18 Types of Scholarships to Explore for Your College Needs

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Scholarships aren’t just for the best and brightest students across the land. The truth is there are many types of scholarships available for all kinds of students. 

So don’t just assume you can’t get a scholarship because you didn’t make it to your school’s honor roll. 

In fact, some websites have more than 3,000 scholarship opportunities and over millions in available funding. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone.

Go through the list below to see what types of scholarships are out there, and see if you’re eligible for any of them.

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12 Common Types of Scholarships Every College Applicant Should Know

These are the common types of scholarships you’ll see on your school website. 

1. Athletic

Athletic scholarships are awarded to students who join a school’s athletic team, be it in baseball, swimming, football, or basketball. 

While the majority of athletic scholarships are for popular sports like the ones in the NCAA, there are also athletic scholarships for other pursuits like cheerleading.

Don’t limit your search online when it comes to searching athletic scholarships. Ask your school coach and even the sporting goods stores in your community.

Related Read: When to Apply for Scholarships? How to Find the Best Time

2. Academic

There are many types of scholarships given for academic excellence. Some are based on overall GPA, others are based on SAT, and some are based on your admissions exam score.

Almost every school offers an academic scholarship of some sort, especially to seniors who graduate as valedictorian or salutatorian of their class. 

If your grades and admission test scores aren’t qualified for your chosen school’s academic scholarship, you can apply to a national academic scholarship such as the National Merit Scholarship Program

3. Full-Ride Scholarships

A full-ride scholarship is an all-expense ride to college, and it’s the most coveted among all the different types of scholarships.

Most full-ride scholarships are specific to a school, but there are a few organizations that don’t restrict the use of funds to any specific school. 

These scholarships are usually based on academic performance, though some may factor in the student’s financial needs as well. Some private full-ride scholarships have a caveat, like a commitment to work for the company for two years. 

Examples of full-ride scholarships from schools:

Full-ride scholarships are tough to get, so you need a good profile to back up your application. 

Related Read: How to Use Goodwall’s Web Profile to Score a Scholarship & Get Into Uni

4. Scholarships by Major or Course

Some students enter college undecided on their major. That’s totally okay.

But those who are positive on what they want to major in could qualify for a scholarship for their specific degree or major.

Different schools will offer different scholarships. In general though, the schools popular for a certain major or degree will usually have scholarships for said majors. 

If they have a distinguished alumni with that degree, or have partnered with a big company to fund their curriculum, there’s a big chance they also have a scholarship for students of that course.

Private companies, professional associations, and charitable organizations also offer scholarships for students based on their chosen major or course. 

 Different types of scholarships by major:

5. STEM Scholarships

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) scholarships can be considered a sub-type of scholarships by major, but I chose to highlight it because of the rising demand for STEM professionals worldwide.

STEM scholarships are also available for graduate students pursuing their master’s or doctorate degree.

You can also find STEM scholarships mixed in with other qualifying factors in other types of scholarships, such as the Atkins Minorities and Women STEM scholarship.

6. Military Scholarships

Various scholarships are available to military veterans and officers who enroll in college after they’re discharged. 

Scholarships are also available for students admitted to West Point and those who join the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). 

7. Scholarships for Minorities or Scholarships based on Ethnicity

Some schools provide scholarships for minorities in an effort to improve their student diversity. For these types of scholarships, there’s no specific nationality required as long as you belong to the defined minority groups in your school’s country. 

In the US, the minorities are Asians, African Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, Hispanics, and Pacific Islanders. One example of this type of scholarship is the Stormzy Scholarship for Black Students at Cambridge University.

Scholarships from minority organizations are usually given based on your nationality. Organizations like these formed to provide support and community to their fellow countrymen so it’s natural that they want to help their own.

Examples of this include the PALCUS National Scholarships for students with Portuguese ancestry and the CSUB Filipino Excellence Scholarship.

Scholarships for immigrants are one of the lesser known types of scholarships awarded for minorities and students from other cultures. In this scenario, the eligibility isn’t based on your race but on whether you were born outside the country. Lavent Law P.A. Scholarship, for example, is a scholarship for immigrants who want to study law because its owner, Boris Lavent, is also an immigrant. 

8. Religious Scholarships

Religious organizations also offer scholarships and financial aid to their followers. Religious schools also award scholarships to qualifying students, and in some cases they are automatically given to the children of priests and the children of pastors. 

9. Scholarships for Women

More women are attending college now. But since higher-education has been a male dominated arena for years, more colleges and organizations are stepping up now to balance the scales. 

Different types of scholarships for women exist. Aside from the typical scholarships based on the applicant’s location and academic interests, there are also scholarships for single mothers, and scholarships for women who were victims of abuse. 

Because their scholars may have different needs compared to other students, these funds are often customized to reflect their needs. The Women’s Independence Scholarship Program, for example, also includes a charitable adjunct assistance award that can be used towards rent or childcare, which are considered barriers to education. 

10. Government Scholarships

If you’re the child or spouse of a government employee, chances are you are already qualified for a federal, local, or state sponsored scholarship.

11. Community Service Scholarships

Volunteering isn’t just good for the community. It can help you pay for college, too. Of course, you won’t automatically be eligible for these scholarships because you man the soup kitchen on weekends. Organizations that offer community service types of scholarships are looking for students who have made an impact on their neighborhood. 

AXA’s Equitable Excellence scholarship and Prudential’s Spirit of Community awards are two examples of scholarships awarded based on community impact.

12. Needs-based Scholarship

Needs-based scholarships are perhaps the counterpart of the merit-based types of scholarships.

Students who want to apply for these types of scholarships must be able to show evidence of their financial need. Some organizations will accept supporting documents like your parent’s income tax return, while others may go further by conducting a background check or house visit. 

6 Little Known Types of Scholarships Worth Exploring

Now that we’ve gone over the common types of scholarships you can find in schools and scholarship websites, let’s go over the not-so-common types of scholarships.

These scholarships may have very specific requirements or are given only by very few institutions, that’s why they’re not so popular. 

The combination of a smaller pool of applicants and its obscurity make it easier to win these types of scholarships.

1. First Generation Scholarships

College is expensive. So it’s not a secret that there are many students whose parents and probably entire extended family have no college education. 

That’s why some schools offer scholarships to students who are the first in their family to attend college. If you’re determined to break the mold and finish higher education, there’s no reason you can’t. You can bring pride to your parents and create a better future for your family with the help of a first-generation scholarship. 

2. Legacy Scholarships 

The opposite of first-generation types of scholarships are the legacy scholarships. First-generation scholarships are awarded to the first student in a family to attend college. On the other hand, legacy types of scholarships are given to students whose family has attended the same school for generations. 

It’s a scholarship to encourage a family to keep attending the same school. In most cases, these types of scholarships are open only to close family members, but there are schools whose generosity also extends to step-children and nieces/nephews. 

These types of scholarships aren’t limited to schools though. The Army Women’s Foundation Legacy scholarship, for instance, provides scholarships for the lineal descendants of women soldiers, past and present. 

3. No Essay Scholarships

Most types of scholarships are categorized according to who is eligible or the criteria you need to pass to apply. 

No essay scholarships aren’t like that though, as these types of scholarships vary by amount, funding source, eligibility, and requirements. The only thing they have in common is that they don’t require essays.

Most essay scholarships are easy, you just have to enter your details and you’ll be qualified for the raffle. These types of scholarships are also called raffle or sweepstakes scholarships.

Some essay scholarships have replaced the traditional essay requirement with a video, artwork, portfolio, or another display of creativity. Whether these requirements make the application easier or harder really depends on the scholarship’s organizer, and the applicant’s natural talent.

The Zebra’s Minnesota Tour Guide Scholarship, for example, requires applicants to submit a representation of their favorite road trip destination. There’s no specific medium required, so applicants can submit a narration, slideshow, illustrated map, or video. 

4. Scholarships for Students with Learning Disabilities

Going to school with dyslexia is hard enough, so it’s a good thing that there are also many scholarships available for students with diagnosed learning disabilities. 

These types of scholarships are often given by organizations with a focus on learning disabilities, so their criteria are also influenced by what they support. Some organizations award scholarships to anyone with a learning disability, while others focus exclusively on dyslexia, or brain tumor.

5. Scholarships for Non-traditional Students

Good news, you can go back to school and get a scholarship even if you’ve already stopped attending years ago. 

More and more schools and organizations understand that students stop their college education for a variety of reasons. Some don’t even attend college and go straight to work after high-school. 

Because of this, there are now many scholarships open for non-traditional students, such as those returning to school after years in the workforce, single moms, and those who want to switch careers. 

Non-traditional types of scholarships vary with their requirements. But in general, you need to be at least 25 years of age and have a high-school education to be considered a non-traditional student. Some institutions also consider non-traditional students as those with financial and familial responsibilities. 

6. Workplace Scholarships

Workplace scholarships are given to the children of employees working in private companies, or a member of a professional organization. 

The American Bus Association (ABA) Member scholarships, for instance, is an association and their scholarship is open for ABA members in good standing for at least one year. Burger King’s scholarship, on the other hand, is open for employees, spouses, domestic partners, and children of the company.

Looking for more scholarships? Check out our list of scholarship websites here: Top 18 Best Scholarship Websites Perfect for College Students and High School Seniors

Narrow Down Your List and Apply with a Strategy

Your school counselor and parents will probably tell you to apply to as many scholarships as you can. 

But you’re a busy student with limited time. 

The document and application requirements vary too depending on the types of scholarships you’re targeting. 

You’ll have a better chance of winning more scholarships if you target a specific type of scholarship, and apply for multiple opportunities within that category.

Need help applying for a scholarship? Read this guide: Scholarships 101: Everything Students Need to Know About Getting a Scholarship

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Charley Mendoza
Written By Charley Mendoza
Charley is a freelance copywriter and content marketer specializing in career and entrepreneurship. When she’s not stringing words for her latest copywriting project, you’ll find her trying new recipes, or planning yet another trip.

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