The definition of scholarship can be somewhat confusing for some folks, given that it can have different means depending on the context. The first definition refers to scholarship as a rigorous pursuit of study or research in a specific area. This definition of scholarship refers to the course of study that many faculty members choose as their career. A second definition of scholarship, perhaps more appropriate and interesting to students, is a sum of money that is awarded by an organization, school, or other entity in order to assist students pay for their education.

The types of scholarships available vary widely. Some scholarships provide students with full-tuition while other scholarships only cover partial tuition. The awards also vary in whether the scholarship is being awarded based on merit (academic success) or whether they are based on financial need. Additional scholarships are available for athletes who excel in sports, students with disabilities, and non-traditional students. Regardless of the type of scholarship, the money is being provided to a person deemed worthy and full or potential. One reason why scholarships are so attractive is that they do not need to be paid back. Basically, scholarships are free money given to students to ease the financial burden of pursuing a college education!

Some students do not bother to look for scholarships, feeling that they won’t qualify. It is important to understand that scholarships are available to a wide variety of students, not just students who are highly intelligent of students who show high levels of financial need. In fact, some scholarships seek to assist typical or average students with funding their degree. Some scholarships are based on unique attributes of candidates, such as ethnicity, veteran status, height, area of residence, or other unique factors. Some of these scholarships are provided through individual or community donations, while other scholarships are provided through major organizations. The scholarships offered through major organizations, such as Target, Walmart, Kohl’s, and Toyota, typically have less stringent requirements as they hope to attract a wide pool of eligible candidates from the surrounding community.

There is never any right time to apply for a scholarship. Scholarships are available throughout the academic career. Some awards are open to students in middle school or high school. Other awards are open to students who are an undergraduate or graduate in college. Thus, given that these awards are available anytime, when is the right time to apply?

The best time to apply for a scholarship depends on your individual circumstance and the amount of time you have. If a student is seeking an award for their first year in college, they may want to start their scholarship search a year or more in advance as some deadlines occur up to a year before matriculation in college. One of the easiest ways to start your search is to use an online search engine, such as Fastweb or scholarships.com. These programs will only match with with scholarships that you qualify for, thus cutting down your search time!