Financial 101: Scholarships Explained

Financial aid is money lent or given to you to you help you pay for school. Scholarships are often referred to as “gift aid” because they do not need to be repaid upon graduation.  

Scholarships can be awarded by private organizations, governments, and colleges or universities. They are often merit based. This means that they are awarded on qualities, like academic merit or athletic ability.  

Sources of Scholarships 

Colleges and Universities 

Many colleges and universities offer scholarships to their students. They can be merit-based, need-based, or a combination of the two! Scholarships offered by colleges and universities may also have certain requirements to continue scholarship for your entire time on campus. These terms and conditions are outlined when you are awarded the scholarship.  


Some state governments may fund scholarships for residents attending college in their state. Your high school counselor will have more information regarding the kinds of scholarships your state may award.  

Private Organizations 

May companies, foundations, community organizations, and clubs sponsor scholarships. Scholars from these private organizations are called outside, or private, scholarships. Possible sources of outside scholarships include:  

  • Your parent/guardians’ employers or labor unions 
  • Your family’s religious center 
  • Organizations like 4-H, Girl Scouts, or Key Club.  

How to Find Scholarships 

To apply for scholarships, you will mostly likely start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and the CSS Profile, if the schools you are applying to require it.  

Outside scholarships typically have their own application forms and processes. Start by talking with your school counselor about how to find outside scholarships. Be sure to also use online tools from reputable places, like the Encourage App! Outside scholarships typically have their own application forms and processes.  

Finding and applying to scholarships may take some time and effort, but we promise it will be worth it in the end!