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8 Types of Scholarship Funds and How Does Each One Work

Better application management of scholarships, grants, awards, and more.

8 Types of Scholarship Funds and How Does Each One Work

For students attending secondary education institutions, costs can add up quickly. Tuition, housing, books, food, and other supplies - these types of expenses lead many students to seeking student loans and scholarships. In fact, it is this growing need for additional funding that may have led you or your organization to create a scholarship fund.

When you start your research process however, you may realize that there are several types of scholarship funds out there, and it can be difficult to determine which is best to create. With this in mind, below we’re covering eight of the various types of scholarships out there. They are:

  1. Academic scholarships
  2. Athletic scholarships
  3. Full-ride scholarships
  4. Government scholarships
  5. Scholarships by major
  6. Ethnicity-based scholarships
  7. Scholarships for women
  8. Needs-based scholarships

While this is far from an exhaustive list, these eight are the most common. Now that you know what types of scholarship funds exist, let’s break them down further to help you determine which one would work best for your needs.



1. Academic Scholarships

The academic scholarship is one of the most common types of scholarship funds. These scholarships are often merit-based. What is a merit-based scholarship?

Merit-based scholarships are scholarships that are awarded to students based on academic or other merit-based criteria, as opposed to need-based criteria. Merit-based scholarships can come from a variety of sources, including colleges, private organizations, and state governments.

How do merit based scholarships work? At least for academic scholarships, they are typically offered by colleges to students who have demonstrated exceptional academic achievement in high school and/or their initial years in a four year university - usually judged by their grade point average. However, these scholarships also can look at SAT/ACT scores, Advanced Placement (AP) test scores, and additional testing based criteria. If a student qualifies academically, they may be awarded a scholarship that covers a portion of or all of their tuition.

It’s worth noting that academic scholarships may come with additional caveats such as requiring that a student maintain a certain GPA throughout their secondary education. This is especially important to be aware of when a student is awarded a multi-year or multi-semester scholarship as failure to meet the requirements could result in a loss of their funding for the subsequent terms of schooling.


2. Athletic Scholarships

Another common type of scholarship is the athletic scholarship. Athletic scholarships are awarded based on athletic ability, such as what sport you play, your skill level, and if you're on a team. Athletic scholarships are usually pretty rare in that only a small percentage of students receive one because they are difficult to qualify for.

Athletic scholarships are typically very specific in their requirements including, but not limited to: number of years played, GPA, socioeconomic status, sports signed on to play in school. These scholarships also often require you to attend specific universities/state schools and play the sport that qualified you for the scholarship in the first place. For example, it’s not uncommon for a baseball athlete to earn a scholarship to a school with one of the conditions being they play baseball for that institution.


3. Full-Ride Scholarships

Full-ride scholarships are considered the holy grail for students seeking a secondary education because they can often cover the cost of your tuition, housing, books, and living expenses. And, recipients are usually awarded enough funds to complete a two year or four year degree of study.

These types of scholarship funds are considered pretty rare because only a small percentage of students receive one and can maintain the requirements to keep them throughout their entire schooling experience.

A full-ride scholarship will often require several letters of recommendation, and in most cases are awarded to students that are extremely talented in their field of study. Some common types of full-ride scholarships include:

  • Endowed scholarships.
  • International scholarships.
  • Company/employer-funded scholarships - these often require that the student is employed with the company for the entire time they are in school and may require a commitment to stay on for a number of years after graduating as well.


4. Government Scholarships

Government scholarships are awarded by the government and usually are based on your financial situation. Government scholarships are pretty common and are awarded to many students across the country.

If a student is already receiving government assistance such as welfare, EBT/Snap, or military benefits, they may be eligible to receive government scholarships for schooling. There are many different government scholarships available, and you should apply for as many as you can.

Some common types of government scholarships include:

  • Federal Pell Grants.
  • State/provincial grants.
  • State/provincial/territorial tuition assistance.
  • National/service organization scholarships.
  • Military or veteran educational grants.


5. Scholarships by Major

Some scholarships are awarded based on what you're studying. Several scholarships are available for various majors, including those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Though STEM scholarships are the most common, there are also organizations that create major based funding for:

  • Language majors,
  • Business/entrepreneurship courses,
  • Health sciences,
  • Arts degrees, and
  • Social work.


6. Ethnicity-Based Scholarships

Some scholarships are awarded based on a student’s ethnicity. For example, some organizations in the United States award scholarships to people of African American, Hispanic, Asian American or Native American descent. These scholarships often require proof of socioeconomic need as well as residency and country of nationality.



7. Scholarships For Women

Scholarships for women are designated for women and female identifying individuals depending on the program. The goal for organizations that create these types of scholarship funds is usually to increase the number of women enrolled in secondary education. There are a number of different funds for women based on:

  • Intended field of study,
  • Socioeconomic need,
  • Extracurricular activities, and
  • Academic achievements/other merits.

The amount awarded for these funds can vary widely from partial tuition payment to full ride.


8. Needs-Based Scholarships

We’ve referenced this scholarship multiple times already as need is often addressed in the requirements for all types of scholarship funds. However, it’s worth noting that needs-based scholarships are focused more on the financial needs of a student than any other factor. Like most scholarships in this list, needs-based assistance falls into two categories - restricted and unrestricted scholarship funds.

Restricted funds are typically given directly to the school because they are only intended to cover tuition and fees. Unrestricted funds may be given to the student because they are intended to cover tuition, books, housing and any other number of education related expenses. In many ways both are restricted in the sense that both require the student to actually be attending a secondary education institution.

However, what is done with unrestricted funds is often left to the discretion of the student while they are enrolled. If they are awarded a scholarship that has annual requirements for additional monies to be dispersed though, they will need to meet those requirements to continue receiving said funds.

What types of scholarship funds can you create?

With the exception of a government scholarship, you or your organization has the freedom to create virtually any scholarship. The key to success however, is being transparent with your requirements, and establishing everything in writing so that everyone involved knows what to expect.

When students are applying to colleges, it’s important for them to know what types of scholarship funds are available for them to apply for, and when requirements aren’t clear it’s a waste of everyone’s time and resources.

If you are considering starting a scholarship fund and want help with your pre qualification questions and application form, SmarterSelect can help! Our software has helped hundreds of programs get off the ground and get their application forms online quickly. Learn what we can do for you. Click here to get started today!

How-to Guide on Starting and Managing Scholarship Funds

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