-based scholarships may include local nonprofits and businesses.
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.
Non-academic scholarships can be awarded based on talent, skill, interest, and more. Some scholarships may even be regional or location based. To find non-academic scholarships, consult with your guidance counselor, your college’s financial aid office, local business and nonprofits, and online scholarship databases.
If scholarships and federal financial aid aren’t enough to cover college costs, private student loans can help fill in the gaps.
1. Need a private student loan to cover your school bills? Because approval for a private student loan is based on creditworthiness, a cosigner may help a student get loan approval and a lower rate.
2. Even if you don’t think you qualify for financial aid, you should fill out the FAFSA form. Many schools require it for merit-based scholarships, too. You can submit it as early as Oct. 1.
3. It’s a good idea to understand the pros and cons of private student loans and federal student loans before committing to them.
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