With the cost of education increasing, it is wonderful that many organisations and private institutions are sharing the burden by offering more scholarships and financial aid to families to help meet up with their financial expenses. It is no secret that studying can be very expensive, especially for undergraduate and postgraduate degree programs. For students who are interested in studying abroad, it is even more expensive, that’s where scholarships and other financial aids come into the picture.
What are Scholarships
A scholarship can be defined as a grant of monetary support given to a student to help advance their schooling in high school, university, or any other academic institution. Scholarships are awarded based upon a specific criterion or a combination of criteria. A scholarship could be awarded based on academic merit, arts and creativity, athletic skill, financial need, etc. These specific requirements are usually a reflection of the sponsor or financier of the award’s principles or values. Sponsors could be individuals with the financial capacity to give out this aid, or it could be an organisation.
While people who receive scholarships are not expected to repay scholarships donations, they, however, may be required to continue to meet certain requirements during their period of assistance. These requirements may include maintaining a cut-off grade point average or actively partaking in a specific activity (for example, students on athletic scholarships would be a part of the school team).
Scholarships are not often in cash. They may provide a financial award but also give an award in kin, e.g., a fee waiver or covering accommodation expenses. It may even be a combination of both cash and kind.
There exist 2 main types of scholarships that one can apply for, full scholarships and partial scholarships.
Full scholarships are a payment that covers all of your tuition and textbook fees. It may even provide a monthly allowance to cover your daily expenses. Partial scholarships, on the other hand, are usually a smaller payment that must go towards your studies. The total scholarship amount is often stipulated along with the application requirements.
Scholarship vs other fundings
Scholarships vs grants
Grants are funds paid by one group, most times a Government Department, to a receiver, usually a nonprofit organisation, educational establishment, company, or person. On the other hand, scholarships are granted to learners who are academically qualified for it and to those who need monetary assistance to complete their studies. Grants are usually not categorised, while scholarships can be categorised under merit-based, need-based, student-specific, and career-specific scholarships. Merit-based scholarships are based on a student’s athletic, academic, artistic, or other abilities and are often considered if the applicant participates in extra-curricular activities and community service. Need-based scholarships are based on the student and family’s financial record; that’s if the applicant’s family is not financially capable of catering to their child’s academic needs.
Scholarships vs student loans
Student loans are financial aid that is required to be paid back by the recipient, while scholarships are not paid back. Scholarships are typically awarded exactly as student loans, that is, after following an application process. The difference lies in that a student loan check is often given to you in person, the student, but with a scholarship, you may not ever see your scholarship money. Instead, the scholarship money goes to the intended receiver: it could be as a scholarship that’s a tuition discount, or you could get a scholarship that’s a book allowance. Scholarship amounts that come as direct checks are usually in lesser amounts. Another key difference is that student loans are usually paid out in one lump payment at the beginning of each academic year or semester. But you may not receive the full amount of a scholarship prize upfront.
Scholarships vs bursaries
A bursary is a monetary prize made by any scholarly institution or financing authority to individuals or groups. It is usually awarded to enable a student to attend school, university, or college when they might have no other means of furthering their education.
Both scholarships and bursaries cover the educational expenses of students based on academic performance and financial needs. The difference lies in that scholarships are more likely to finance students with extraordinary academic accomplishments, and bursaries are mostly inclined to fund learners in financial need.
Both bursary and scholarship do not require students to repay the funding bodies for covering their education expenses. The main difference is the reason why you can receive those awards.
Scholarships vs financial aid
Financial aid is offered by private organisations, federal institutions and other institutions to students who need financial assistance to proceed with their studies. These prizes are mostly based on your family’s earnings. This type of assistance comprises federal grants and loans. The type of aid you receive determines whether or not you need to lay it back. Scholarships can be considered as some form of financial aid. Both financial aid and scholarships play a crucial role in facilitating students to pay for advancing their education. While scholarships are mostly merit-based and instruct that students continue to fulfil particular prerequisites even after you have been awarded the scholarship, which is mostly non-need-based grants such as academic, artistic, and athletic merit.
The principal difference between the two is that some financial aids will require you to pay back while scholarships don’t. Scholarships are often only awarded for the year of study that you applied for. While financial aids are need-based, scholarships are mostly merit-based.
How can you qualify for a scholarship?
Most scholarships are merit-based; that is, they are awarded entirely on outstanding academic achievements. However, sponsors and financiers have the freedom to include other requirements that you, as the applicant, will also have to meet up with. Some scholarships are awarded based on some of the following:
Some scholarships are gender-specific to women and men. The sponsor might have a soft spot for or an inclination to sponsor young women’s educational journey. For example, there are a lot of scholarships available for women in tech or entrepreneurship. Most times, the goal is to encourage them to engage more in these fields.
A sponsor, either an individual or an organisation, may give preference to a particular religious group. It could be Islam, Christianity, or whichever religious affiliation they choose. The aspect of religion may also be based on a specific denomination or group. E.g. a catholic scholarship would give preference to Catholic students.
Voluntary work and social engagement
Some scholarships give preference to students who are active change-makers, participating in community development and social engagement through volunteerism. Usually, these scholarships are sponsored by non-governmental organisations that are focused on community development activities.
Scholarships awarded to students based on their sports backgrounds are sometimes called athletic scholarships. These scholarships are sometimes specific to a particular discipline; it could be football, handball, gymnastics, or any other discipline that the sponsor might specify.
These are commonly called need-based scholarships. The student might not necessarily be outstanding, and a genius but can be awarded a scholarship based on the financial shortcoming and the inability of their parent or guardian to provide them with education. In this case, they are usually requested to prove that they are indeed deprived and in need of financial assistance to complete their educational journey.
Scholarships that are career-oriented are usually focused on a specific career path. Some sponsors may specify careers such as accounting, banking, chemical engineering, journalism, etc.
Scholarships are often awarded to students pursuing a specific degree or a subject. There are scholarships available for maths students, ICT, engineering degrees, or whichever specific degree program you intend to pursue.
So, if you don’t specifically have outstanding academic results, don’t give up on applying or looking for scholarships because there may be others that you can qualify for based on your background and extra-curricular activities!
Scholarships, finding the right fit!
One thing you should keep in mind is that there are hundreds of scholarships opportunities out there just waiting for you to make the first move! This means that you will have to take time to research to find the one or two you are a fit for. The task of finding the perfect fit might seem tedious but do not be discouraged because putting in the work can be what makes the difference between free education and having to get a student loan or missing out from school altogether.
Where you should look
The best place to find a scholarship that applies to you is to visit your university’s funding page or the student affairs office in your university. This will direct you to any scholarships that apply to most students at your university.
Suppose your university doesn’t have a funding page. In that case, you can simply do a general search for scholarships on google and go through the painstaking task of discovering scholarships that apply to you. You can as well subscribe to several websites that are focused on listing out scholarships, grants, and student loan opportunities. By subscribing, you get daily or weekly newsletters of the available scholarship opportunities. Some of these websites allow you to filter your search to specifics.
How to choose the right scholarship
When you are presented with so many options, picking the right one might be a bit challenging. You must read the scholarship’s main information page and make sure you know all there is to know about what the scholarship is offering. The information page should also have an Eligibility or Requirements section, which will tell you immediately if you qualify or not. This helps you to focus on those scholarships which apply to you.
If you are eligible for a scholarship but don’t get awarded the scholarship in the first year that you apply, try applying the next year again.
While applying for scholarships, ensure to proof personal essays and any other application essays that you might be required to write. Be sure to complete your applications well before the closing date of the scholarship you choose to apply to.
If you have the good fortune of winning several scholarships and bursaries at a time, you will be mandated to forfeit some of them, and the number of aid you can receive will be limited. This is done so that other students can also be allowed to receive funding. We hope you find this useful in your search for free education. Good luck on your academic journey!