10 Most Common Types of Scholarships for College | SoFi (2023)

By Jennifer Calonia ·June 22, 2022 · 7 minute read

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10 Most Common Types of Scholarships for College | SoFi (1)

There are many types of scholarships, from academic to athletic and need-based to identity-specific scholarship programs. Recipients typically don’t need to repay the funds the receive in the form of scholarships, which makes this type of funding particularly appealing.

In a 2021 Sallie Mae survey, How America Pays for College, it found that 56% of U.S. families used scholarship funds to partly pay for college. The average scholarship award amount across school, state, and company or nonprofit sources was $4,955.

Despite this available aid, 44% of students who didn’t use scholarship funding said they didn’t apply because winning didn’t seem plausible. However, with so many different types of scholarships available, you might find one that can help you pay for school.

1. Academic Scholarships

Academic scholarships, also referred to as merit scholarships, are awarded to students who’ve demonstrated academic excellence or exceptional skill in an area. For example, a merit-based scholarship might be based on an applicant’s cumulative GPA.

(Video) Different Types of Scholarships for College

This kind of scholarship is provided by numerous sources, including:


Some high schools provide academic scholarships to their top graduating seniors. Additionally, the college you’re attending might have scholarships available.


Nationally recognized organizations offer federal academic scholarships based on different criteria and specifications.


Students might also find scholarships sponsored by their state, county, city, or local associations.


2. Athletic Scholarships

Athletic scholarships are offered to student-athletes by their college. These full- and partial-scholarship programs are offered to a select few students who have shown exceptional skill in their sport.

Typically, when participating in an athletic scholarship you’re expected to maintain satisfactory academic performance to continue receiving funding.


3. Scholarships for Extracurriculars

Students who participate in extracurricular activities might be able to find scholarship opportunities for their unique interests. For example, scholarships for student who dance, act, draw, or participate in Boy Scouts, Key Club, and more exist.

4. Student Specific Scholarships

There are many types of scholarships that are based on the student’s personal situation or affiliation. Some of these kinds of scholarships include:

(Video) How I Got $500,000 in College Scholarships (WHAT NO ONE TELLS YOU) national merit/applying early/ECs

Religious Scholarships

For example, your specific religious denomination.These scholarships are generally available to students who are actively involved in a faith-based community, or who are pursuing religion-based college courses.

First-Generation Scholarships

Students who are the first in their family to attend college may qualify for specific scholarships.

Legacy Scholarships

These scholarships are exclusively for students whose parents or close family members are alumni of the same institution.

Identity-Based Scholarships

In addition to the student-specific scholarships discussed above, scholarship programs are also available based on a student’s personal identity. Some identity-based categories include BIPOC, Women, and LGBTQIA+.

Hispanic Heritage

Scholarships are available based on heritage. Students of Hispanic or Latinx heritage may be able to qualify for specific heritage-based scholarships like those offered by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

African American

Specific scholarships are available for African American students as well.


Scholarships for women are another subset of options.


LGBTQIA+ identifying students may be eligible for scholarships as well.

Learning Disabilities

These scholarships are available to select students who have diagnosed learning and attention issues. For example, the National Center for Learning Disabilities offers scholarships.

5. Need-Based Scholarships

One of the most popular types of scholarships for college are need-based. These scholarships are accessible to applicants who have a demonstrated financial need, and a program might ask for proof, such as income documentation or FAFSA® information.

(Video) College Scholarships 101

You can find need-based scholarships from national organizations, as well as within your state, local community, and even through your own school.

Recommended: What is Need-Based Financial Aid?

6. Employer Scholarships

Employer scholarships are offered to employees of a company or an employee’s college bound student. Aside from having an affiliation with the employer, students might need to meet other eligibility criteria to be selected for an award.

7. Military Scholarships

Private and public entities sponsor military scholarships for students who currently serve or have served in the U.S. armed forces. If you’re a first-time freshmen and participated in Reserve Officer Training Corps, consider reaching out to your school’s ROTC officer to learn about your options.

8. STEM Scholarships

STEM scholarships are accessible to students who are pursuing a college education in a science, technology, engineering, or math discipline. Some scholarships programs are offered specifically to students who identify with a particular group; for example, STEM scholarships for minority students.

9. Scholarships Based on Major

Regardless of what you’ve chosen as your college major, there’s likely a scholarship suited for you. These scholarships are provided by some college departments, the school itself, or private organizations who want to encourage students to pursue a particular area of study.

10. No Essay Scholarships

This kind of scholarship explicitly doesn’t include a written essay or personal statement component. You might prefer this type of scholarship if writing isn’t your forte, but there might be another required competent in its place such as a video or other creative submission.

Applying for Scholarships

There are various types of scholarships for college which means there are just as many different requirements and deadlines to stay on top of. When applying to a scholarship, double-check that you meet the basic eligibility criteria as a student.

Depending on the type of scholarship, it might require a minimum GPA or it might ask for proof that you have financial needs, for example. After confirming that you meet the applicant requirements, review the steps needed to apply.

Some scholarship programs might ask for a personal statement or other academic or creative submissions. Similarly, some might request additional paperwork as part of your application, like a copy of your school transcripts.

(Video) HOW TO FIND COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS 2023|| Where To Get College Scholarships in 2023

Finally, make sure you note each scholarship’s deadline and submit your application on time. The last thing you want is to have done all of the work only to be denied because of a missed deadline.

Alternatives to Scholarships

If you’d like to diversify your financial aid sources, there are alternative aid options, like loans for undergraduates and graduate students, as well as grants. To apply for federal financial aid, fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. Schools may also use the information provided on the FAFSA to awards school-specific scholarships. Here are a few other options for paying for college.


Grants are provided by federal, state, school and private sources. Like scholarships, they typically don’t need to be repaid.

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are available to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as parents of dependent undergrads. They’re funded by the U.S. government and most federal loans don’t require a credit check. In addition to offering fixed rates, they provide access to income-driven repayment plans and loan forgiveness programs.

Private Student Loans

When scholarships, grants, and federal student loans aren’t enough to cover the total cost of college, a private student loan could help. These loans are funded by private lenders, and offer fixed- or variable-rate loans at different terms. These loans typically require a credit check or the addition of a creditworthy cosigner. Keep in mind that private student loans aren’t required to offer the same benefits, like income-driven repayment plans, as federal student loans.

The Takeaway

If you’re short on aid for your upcoming academic year, consider searching for unclaimed scholarships. There are a variety of scholarship types to peruse so you’ll likely come across at least a handful that you’re eligible for.

Sometimes even after exhausting all types of scholarships — including grants that don’t need to be repaid — you might still have a gap between your aid and college costs. If you need additional nonfederal aid, a SoFi private student loan could be one option to help you get financing. SoFi offers competitive rates for qualifying borrowers. You can check your rate in just a few minutes online.*

Find out if you pre-qualify.


What are the three most common types of scholarships?

Common types of scholarships for college are merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and athletic scholarships. However, within these categories are sub-categories of scholarships based on specific eligibility factors.

How many different scholarships are there?

There are millions of scholarships being offered each year. According to Educationdata.org, more than 1.7 million scholarship programs are available to eligible students annually.

What are competitive scholarships?

Competitive scholarships are prestigious national scholarship programs. They are often merit-based and are awarded to exceptional students who’ve demonstrated academic excellence, leadership, and who are considered the nation’s top students.

(Video) 3 Different Types of Scholarships YOU Could Get!

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What is the 5 strong scholarship? ›

5 Strong offers a full-ride scholarship, extensive college success coaching, a close-knit community of peers, and experienced staff ready to support each scholar like family. We're interested in scholars with dedication, integrity, and heart who want to graduate ready to make a difference in their communities.

What is a common type of scholarship? ›

Leadership and academic scholarships are the two most common types of scholarships awarded by colleges.

What are 6 types of scholarships? ›

Some Examples:
  • Academic Scholarships and Merit Scholarships. ...
  • Community Service Scholarships. ...
  • First in Family Scholarships. ...
  • Leadership Scholarships. ...
  • Legacy Scholarships. ...
  • Military Scholarships. ...
  • No Essay Scholarships. ...
  • Prestigious Scholarships.

What are some examples of scholarships? ›

Some Examples:
  • Academic Scholarships and Merit Scholarships.
  • Athletic Scholarships.
  • Cancer Scholarships.
  • Corporate Scholarships.
  • Essay Scholarships.
  • Full Tuition Scholarships.
  • Last Dollar Scholarships.
  • Minority Scholarships.

What are 3 types of academic scholarships? ›

What are the three most common types of scholarships? Common types of scholarships for college are merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and athletic scholarships.

What is the highest GPA to get a scholarship? ›

A 4.0 Grade Point Average is not only a high GPA, it's an impressive GPA that's sure to catch the eyes of many scholarship providers. Since the minimum GPA for a full-ride scholarship is usually set at 3.5, a 4.0 is sure to always be above and beyond what's required.

What are big scholarships? ›

The National Merit Scholarship is one of the most coveted awards a high school student can earn. Students may take the PSAT during their freshman, sophomore or junior year of high school. The top 50,000 highest scorers are recognized as National Merit Scholars.

What are the 5 different scholarships that are based on grades? ›

There are seven different types of merit scholarships: ACT, community service, Eagle Scouts, first generation, GPA, leadership, and National Merit. As long as you meet the criteria, you can apply for any of these scholarships.

How many types of scholarships are there? ›

Thus, a variety of scholarships are available to meet the custom needs of students namely, merit-based, means-based, talent-based, merit-cum-means based, sports-based etc.

What are college specific scholarships? ›

What Is a College Specific Scholarship? A college specific scholarship is one given by or for a named college or university. Scholarships can come from many places, but most often they're offered by colleges themselves and typically reduce the cost of tuition fees or even books!

What are the four types of university scholarship? ›

Different Kinds of Scholarships - An Overview
  • Merit-based scholarships (fellowships) ...
  • Specific scholarships. ...
  • Need-based scholarships. ...
  • Student prizes.

How many college scholarships are there? ›

Number and Amount of Scholarships
Academic Degree LevelNumber of ScholarshipsPercentage with Scholarships
Associate's Degree352,3004.4%
Bachelor's Degree1,154,30012.7%
Oct 23, 2019

How many scholarships do colleges give out? ›

With the over 1.7 million scholarships awarded each year as well as the different types of scholarships on offer, students have access to a wide range of options, which include needs-based and merit-based aid. Some of these financial packages can be leveraged concurrently to significantly drive down education expenses.

What are the 2 types of scholarships? ›

There are primarily two kinds of scholarships: private and institutional.

What are the 3 types of money on a financial aid offer? ›

Grants: Financial aid that generally doesn't have to be repaid. Loans: Borrowed money for college or career school; your loans must be repaid with interest. Work-Study: A federal work program through which undergraduates and graduate students at participating schools earn money to help pay for school.

What is the easiest scholarship to get? ›

Top easy scholarships in 2023
  • $10,000 “No Essay” Scholarship.
  • $2,000 Nitro College Scholarship – No Essay.
  • $40,000 BigFuture Scholarships.
  • $25,000 No Essay Scholarship.
  • March Madness Scholarship.
  • Sharpen No Essay Scholarship.
  • $5,000 Christian Connector Scholarship.
  • $2,000 CampusReel Virtual Tour Scholarship.
4 days ago

What GPA is required for Harvard? ›

You should also have a 4.18 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as Harvard, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application.

When should kids start applying for scholarships? ›

Federal Student Aid recommends that students start researching for scholarships the summer after your junior year of high school. If you have time and energy, you should even start before that. Every scholarship has different rules and different deadlines. Some even require submissions a year prior to starting college.

What is the hardest scholarship? ›

7 Hardest Scholarships to Get But Worth Every Penny
  • The Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
  • The Gates Millennium Scholars Program.
  • The Fulbright scholarship program.
  • Rhodes Scholarship.
  • Churchill Scholarship.
  • Princeton Scholarship.
  • Mitchell Scholarship.
  • Conclusion On The hardest scholarships to get.
Nov 29, 2022

What is the best scholarship in the world? ›

Top 30 fully-funded scholarships for International Students
  • Chevening Scholarship🇬🇧 Degree: Master. ...
  • Schwarzman Scholarship🇨🇳 Degree: Master. ...
  • MIT Financial Aid🇺🇸 ...
  • Princeton University Financial Aid🇺🇸 ...
  • Erasmus Mundus🇪🇺 ...
  • Harvard University Financial Aid🇺🇸 ...
  • Global Korea Scholarship🇰🇷 ...
  • Yale University Financial Aid🇺🇸
Oct 2, 2022

What is a 100% scholarship? ›

Full scholarships (also called full-ride scholarships) are the holy grail of funding opportunities, covering almost everything for the full three or four years of university.

What are 3 ways that you can find scholarships? ›

How do I find scholarships?
  • the financial aid office at a college or career school.
  • a high school or TRIO counselor.
  • the U.S. Department of Labor's FREE scholarship search tool.
  • federal agencies.
  • your state grant agency.
  • your library's reference section.

What are the 2 kinds of scholarship? ›

Since scholarships fall under the category of “gift-aid” they do not have to be paid back, unlike student loans. So essentially, scholarships are free money. There are primarily two kinds of scholarships: private and institutional.

What are scholarships for college? ›

A scholarship is financial support awarded to a student, based on academic achievement or other criteria that may include financial need, for the purpose of schooling. There are various types of scholarships – the two most common being merit-based and need-based.

How do people usually get scholarships? ›

Scholarships aren't awarded just to students with a 4.0 GPA. Each scholarship has its own criteria. Some scholarships are awarded based on need. For others, you must be a member of an organization, studying a certain field, an exceptional athlete, or fit whatever guidelines the group awarding the money decides upon.

Which scholarship gives most money? ›

Featured Online Schools
Miss AmericaAdditional Information Amount Awarded: Varies, up to $12,000 Deadline: Varies
Coca-Cola Scholars FoundationAdditional Information Amount Awarded: Up to $20,000 Deadline: August
Buick AchieversAdditional Information Amount Awarded: $25,000 Deadline: Varies
7 more rows

What is the best GPA to get a scholarship? ›

Some scholarship committees only consider applicants whose GPA meets a certain threshold. Minimum requirements range from around 2.0 on the lower end to 3.75 or higher for competitive academic scholarships. Generally speaking, a 3.0 GPA or higher will give you a decent shot at qualifying for a variety of scholarships.

What type of scholarship pays for everything? ›

What is a full ride scholarship? A full ride scholarship is an award that covers all expenses related with college. This includes tuition, books, fees, room and board, and possibly even living costs. The goal is to remove any need for additional financial aid.

How do you find scholarships that almost nobody knows about? ›

So, Where Do You Find Unclaimed Scholarships? One good place to look for scholarships is on the Financial Aid Finder Scholarship Announcement Blog. Every Friday, the site lists several scholarship opportunities with upcoming deadlines.


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