The cost to attend college has hit record highs over the last few years, and it continues to show an upward trend. Armed with hundreds of scholarship options and a strategic plan, this high price tag can be drastically reduced.

Before you get started, it’s essential to understand the categories of scholarships and the types of scholarships they comprise. This can help you be strategic about where you put your time and energies to increase the possibility of securing scholarships and reducing frustration.


Two Scholarship Categories

1. Merit

Merit scholarships are awarded on a wide range of factors of success, which include talent, hobbies, extra-curricular activities, leadership involvement, community service, athletics, GPA, identities, skills, and more.

College Careers Consulting Tip for Merit scholarship

Take vigorous and challenging courses and begin preparing for the standardized test in your sophomore year. Additionally, take the time to understand how National Merit Scholarships are awarded. In our experience, both students and their parents are ill informed about how to qualify for them. The official route of entry to the National Merit Scholarship Program is the PSAT/NMSQT taken in the fall of junior year. Students must achieve the published score requirements. The PSAT 10 and PSAT 8/9 are not considered, and registration for the test is only through the high school rather than individual student.

We strongly advise students to be proactive and approach their school counselor about making arrangements to take the PSAT in the fall of their junior year before the end of their sophomore year. Homeschoolers should approach their local high school in August to register since seats are limited. For other merit-based scholarships, use scholarship search tools such as Scholarly and Fastweb.

2. Need-based

Need-based scholarships are often determined based on a family’s income.

College Careers Consulting Tip for Need-based scholarships:

Most parents and students do not realize that it’s vital to fill out the FAFSA as soon as it opens on October 1st since many universities and organizations use FAFSA or the CSS Profile to determine a student’s financial need. For example, Pell Grant is one of the financial awards available through FAFSA. More than a million students miss out on this Grant even though they qualify for it because they don’t fill out the FAFSA.

College Scholarship Types

College and Institutional Scholarships

Most colleges will offer both merit and financial need scholarships. Some colleges will automatically consider offering applicants scholarships after reviewing their application, while some require a separate application. Visit the college institution’s website to find out more details.

Community Service Scholarships

Students who positively impact their communities and have a proven history of community involvement should focus their efforts on applying for these merit-based scholarships. Consider longevity and commitment to one organization over short-term commitments to improve your chances.

Athletic Scholarships

There are 177,550 athletic scholarships available every year. These are considered merit scholarships since they solely depend on a student’s athletic ability. Based on NCAA regulations scholarships are only allowed within Division I, and Division II. Less than 2% of high school students receive athletic scholarships.

Hobby and Extra-curricular Activity-Based Scholarships

Are you passionate and skilled at art, dance, music, production, entrepreneurship, theater, STEM, or similar interests? If athletic scholarships are not for you, consider researching hobby and extra-curricular-related scholarships. These merit-based scholarships can be found at local, state and national levels.

Identity-Based Scholarships

Many programs offer scholarships to those that are underrepresented. When searching for these, merit-based scholarships indicate your gender, race, and ethnic background to find your best-fit options.

ROTC Scholarships

Over 1,700 colleges offer the RPTC program, and the scholarships range from full to partial tuition. Different branches of the military offer a variety of scholarships ranging from full tuition to smaller partial scholarships. Accepting the scholarship comes with a military service obligation.

Company & Non-profit Organization Scholarships

Many companies and organizations will offer scholarships to a specific high school or county, which reduces competition and increases your student’s chances of winning. These are scholarships given by local townships, Scouts, Clubs, sports organizations, Toyota, RMCH, and Coca-Cola. Parents should check with their employers to see if they offer scholarships.

To find scholarships visit our website. Need help with scholarship search and essays? Contact us today to find out how College Careers Consulting can help yo