College scholarships may be merit-based, activity-based, or affiliation-based. A merit-based scholarship is based upon grade-point average, and generally requires that the student maintain a high level of academic performance in order to continue receiving scholarship funds. School guidance counselors are the best source of information on merit scholarships.
An activity-based scholarship is offered to students who excel in certain extracurricular activities. The best-known of these are the athletic scholarships which are used to encourage star performers to choose a particular school. They will require maintaining a minimal grade-point average. Top achievers are usually contacted by recruiters; your coach may be able to help you with an activity scholarship.
Finally, affiliation-based scholarships are based upon the student or family’s affiliation with a group or organization. The organization can be local, regional, or national in nature, and may or may not impose minimal academic requirements on the student. It’s more difficult to find information on these. While your guidance counselor will probably be aware of local scholarship opportunities, regional and national listings are usually available through online searches or through the organization itself. Monitor current newsletters and websites to learn about these scholarship opportunities.
Scholarships may be full or partial, and may range from one semester in length to the full college career.
There are three types of grants: private, state, and federal. There are specific procedural requirements of federal grants, the most important of which is filling out the FAFSA (Federal Application For Student Aid) and submitting it in a timely manner. Federal Pell Grants are among the most popular sources of grants, which don’t require repayment. A minimal grade point average is required to continue receiving grant money.
Some states offer grants to students, especially those attending state institutions. They usually use information from the FAFSA in determining eligibility. Guidance counselors are usually well-informed about availability of state grants.
Private grants vary in size and type. They are commonly administered by local groups or foundation. Either your guidance counselor or an online search can help you identify potential sources of private grant funds.
There are two basic types of student loans, with several differences. Guaranteed student loans are made direct to the student. They are administered through the Financial Aid office of the college, and may have more lenient credit requirements than traditional bank loans. For this reason, they can be an excellent foundation to building credit later on as long as they are repaid in a timely manner. Repayment typically begins six months after graduation, and may be set up as a fixed amount, an escalating amount (where payments start low and increase as income increases), or income-based (ideal if you’re having problems finding work in your field and still flipping burgers to pay the rent.)
A second type of student loan is the parent-guaranteed student loan. Because the loan is guaranteed by the parents’ good credit, the amount may be higher with more favorable terms.
Your college Financial Aid Office will work with you to coordinate all these options to provide you with the best combination.