Let’s face it – a big part of college planning is figuring out how you and your family will pay for school. And undoubtedly, tuition at many universities appears to be skyrocketing. However, you shouldn’t allow costs to restrict your search or discourage you from applying to more expensive institutions. After all, you can always apply for scholarships and grants. And, unlike student loans, scholarships are monetary awards that you’ll never need to repay.

Of course, you should be aware that scholarships tend to vary in their requirements and method of distribution. Most take into account intellectual prowess or personal talents/skills. However, by and large, they are not need-based. Additionally, some are awarded as a one-time gift while others are renewed annually.

Before you begin your scholarship search, we thought it might be helpful to offer up a quick breakdown of common categories/types of scholarships:

Academic scholarships, as the name implies, are based on the academic achievement demonstrated within your college application.

Athletic scholarships are determined by athletic ability and your prospective college’s athletic needs. Division I, II and III college scholarships are very difficult to receive due to fierce competition.

Merit-based scholarships are awarded to the strongest candidates in the applicant pool and typically consider a wide range of criteria/requirements. Your grades, the difficulty of your high school coursework, SAT or ACT test scores, class rank, personal statements, leadership, community service and teacher/counselor recommendations will all be closely evaluated. This is a unique type of scholarship in that you do not need to apply for it; colleges and universities simply select students during the overall admissions process.

Corporate scholarships are awarded by companies to help employees and their families, to offer community support and to (gently) encourage students to consider a career in the firm’s area of business. These types of scholarships are usually less competitive, partially because they often field a relatively low number of applicants. If you’re interested in obtaining a corporate scholarship, consider asking family and friends about the policies of their respective employers. You can also do some research online, via local newspapers, etc. Once you have a solid list, contact these businesses and inquire about the application process.

Departmental awards are given to students entering a specific program or pursuing a degree in a certain field of study, such as the arts or foreign languages.

Private organizations also sponsor a number of scholarships. Places of worship, labor unions, school districts, chambers of commerce and philanthropic organizations are all excellent sources for financial aid.

Sure, conducting a scholarship search takes time and hard work. However, we assure you that it’s worth all the effort. After all, this is money you will never have to pay back. This is a pretty important point so allow us to repeat ourselves – you will never have to repay any scholarship money you’re awarded. So, sit down and start making a “scholarship search list.”  You can start by using our college scholarship search to uncover a number of funding sources. What are you waiting for? Seriously, go search! Now!

Good luck!