With many students and their parents thinking about college and ways to pay for it, applying for scholarships should be high on the priority list. Every dollar received in scholarship money reduces the cost of the college by the same amount. And, unlike loans, scholarship money does not have to be paid back. The only downside is that if you receive a scholarship greater than the amount of qualified higher education costs for your school, the difference will be considered taxable income.

While there are many different types of scholarships, this post will focus just on the types offered by colleges. These typically fall into three categories: academic, athletic and artistic.

Athletic Scholarships

Student-athletes and their parents often think the student’s athletic skill and achievement will lead to a big payoff in the form of a college scholarship. In actuality, even if an athletic scholarship is awarded, it may be small in relation to the cost of the college.

Only 2 percent of high school athletes receive a scholarship from NCAA colleges.

  • The NCAA only allows a full-ride scholarship in six sports:
    • Football.
    • Men’s basketball.
    • Women’s basketball.
    • Women’s tennis.
    • Women’s gymnastics.
    • Volleyball.
  • Coaches often don’t award full-ride scholarships so they can give scholarship money to more student-athletes. The scholarship amount may be so small that it only covers the cost of books

Artistic Scholarships

If you have talent in music, visual arts, dance, creative writing or fashion design, you may be able to qualify for an art scholarship. In most cases, you will need to submit a portfolio of your work to demonstrate your talent in your chosen field.

The largest scholarships are awarded to those students majoring in the field. However, other students can often be eligible for smaller scholarships if they plan on taking classes or participating in artistic programs. For instance, a student who is talented in music but is majoring in an academic field may still qualify for a scholarship if they are willing to participate in instrumental or vocal music.

Academic Scholarships

For the most part, academic scholarships usually provide the best chance of obtaining the greatest amount of scholarship aid. Academic scholarships are based on high school GPA, test scores of the ACT and SAT, and academic achievements in high school. Some may also be based on community service or extracurricular activities, particularly those activities of an academic nature such as speech.

In many cases, the student needs to be nominated by a teacher or academic advisor. For others, the student may be asked to request a referral letter from the teacher or advisor. There are also academic scholarships, particularly those for specific fields such as business, science, or mathematics, offered by organizations and businesses. These may be related to the college or totally separate from the college.

For more information, talk with your high school counselor. Internet searches can also provide a wide amount of information. Be careful, though, with sites that promise large scholarships in return for a fee.

Judith Ackland has more than 26 years of experience in accountancy and financial planning, including seventeen years as a CFO of a diverse business. She started Crystal Financial in 2010 to help a wide array of individuals, families, and business owners better understand their finances and how good financial management could help them achieve their goals. Judith has an MA in Professional Accountancy from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln as well as a Certified Public Accountant Certificate and a Certified Financial Planner designation.

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