Common College Scholarship Requirements Guide
College tuition, especially for out-of-state or private universities, can be expensive. Luckily, no matter your background, interests, or where you’re from, there are scholarships available to you. While one scholarship requirement may be different from another, there are usually some common requirements. Keep reading to learn more!
Requirements for academic & merit Scholarships
Academic and Merit Scholarships are similar in that they both award students for demonstrating exceptional performance in a particular area. However, academic scholarships focus solely on excellence in schooling. These scholarships tend to reward students for typical indicators such as the following:
- High GPA
- Participation in extracurricular activities
- Demonstrated leadership qualities
- High scores on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT
Merit scholarships, like their academic counterparts, are highly competitive and prestigious. Students often need to be the top performers in a particular field to qualify for such scholarships. Not limited to scholarly achievements, merit scholarships can also be awarded for exceptional performance. Usually exceptional performance is judged in the fields of sports, the arts, or other pursuits. A particularly well-known example of a merit scholarship is the National Merit Scholarship. This scholarship awards those who performed particularly well on the PSAT/NMSQT.
Requirements for scholarships by major/interest
For incoming college students already sure of what they plan on studying at university, scholarships geared towards those from a particular major are a great option. From accounting to art history, there are plenty of major scholarships out there for students, no matter which field of study interests you.
Besides just scholarships, there are plenty of federal grants and loan forgiveness programs available for those in certain majors, including education, healthcare, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields.
Have a hobby? If you have an interest or passion that’s not specifically related to your major, don’t fret! There are also a wide number of scholarships available based on student’s interests, whether that be Esports, music, or traveling the world. These are typically open to students from any background or field of study. They allow them to showcase their skills or interests outside of the classroom.
Scholarships requirements by income level
Need-based scholarships generally prioritize lower-income students, requiring applicants’ family income to be below a certain threshold. Organizations select recipients for these scholarships based on financial need. Usually, these scholarships require demonstration of achievement in some pursuit, whether it be athletic, academic, or artistic.
Need-based grants, on the other hand, are normally based solely on a student’s family income and do not take other factors into account. Sometimes, these do not require an application and are automatically awarded to lower-income students. Usually, students must complete the FAFSA for consideration.
Requirements for state-specific scholarships
In-state universities already tend to be cheaper than those out-of-state, but state scholarships can help you lessen the costs of a college education even more. These are typically aimed at students who reside in a particular state, but there are also those that are limited to particular counties, or even particular high schools.
These often have more requirements than simply being from a certain location, such as having a GPA above a certain threshold or studying a certain field at college. So, make sure to look out for those as well when researching.
Students who are thinking about attending a public university with in-state tuition should also be aware of specific residency requirements.
Requirements for university-specific scholarships
Just as you need to be a resident of a particular state to apply for its state scholarships, university-specific scholarships require that you be a student at that specific university. The vast majority of colleges will have scholarships specifically for their students. The largest and most generous ones are typically at bigger universities with large endowments.
If you anticipate that cost of attendance will play a large part in choosing your college, researching university-specific scholarships would be a good idea to help narrow down choices. Further, within this subset of scholarship types, there are also often those geared only towards certain majors.
Other common requirements
Among all the categories of scholarships that have been covered so far, there are other factors you should look out for when searching for scholarships, to make sure you’re eligible before you get to work on the application.
Given that scholarships are typically given to those looking to enroll in college, most scholarships will require that applicants enroll in university as the fall after high school graduation. Grade level is also important to look out for – with some scholarships only targeting those in certain grade levels in high school (most commonly juniors and seniors). Others are directed at students belonging to specific minority groups or female applicants.
When it comes to applying itself, besides just GPA and SAT scores, the wide majority of scholarships will require an essay. The subject of the prompt will generally be somehow related to the scholarship. Also, it is not uncommon for scholarships to request letters of recommendation, sometimes multiple. If applying to one that requires letters of recommendation, make sure to give your reference plenty of time to write and not ask for the letter too close to the deadline.
Requirements after you win a scholarship
After you win a scholarship, you might be thinking, “I’m all done, right?!”
Some scholarships mandate that awardees maintain a certain GPA while enrolled as full-time students. Check whether taking a leave of absence for a semester could render you ineligible.
Others may make it so winners must participate in a certain internship or program on campus as part of the award. This may be a large time commitment for busier students, especially those newer to campus. Make sure to keep this in mind while applying.
Many times, scholarships only last for a year, but are renewable. If this is the case for a scholarship you win, make sure to keep in mind the renewal deadline to keep receiving funding.
Last, but certainly not least, accepting scholarships could impact your financial aid if the awards exceed your financial need. If this is a worry of yours, make sure to reach out to your school before accepting a scholarship.
Frequently asked questions about scholarship requirements
When should I start applying for scholarships?
Much like college applications, students should start looking for and applying to university scholarships the summer before their senior year of high school. Doing so will give you enough time to properly research scholarships, write your essays (if needed), and fulfill all the other requirements necessary (like asking for letters of recommendation). For more information, check out our article all about when to apply for scholarships.
Is there a minimum income requirement for scholarships?
Need-based scholarships prioritize and aim to help lower-income students. Family income usually determines eligibility. Applicants will often need to have a family income below a certain threshold to qualify for such scholarships.