6 tips on how to find, apply for and get scholarships for college


(BPT) - According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of college in 2023 is $36,436 per year. Even if you or your parents can afford to pay the full costs, that’s still a hefty sum. Scholarships can help cover the costs of college, from tuition and books to living expenses.

From community organizations and major corporations to military branches or your school itself, make a list of which types of scholarships are most of interest to you. Here are some common types of scholarships available:

  • Merit-based. Merit-based scholarships are awarded based on academic achievements. This includes criteria like GPA, standardized test scores or outstanding talents. Merit scholarships are designed to reward excellence, without consideration for financial need.
  • Need-based. These scholarships are determined by a student’s ability to pay for their education. Low-income students may be eligible for additional grants.
  • Minority scholarships. Minority scholarships support underrepresented groups in higher education. These scholarships may award money to racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ students and individuals with disabilities.
  • Subject-specific. These scholarships are for students pursuing specific fields of study, such as STEM or the humanities.
  • Community service. Community service scholarships recognize a student’s commitment to community service and volunteering.
  • Athletic. Athletes who excel in sports like football and basketball may receive an athletic scholarship. Colleges and universities may offer them to recruit athletes for their teams.
  • Creative and artistic. Students with exceptional creative talents may be eligible for these scholarships.
  • International. If you’re moving to the United States for higher education, apply for international scholarships. They might be merit-based, need-based or otherwise specific to international students.
  • Career-specific. Some scholarships are tailored to specific careers or industries. They may require recipients to commit to working in that field after graduation.
  • Entrepreneurial. These awards support students with innovative business ideas or entrepreneurial ambitions.
  • First-generation. If you’re the first in your family to attend college, you might qualify for this type of scholarship. They’re designed to bridge financial and educational gaps for first-generation students.
  • Study abroad. Study abroad scholarships are for students interested in studying in foreign countries for a semester or more.
  • Military. Active Duty military personnel, Veterans and their dependents may qualify for certain scholarships through the branches of the military.

From there, here are a few tips to maximize your scholarship opportunities.

  1. Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. This helps determine your eligibility for federal financial assistance. Even if you’re not eligible for student aid, apply anyway. Many states and scholarship programs use FAFSA information to evaluate applications.
  2. Look for local opportunities. Check with your high school’s guidance counselor. Then, inquire with community organizations and local businesses.
  3. Sign up for national scholarship database websites. These websites collect information on a wide range of scholarship opportunities. Take time to create a comprehensive student profile. List your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, interests and career goals. Scholarship databases will try to match you with opportunities based on this information.
  4. Research scholarships at each university or college before you apply. Some schools will automatically consider you for certain scholarships, while others may require you to apply. Contact each school’s financial aid office to ask about opportunities.
  5. Start early. Keep track of the application deadlines, requirements and materials for each scholarship.
  6. Ask your peers, family, mentors or guidance counselors for advice. They may provide recommendations or be available to review essays.

Whether you’re just starting out on your educational journey or currently in school, check out Navy Federal Credit Union’s student loan options to help fill funding gaps or resources on college savings.

Navy Federal Credit Union is federally insured by NCUA.