Scholarships: An Overview

In order to understand the subject of scholarships correctly and go about getting a scholarship in the correct way, it may be best to know just what this type of financial help is all about.

The word “scholarship” can have at least two different meanings. One of the definitions is the actual learning or knowledge acquired by study. For example, someone might be living a life in pursuit of knowledge. This is a life of scholarship.

But for our purposes “scholarship” means a sum of money or other aid granted to a student, because of merit or need. Over the years, a scholarship has also come to mean the foundation that provides financial assistance to students.

The history of providing financial assistance to students in need would probably fill several volumes. In literature and history there are stories of teachers and professors working out a system of payment for these students. In addition, wealthy businessmen and members of the royalty in England and Europe extended financial aid to students.

In the United States, for example, William and Mary College in Virginia was established in the 1600s and received money from several sources, including a tax on tobacco and a donation from Queen Anne. Some of the early students benefited from this revenue. In 1718, according to a history of the college, the General Assembly granted £1000 to the governors and visitors of the College “for the maintaining and educating such and so many of the ingenious scholars, natives of this colony, as they shall think fit.” This is just one early example of money intended to help specific individuals get an education. In this case it was natives of the Virginia colony.

For parents and students facing the costs of education for the first time, the subject of scholarships may seem a bit confusing and overwhelming. But, in reality, schools, foundations, private companies and various organizations have fine-tuned the process so that it does not have to be a chore for the family. It is just takes a bit of effort from the family members to get started. After that, the possibilities are nearly endless.

A list of the various types of scholarships available might be a good place to start. Keep in mind that students may be able to benefit from more than one type of scholarship at a time. Scholarship money does not have to be repaid.


A particular college or university may provide this common type of scholarship, with the money coming from various places within the university. Since it is in the best interests of the school to have quality students, most colleges and universities around the world have a scholarship fund for good students. Many times this money is aimed at students whose family income or other difficulties make it impossible or difficult to pay for an education.


Most of these scholarships are really college scholarships, intended to attract good athletes to participate in the school’s athletic programs. The National Collegiate Athletic Association closely monitors this type of financial aid, but the college or university awards the scholarship.


There are also numerous sources for scholarships from private individuals and companies. For example, a student wishing to study in a particular area of science may find a wealthy individual has established a foundation to help such students. A large corporation may also have a scholarship program related to the products or the technology the company uses. A quick search may also uncover scholarship money for very bright students who can choose their own course of study. The private scholarship may be one person’s way of encouraging good students to further their education.


Religious organizations, churches, synagogues and temples may also provide financial help to college students. Sometimes these scholarships require the student to work in the organization or the church, or in a community project sponsored by the religious organization. In addition, scholarships from religious fraternal organizations are sometimes restricted to students who will pursue religious studies, theology or another particular area of study. However, some organizations provide financial assistance to students in need, simply to encourage the student to attend a college or university.


Branches of the military have long been supporters of individuals who want to get a college education. For example, thousands of men returning to the United States from World War II attended college under the G.I. Bill, which was put in place by the federal government to help veterans go to the college, university or trade school of their choice. The military branches continue similar programs today, paying for college during or after service in the military. In addition, several veterans’ organizations such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion have scholarships for high school graduates who need some assistance to attend college or who have the academic standing to qualify for such scholarships.


Over the years, various groups and organizations have established scholarship funds to help students of a particular ethnic background or from a certain country. For example, there are scholarships for students who are of Hispanic descent and African-American descent, in addition to financial assistance in the form of scholarships for top students from nearly every country of the world. Colleges and universities in the United States, England and many European countries have tried to attract good students from around the world. Many of these scholarships are meant to encourage intercultural study and friendship.

This is by no means a complete list of the types of scholarships available. Parents and students are encouraged to think creatively about getting financial help for a college education. For example, many of the companies parents work for offer scholarships for the children of their employees. These may be smaller than many college or academic scholarships but even a few hundred dollars can be helpful when it comes to university costs.

In general, it is wise to begin the scholarship search early. It is also important not to eliminate any possibility financial help. For example, some local groups and businesses award scholarships as small as $100 and as large as $1000 to students who are studying in an area that is important to the group or business.

Scholarships are offered by so many groups, businesses, schools and private individuals, that parents and students will probably be able to find at least one source of help for that college education.