How Do Scholarships Work - Learn to Apply for Scholarships Faster Within 5 Days

Learn how do scholarships work and how to fast-track the scholarship application process using our 5 Day Scholarship Accelerator.

How Do Scholarships Work - Learn to Apply for Scholarships Faster Within 5 Days

Understanding what scholarships are available and how they work is not as complicated as you think.  This article seeks to give you an overview of how scholarships work and other relevant information and at the end of the article, we will show you a way to fast track the scholarship application process.

While we may have an idea of what scholarship money is, trying to make sense of all the available information on possible scholarship providers and how to go about applying for a scholarship can be overwhelming.

One thing is for sure though - if you are going to college or universities for undergraduate or even grad school to get a degree, scholarships and other kinds of student financial aid will definitely help with money for college or cost of college tuition and even other education-related expenses such as food and lodging. Literally millions of scholarships and other financial aid are given out by the government, schools and private organizations amounting from hundreds up to thousands of dollars so there is no reason not to go for them.

What Are the Other Kinds of Student Financial Aid?

Before we go into detail as to how scholarships work and what they are, it is useful to mention some of the other kinds of financial aid available to students. In general, these are: grants, student loans, work-study jobs, and other federal or state aid. These kinds of student aid are not exclusive from each other and you can attempt to get all that are applicable to you and combine them to help you financially. For example, you can have a scholarship and then a grant on top of that.


Sometimes, grants and scholarships are used interchangeably but they are not exactly the same. While both usually involve no form of repayment or debt, scholarships are usually based on merit or if a student fulfills a certain criteria or need. Grants on the other hand, are usually need-based financial aid given to students.

Among all the federal grants the Pell Grant is the biggest. For the 2021-22 award year (from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022) the maximum amount you can get is $6,495. You may also get a partial amount depending on certain criteria. This is just an example of one of the biggest grants that a student can apply for and receive. You may also apply for other need-based grants from the federal government, state government, schools and from private organizations or attempt to obtain a combination of grants.

Student Loans

Student loans are another form of financial aid but these are a form of debt and will have to be repaid and will accrue interest.

Work-Study Jobs

Students can also join the Federal Work-Study Program which is a program that provides part-time employment while the student is enrolled in school to help pay his or her education expenses. The different work-study jobs that are available depend on the school.

Other Federal or State Aid

There are other kinds of student aid available from the federal or state government. Some of these include education tax benefits such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) or Lifetime Learning Tax Credit (LLTC) which are income tax deductions that can be claimed on your income tax return or Veterans and Military Student Aid which is for members of the United States Military or veterans. It would be best to look at what options for additional assistance are available from the federal government or the state you are in.

What Are the Other Kinds of Student Financial Aid?

Now we get to what a scholarship is and what are the different kinds that exist. Scholarships are a type of merit-based or criteria-based financial aid package given to a student, either as a one-time payment or renewable in the sense that it pays every semester or school year as long as the student is eligible. Scholarship providers include the federal and state government, the school or college, or private organizations. They can be given directly to the student or paid to the school. Sometimes, not only the cost of tuition is covered, but also other education-related expenses like boarding, food, school supplies and other school fees.

Whenever the word "scholarship" comes up, we usually associate it with very high academic or athletic performance - basically merit-based scholarships or athletic scholarships.  However, there are more kinds of scholarships than just these. Let us now cover some of the more common kinds of scholarships that are available.

Academic Scholarships

This is one of the merit-based scholarships and one that usually comes to mind when we think of scholarships. These are usually given based on academic achievement or academic performance, such as having high grades or GPA in school and meeting certain criteria like having leadership positions in school or spearheading notable projects. This may also be getting outstanding standardized test results such as in the National Merit Scholarship Program, which selects their scholarship recipients based on their PSAT scores.

Athletic Scholarships

Another kind that comes to mind immediately when scholarships are brought up are athletic scholarships. These are another form of merit-based scholarships that are given to students that show a high level of performance in a certain sport. These are not just limited to famous sports like basketball and football, athletic scholarships exist in some schools even for more uncommon sports for students like golf or water polo.

Creative Scholarships

Another one of the merit-based scholarships are creative scholarships. These are usually given to students who demonstrate talent based on arts and other creative fields such as music.

Competition Scholarships

These are scholarships given to winners of certain contests or competitions. There are many organizations or schools that give out contests and award scholarship money to the winners.

Other Individual Scholarships

There are many other scholarships available such as military scholarships, scholarships for community service, for minorities, for women, for students with cancer, and many more. There may also be scholarships given by employers, companies or professional organizations for students that will enter a specific career path, such as in the medical field or military, as long as they enter into a service obligation once they finish their studies.

What Are the Sources of Scholarships and How Do I Find Them?

Some scholarship sources include the college or university itself that you want to get into, the federal or state government, certain organizations such as corporations, philanthropic foundations, and religious and ethnic groups, contests, and more. There are basically scholarships available for every type that you are interested in applying for.

There are many ways to search for what kinds of scholarships are available for you and these include:

  • Online scholarship search services like, or Sites like these maintain a database of available scholarships and a lot of other information. The sites may also provide a scholarship matching service for you.
  • Assistance websites for college bound scholarships. Websites like ours provide a lot of information on where to find scholarships, how to make applying for them faster and simpler, and provide all sorts of assistance to help in obtaining a scholarship.
  • Your own school can help you find scholarships. You can consult with your school counselor or look at your school library for references.
  • Admissions or financial aid office of colleges or universities that you are interested in.
  • Federal or state agencies. You can look for available federal grants or scholarships or state grants or scholarships on these websites or inquire with these agencies.
  • Organizations and employers. Depending on the type of scholarship you are interested in applying for, you may look at the websites or contact the corresponding organization or employer. These include foundations such as religious or ethnic foundations.

These should give you enough to find most of the information and sources for scholarships. However, care must be taken to validate whatever information you get as scholarship scams exist. 

How Do I Apply For Scholarships?

When applying for scholarships, the first step is to check whatever sources of scholarships you wish to use and see if you meet their eligibility criteria and also find out what other requirements they may have. For example, certain scholarships may only be available to residents of a certain state, or students that have a high SAT or GPA score, or students belonging to a certain gender, ethnicity or religion. You also need to make sure you have all requirements for the scholarship you are applying to, these include, application forms, questionnaires, essays, school transcripts, letter of recommendations and other possible documents that are required. Some also have an application fee that must be paid. 

When Should I Apply For a Scholarship?

Do not wait until you start being billed for college costs before applying for a scholarship. Some scholarships are awarded even to young children by certain contests or private organizations. Most scholarship programs are open for students 13 years or older.

You usually need the scholarship money as you enter college, so it is common to apply during your senior year in high school. However, it is recommended to start looking as early as your junior year, especially since it's more hectic during the senior year of high school with all the entrance exams, college requirements and so on. Applying during your junior year gives you more time to research, complete requirements, and apply for the scholarships you want. There are even scholarships for high school juniors available that you may want to consider.

It is also important to make sure that you apply at least 6 months prior to when you need the scholarship money as some of these scholarships take some time to process.

Scholarship applications are also not a one time thing where you only apply prior to entering college. As long as you are still studying for a degree, you can apply for different scholarships that you qualify for. As mentioned, there are even scholarships and grants for postgraduate studies. There are also renewable scholarships that give you repeated or recurring funding, sometimes even up to the entire cost of your studies.

The task of finding and choosing what scholarships to apply for may seem challenging. Then, there's the added work of having to fulfill the process and requirements for each scholarship you want to apply for. While this seems like a stressful and time consuming process, we can help in simplifying and making the scholarship application process easier and faster. We focus on all elements of the college admissions process, all in one place, and this includes all aspects of applying for scholarships. We even provide a 5 Day Scholarship Accelerator program for students going after college bound scholarships. This addresses all the tedious parts of applying for a scholarship, and turns it into a simpler and repetitive process.

Categories: : scholarships

About the Author

Christen is the founder of Hive Education. She is passionate about helping families navigate the college application and admissions processes. She helps students set goals to work towards their own debt-free degrees with her personalized scholarship searches, scholarship courses, and by sharing her scholarship strategies that won her over $900,000 in for her own college education. With four years of experience in higher education, two years working with teens in inner city high schools in New Orleans, and starting her first college consulting company during a pandemic in 2020 she strives to make college accessible for everyone, especially for first generation, low income, and minority students. In her spare time she loves to share her love for books with her daughters. You can find her on Facebook.

And don't forget to follow us on socials for latest updates.

As Seen On