How to get a scholarship

By Brian Fairbanks

April 26, 2021 • 5 minute read

If you’re thinking about returning to school or becoming a student for the first time, you’re also likely trying to figure out how to pay your tuition. A scholarship can be an excellent option because, unlike student loans, you will not have to repay them.

Many people mistakenly believe that the only way to receive a college scholarship is to apply right after graduating high school. The thinking is that, if you have a good GPA, struggle financially and/or participate in your community, you’ll be eligible for scholarships. The fact is there are many college scholarships and aid opportunities out there, and many types of students are eligible when looking for options that can cover tuition costs.

Read on to learn all about these, including undergraduate college scholarships, and how you might be able to apply successfully for a scholarship to cover part of your college tuition!

What is a scholarship?

A scholarship enables a university student to lower the tuition costs for which they are responsible. This, in turn, may reduce the need for student loans.

As the federal government notes, “There are thousands of [scholarships] offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations.” They might cover anything from a tiny percentage of a semester’s tuition to every dollar of your education. And, again, they do not need to be repaid to the issuer, which removes some of the debt burden from a student’s shoulders.

We encourage you to get an application and apply for non-federally funded opportunities, including scholarships (usually merit-based) and grants (usually need-based) for tuition assistance.

How do I get a scholarship?

Many high school graduates are advised to complete their scholarship application(s) at least one year ahead of starting at a university. This is great for students pursuing undergraduate studies right after high school. But other scholarships for returning and/or adult students are available throughout the year. Start looking as soon as you consider pursuing higher education so you don’t miss a deadline — and so you get familiar with all the options out there!

Also, there are several free options to help students through the application, essay and consideration process. (More details on this can be found below) And if you receive more scholarship money than you need (for example, if you are awarded $1,000 above the cost of tuition for the semester/year), you may not be permitted to accept the surplus. If you receive a scholarship directly and it exceeds your tuition costs, you’ll need to let your school know. But some scholarships are permitted to cover educational living expenses. Therefore, it’s important to carefully review the terms should you receive a scholarship or other form of financial aid.

Types of scholarships

Undergraduate students have a number of scholarship options for which they may apply. Here’s a breakdown of what each scholarship entails, and the typical qualifications required for each.

Academic scholarships

These are based on GPA, high school achievement and other education-centric factors. As this article notes, some academic scholarships pay not only for tuition, but also all textbook costs and many or most personal expenditures.


(hobby-based, usually non-athletic). Here’s one for the creatives, the inventors and other people who achieved or participated in something that was not part of an athletic competition.

Community service awards

These can go to students who took time out of their weekends, afternoons and/or holidays to help their local communities. If you started a community service initiative, you may be able to find a community service scholarship.

Identity/background focused

Underrepresented, immigrant or minority students may find that there are several scholarship options out there specifically geared toward them. Some scholarships may be focused on a person’s gender (including gender-nonconforming identities) too.

Employer-sourced scholarships

Some employers implement scholarship programs and encourage high school graduates to apply. These employers typically like to see that their workers are improving their career prospects and/or bringing newfound skills back to the workplace. Talk to your supervisor about any options to apply for “in-house” scholarships and request an application.

Field of study scholarships

Are you thinking about breaking into a niche field? Several scholarships reward students who focus on a certain area of study, like pre-law classes for example.

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces have several unique scholarship opportunities, and their dependents qualify for military-specific college scholarships anywhere they serve. Start with this resource to learn more about military scholarships.

Full ride. This may be exactly what it sounds like to you — a single scholarship that covers all four years of your tuition in one go. This type of scholarship may be awarded to students who have an exceptional GPA or who score well on the SAT or other tests. They may also be awarded to students who cannot afford tuition but have the academic qualifications to attend a state or private university.

Where to get a scholarship

Can you write a great essay? Was your high school education full of academic achievements? Do you come from an unusual and/or diverse background? Have you faced adversity as a high school student? If you answered yes to any of these questions, try searching the links below for scholarship opportunities!

  • The Department of Labor’s search tool offers a quick and easy way to find thousands of potential scholarship opportunities with upcoming deadlines.
  • State scholarship hubs. Several states and U.S. territories have individual scholarship search tools. Local students can potentially use it to find open scholarship opportunities. Education departments are often thrilled to hear from the state’s students and may be able to help them navigate and identify local scholarships. They may also provide essay advice and other help in the application process.
  • The S. News & World Report graduate school scholarship search tool. Are you thinking about going to graduate school? There’s no harm in filling out a scholarship application. The U.S. News & World Report site often has several thousand financial aid options, including scholarships, for graduate program participants. Click the link above to see what’s potentially available.

Regardless of what you’re applying for, pay close attention to deadlines and essay requirements. You should plan months ahead of time and double-check that the scholarship is good for the coming year. For example, if a deadline is listed as “July 8,” make sure it wasn’t the previous “July 8” before you spend time applying. If there’s a discrepancy or the deadline is unclear, contact the scholarship organization directly to request clarification.

How to get a scholarship from University of Phoenix

University of Phoenix offers several online scholarship opportunities, including up to $1 million in scholarship opportunities this month. (Click here to see what’s available at present.)

Before you apply for financial aid and/or college scholarships, you’ll need to apply to and enroll at University of Phoenix. From there, you can find which scholarships you qualify for, apply accordingly. Finally, enroll in specific classes as mandated by the scholarship or aid itself. (For example, you may have to enroll in healthcare-focused classes if you receive a healthcare-focused scholarship.)

University of Phoenix occasionally offers The Phoenix® Scholarship, an opportunity that is geared toward bachelor’s or master’s degree students who have “at least three years of work experience.” (The scholarship can grant students up to $1,000 toward a University of Phoenix bachelor’s or master’s degree.) Learn more or get an application today!

FYI: Federal regulations require University of Phoenix to monitor student financial-aid packages. This ensures students remain within their financial need-based eligibility. To learn more about financial aid and other funding options, visit our Financial Options site.

You might also consider applying for Federal Student Aid with a FAFSA®, which is the free application for Federal Student Aid form. If you can’t decide where and when to apply, contact University of Phoenix for help.

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