Scholarships for Christian College Students
A college degree can give you a competitive edge in the workforce, and possibly even more opportunities to advance your career and salary than you may have been able to without one. The benefits of having a college education are undeniable, and so are the rising costs of it. Luckily, there are plenty of financial aid options that students can take advantage of.
This guide will cover everything there is to know about scholarships like what they are, the difference between scholarships, loans, and grants, where to find them, what the application process can be like, and the different types of scholarships for Christian college students.
Where can I find scholarships?
If you want to receive any kind of financial aid, your first step is to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). While the FAFSA primarily awards grants and loans to students, your college and other scholarship organizations often use your FAFSA information to determine award eligibility. This is especially true of need-based scholarships.
Once you’ve filled out the FAFSA, get in touch with the financial aid department at the school you’re interested in attending. They can help you figure out which of the school’s scholarships you should apply for, and can tell you who to contact if you’re applying for a degree-specific scholarship (i.e. fine arts or STEM scholarship).
You’re not limited to just the scholarships offered by your school. Charities and corporations alike offer scholarships to students interested in pursuing higher education. With most scholarships offered by colleges, you have to wait until you are at least a junior or senior in high school. However, some scholarships offered by third parties let students as young as 14 or 15 apply.
The Internet is great place for finding scholarships not offered by your school, but it’s essential that you do your research before giving them your personal information. The quickest way to spot a scholarship scam is if they ask you for money. They will typically claim that it’s an application or “verification” fee, and justify it by saying that they are charging you to “weed out the not-serious applicants.” Even if they are only asking for a couple of dollars, it is a scam. Legitimate organizations award scholarships because they want to give you money, not take it from you.
Another way to spot a scholarship scam is if you can’t find previous winners anywhere, or the organization itself seems to not have any kind of history. There goal is to get your personal information, which is why doing your research on both the scholarship and the awarding company/organization is so important.
What is a scholarship?
A scholarship is money that is awarded to students to help them fund their college education. Unlike loans, the money that is awarded to students does not have to be repaid. The only time that you might have to pay a scholarship award back is if your GPA gets too low/you fail a class, or you drop out of college altogether, depending on the reasons for both. While a scholarship is technically free money, it is still awarded to the student with the expectation that they will use that money wisely by succeeding academically.
Loans, Scholarships, and Grants
Loans are quite different from scholarships and grants because that is money that needs to be repaid with interest that can accrue either while you’re still in school, or just after you are done with classes. There are federal loans and private loans. Federal loans are the better option between the two, since they have lower and fixed interest rates.
Scholarships and grants are both forms of financial aid that students do not have to repay. The biggest differences between these two types of aids are how you can get them and who distributes them. Scholarships are most commonly awarded to undergraduate students, but there are still plenty out there for graduate and doctoral students as well. The source of a scholarship can come from the college you are attending, or from any reputable third party.
Grants are almost always offered by either the government or a research/educational organization, and tend to be catered more towards the graduate and doctorate level, with the exception of the Federal Pell Grant. You can learn more about this over in our guide on grants.
Scholarship money obviously isn’t awarded at random. You must apply for scholarships, and you can apply for more than one scholarship at a time (which is highly encouraged) as long as you meet each scholarship’s application requirements.
What is the application process like?
Most scholarships have a slightly different application processes, with some consistencies. For example, virtually all scholarships will want your transcripts, GPA, and letters of recommendation. Beyond that, applying for a scholarship usually requires an extra step like writing an essay (or multiple essays) and/or entering a contest, writing a short story, performing at an audition, give a presentation, or winning an athletic competition. It’s important that you follow all of the directions in the scholarship application, submit all of the paperwork required, and get it all in before the deadline.
Who can apply for a scholarship?
The short answer – everybody! There are scholarships out there for practically everybody, but not everyone can apply to every scholarship. Each type of scholarship has its own set of requirements and qualifications that the students must meet before they apply in order to be considered for the award. Here’s a list of the most common types of scholarships:
- Need-Based – Referring to financial need, this type of scholarship will primarily use information that you’ve provided on your FAFSA, to determine your eligibility to receive the award.
- Academic – While most scholarships look at your GPA, academic achievement scholarships are awarded to students who have a 4.0 GPA and have also excelled in academic extra curricular activities.
- Athletic – Students who receive athletic scholarships have at least a 3.0 GPA and are usually among the top performers not just for their school, but for the entire city or even state.
- Identity – These can also be referred to as minority scholarships, and there are for students who are of a specific race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. You may be asked to write about how a specific experience helped you shape that part of your identity and/or have you write about your experience in that community.
- Talent – These are similar to the athletic scholarships except instead of sports, this is for those with more creative skills in the fine and performing arts like painting, playing an instrument, acting, singing, or dancing. While prior accomplishments and an essay can be part of the application process, there’s usually an audition/competition aspect that determines who the scholarship is awarded to.
- Community Service – As the name implies, you will need to have participated in extensive community service. Some of these scholarships are specific to the organization that you volunteered with. However, most are offered by schools or another third party, and they may ask you to write about how your community service impacted you and/or what you learned while volunteering.
- Members/Employee – Organizations like the Rotary Club and ROTC offer scholarships to students who have been an active participant with them for at least a year. Starbucks, AT&T, and several other companies have tuition assistance and scholarship programs available to eligible employees and, in some cases, their family members too.
- Weird – You may have even heard of these types of scholarships already because they are just so, well, weird. These are scholarships about relatively off-the-wall topics like laser tattoo removal, being a vegetarian, creating a greeting card, and there’s even a duck calling-based scholarship.
Scholarships for Christian College Students
There are scholarships for virtually every type of person, including students who want to attend a Christian college. Just as there are identity scholarships for race, gender, and sexual orientation, there are religious scholarships as well. As you do your research, you’ll find that there are general Christian scholarships, and then there are those that pertain to the specific denominations for Catholics, Baptists, Protestants, Methodists, Episcopalians, etc. You can find these scholarships through the Christian college you are interested in and through churches and other faith-based non-profit organizations.
With all of the scholarships available, chances are good that you can find one that’s right for you. Be sure to check out our guide, A Closer Look At Faith-Based Education and Degrees to learn more about what you can look forward to at a Christian college.
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