How College Financial Aid Works

Local and National Scholarships

Making a Student Independent

Applying as an independent student could mean larger financial aid awards, but you must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Age 24 or older
  • Currently a graduate student
  • A veteran
  • Currently married
  • An orphan or a ward of the court

There are two kinds of local scholarships: the "Who-are-you-what's-your- heritage-where-are-you-from-who-do-you-know?" scholarships, and the competitive merit awards. For the first type of local scholarship, students are selected on the base of religion, ethnicity, professional affiliations or employment.

The second group features scholarships for which students can compete locally. These include PTA scholarships and civic awards (such as those provided by the Kiwanis Club, the Exchange Club and the Jaycees). The first group of scholarships generally requires only an application, while merit scholarships usually require a paper, speech, project or other form of competition.

Someone in your community is going to receive these scholarships. There are four places where you can find out about these awards:

  • Your kitchen table -- Sit down as a family and consider your various family connections. Consider your religious affiliation. Parents, perhaps you are a member of a club or fraternal organization that offers scholarships for which your child may apply. Many corporations provide scholarships to the children of employees. Perhaps your company does. If you have an affiliation that could lead to a scholarship, follow up on it!
  • The high school guidance counselor's office -- Students should stop by regularly and read the counselor's bulletin board. You may be surprised by what you find.
  • The local library -- The library bulletin board and resource section can provide you with very real scholarship opportunities.
  • The Internet -- The Internet is a rich source of scholarship opportunities -- both local and national. Search for scholarships at sites like The College Board,, USAGroup and These sites offer excellent advice on paying for college and often list national scholarships for which you may apply. As a rule, you should avoid working with any scholarship or financial aid search firm that charges a fee for its services. Almost without exception, any scholarship funds available for a fee are also available for free.

Many national organizations, corporations included, also offer valuable scholarships.