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LendEDU’s Guide to College Scholarships

Scholarships are the holy grail of financial aid. You don’t have to pay them back, and they don’t come with any added interest. If you think scholarships are hard to come by, think again—research shows that 61% of students used scholarships to fund all or part of their education during the 2022 – 2023 school year. 

We’ve gathered scholarships for students with various GPAs, talents, and even heights. (You read that right: heights.) Keep reading for everything you need to know about college scholarships.

LendEDU scholarship guide

Arguably one of the biggest misconceptions about scholarships is that they’re all academic in nature. Many are reserved for specific majors or GPAs above a certain threshold, but others aren’t.

We found scholarships for just about everyone, including:

Read on to learn more about each.

Scholarships for low GPAs

You don’t need a perfect 4.0 to get a scholarship. Eligibility for low-GPA scholarships isn’t solely tied to your academic performance, making them accessible to a broader range of students. Here are five of our recommendations:

Appily Easy Money Scholarship$1,000U.S. resident
Equitable Excellence Scholarship$5,000 or $2,5002.5 GPA
Courage to Grow Scholarship$5002.5 GPA
E-waste Scholarship$1,000U.S. resident
Gen and Kelly Tanabe Scholarship$1,000U.S. resident

Many of these also double as no-essay scholarships. With no or minimal GPA requirements and streamlined applications, what reason do you have not to apply?

Scholarships for felons

In recent years, federal legislation expanded financial aid access to people impacted by incarceration. Scholarships for people with felonies, like those listed below, continue to be a consistent source of educational funding, as well:

The Prison Education Foundation (PEF) Scholarship4 – 16 credit hoursMust have high school diploma or GED
Transcending Through Education Foundation (TTEF) Scholarship$1,000Must have high school diploma or GED
Charles W. Colson ScholarshipFull tuitionAccepted into Wheaton College
Willy the Plumber ScholarshipVariesParent or guardian must have been incarcerated 2+ years

Scholarships for athletes

Student-athletes can take advantage of a vast pool of scholarships, particularly if they perform well academically while giving it their all during matches and competitions. 

Whether you’re a star quarterback or captain of the dance team, one of these athletic scholarships might be for you:

Michigan High School Athletic Association Scholar-Athlete Award$2,000Michigan students with 3.50 GPA
Women’s Western Golf Association (WWGA) Scholarship$20,0003.50 GPA
National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Scholarship$2,000 – $5,000Pursuing health science or medical degree
National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Walter Byers Graduate Scholarship$24,000Athlete at NCAA institution 
Hope College Distinguished Artist Award in Dance$3,000Hope College applicants only

Scholarships for brand loyalists

While many scholarships come from nonprofit or athletic organizations, you’ll also find several scholarships from big-name companies. You might recognize some of your favorite brands and banks in this list:

U.S. Bank Student Scholarship$2,000Undergrad students only
Dell Scholars program$20,000Must be Pell Grant eligible
Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation$20,000Current high school students
Pepsi Community Scholarship Fund$1,000Must reside in select Midwest counties
The Andy Pearson Scholarship Fund$1,000 – $2,500Yum! Brands employees and their dependents

Scholarships for different heights

Not all scholarships are based on your background or athletic prowess. Some are specifically for physical traits, like these scholarships for tall people and short people:

Tall Club International (TCI) Memorial Scholarships$1,000Must be at least 5’10” (women) or 6’2” (men)
Boston Beanstalks Tall Club (BBTC) Scholarship$1,000Must be at least 5’10” (women) or 6’2” (men)
Little People of America (LPA) Scholarship$250 – $1,000 LPA members with form of dwarfism

To apply for a TCI scholarship, you can contact TCI directly or search for a chapter near you.

Scholarships for students with disabilities

Some scholarships are reserved for students with mental, physical, and intellectual disabilities, including:

The Lep Foundation for Youth Education$5,000Proof of disability or cancer diagnosis
Google Lime Scholarship$10,000Pursuing computer science or computer engineering
Jack Scura Fund Annual Scholarship$10,000Proof of disability
Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People with Disabilities$1,250 – $2,5003.0 GPA
Buckfire & Buckfire, P.C. Disability Scholarship Program$1,000Proof of disability

Scholarships for impaired vision

You can also find scholarships for students with impaired vision, like these:

Scholarship AmountEligibility
Fred Scheigert Scholarship Program$3,000Your eye doctor must submit CCLVI Eye Report Form
National Federation of the Blind$8,000Must be legally blind
American Council of the Blind (ACB) Scholarship$2,000 – $7,500Must be legally blind

Mental health scholarships

Still more scholarships are specific to students with mental health diagnoses and students who have struggled with their mental health:

Baer Reintegration ScholarshipVariesMust have bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or schizoaffective disorder
Jared Monroe Foundation Scholarship$500 – $2,300Must have bipolar disorder
The Andrew Q. Peschard Memorial Scholarship$1,000High school seniors in the Bay Area

For students affected by a relative’s disability

Even if you don’t have a disability yourself, you might qualify for scholarships for students impacted by a relative’s disability:

ScholarshipAmountEligibility Scholarship$4,000Applicant or close family member must have been diagnosed with cancer
Millie Brother ScholarshipVariesMust be hearing child of Deaf parents

Scholarships for veterans and their families

If you’ve served in the armed forces or are the dependent of someone who has, check out these scholarships for veterans and their families:

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Scholarship$1,000 – $2,500PVA member, spouse, or dependent
Kathern F. Gruber Scholarship Program$2,000Military dependent of blind or low-vision veteran
CTU Patriot ScholarshipFull tuitionDisability rating at or over 30%

You’ll notice that while two of these scholarships aren’t restricted to certain schools, one of them is. That’s because some colleges offer their own scholarship programs. 

If you had your sights set on a different institution, check with that school to see what support they offer members of the armed services.

Scholarships for LGBTQ+ students

Queer and transgender students continue to face barriers to access when it comes to critical needs, like healthcare, housing, and education. 

Admission to a college or university can help LGBTQ+ students meet those needs, making scholarships for LGBTQ+ students an invaluable funding resource:

Stonewall Community Foundation scholarships$4,000 – $18,000Must identify as LGBTQIA2S
LEAGUE Foundation ScholarshipsVariesMust be an out member of the LGBTQIA2S community
Live Out Loud Young Trailblazers Scholarship$5,000Must live in the tri-state area

For additional scholarships, browse the Horizon Foundation LGBTQ+ scholarship directory.

Scholarships for women

Women, too, have historically been barred from pursuing higher education opportunities. These scholarships for women can help make earning a college degree more affordable:

Eileen Kraus Scholarship$5,000Must live in Connecticut
Women in STEM Scholarship$3,000Pursuing undergrad or master’s degree in STEM
American Association of University Women (AAUW) fellowshipsVariesMust have grad degree or be pursuing postdoctoral study
Rae Lee Siporin Scholarship for Women$1,000New Mexico resident who has dropped out and is returning to school

What can I do if I don’t qualify for these scholarships?

If you don’t see a scholarship here that you’re eligible for, there are still plenty of options. Check with community service and faith-based organizations in your area, and research professional groups for the degree programs or career fields you’re considering.

You might also have luck perusing our list of one-of-a-kind scholarships you probably didn’t know existed.

How to apply for a scholarship

Every scholarship has its requirements, and how you’ll apply depends on what kind of organization sponsors the scholarship:

  • Private scholarships: These are offered by corporations, small businesses, and nonprofits. You usually have to apply to these one by one.
  • Institutional scholarships: These are offered by colleges, universities, and trade schools. You may be required to apply to these individually, or your school may automatically consider you for its scholarships when you’re granted admission.

You shouldn’t have to complete the FAFSA as part of a private scholarship application. However, your school may require you to submit the FAFSA before it can disburse scholarship awards.  

If you’re applying for individual scholarships, whether private or school-based, this is what you can expect to do:

  1. Understand the scholarship’s requirements. Read through the eligibility and application requirements list and note the deadline. Gather any listed materials well in advance of the due date.
  2. Update your resume. You may need to list your academic accomplishments, extracurricular activities, or work or volunteer experience.
  3. Request transcripts and letters of recommendation. You might have to show proof of academic achievement or provide character references. If you’re requesting college transcripts, you may have to pay a small processing fee (usually no more than $20).
  4. Enter your personal and academic information. You’ll need to provide your name and contact details. You may also need to share what school you’re attending and what you plan to study.
  5. Answer application questions or write supporting essays. You may need to convince the selection committee why you’re the best pick or tell them how the scholarship will help further your education.
  6. Upload audition tapes, highlight reels, or copies of your work, if needed. This usually only applies to scholarships for musicians, athletes, and artists.
  7. Submit your application, and hang tight for a decision. The next step is often getting a yay or nay from the scholarship committee. However, you may be asked to participate in interviews or in-person auditions before finding out if you’re selected.

If you’re awarded a scholarship, the selection committee will let you know how it’ll disburse those funds. Usually, your scholarship money will go directly to your school. Sometimes, though, you might get the funds as a paper check or bank deposit.

Tips for scholarship application 

Scholarships are arguably the most affordable way to pay for college, and they can be competitive. Read through these tips before you apply for scholarships to up your odds of getting free money for school:

  1. Start early. Applications take time, especially if you need reference letters or transcripts. Budget a minimum of two weeks to request and receive those documents, and give yourself plenty of time to fulfill any additional requirements in advance of the deadline.
  2. Tailor your resume to each scholarship. If you have to submit a resume, draw the committee’s attention to your most relevant extracurriculars, academic achievements, and professional or community service experience.
  3. Provide your resume when you request letters of recommendation. When you do this, you’re basically saying, “These are things I want the scholarship committee to know about me.” Don’t assume your recommenders know what to include or what to highlight.
  4. Tell your recommenders about the scholarship. The more information your recommenders have about the scholarship and its selection criteria, the better equipped they’ll be to focus on the right things in your letter of recommendation.
  5. Submit your documents correctly. Each application may require you to use certain file types or restrict your ability to see your letters of reference. Follow instructions to the letter, or risk your application being denied on a technicality.
  6. Be authentic. Unless you’re applying for the World’s Best Rocket Scientist Scholarship (which isn’t a thing, by the way), the scholarship committee isn’t expecting you to be a Nobel Prize-level candidate. They’re looking for real students with real goals and real potential. You don’t need to lie or embellish; you just need to be yourself.

Just as importantly, don’t get disheartened if you’re not selected. Some scholarships have thousands of applicants, and others draw winners at random. It’s not a reflection of your ability or value if you aren’t chosen.

Continue applying to other scholarships in the meantime, and reapply to any scholarships you missed out on during the next submission cycle. 

You could even ask the scholarship committee for insight on how to improve your application the next time around. They may or may not be able to provide that feedback, but it’s worth a shot.

Avoid scholarship red flags

As you apply for scholarships, stay alert for scams. Less-than-reputable scholarship sites can mimic legitimate ones quite well, and other “scholarship opportunities” are just data-mining operations in disguise. If you see any of these red flags, steer clear:

  • Too many pop-ups, and zero privacy disclosures: If a scholarship site flashes ad after ad and doesn’t have an easy-to-find privacy policy, something’s amiss.
  • Sensitive information required: No legitimate scholarship will ask for your Social Security number, bank account details, or credit card information. 
  • No contact information listed: If a scholarship application asks for your details but doesn’t provide any of its own, hit the back button immediately.
  • Sounds too good to be true: Scholarships aren’t guaranteed. Any site that makes lofty promises likely isn’t operating on the up and up.
  • Pay to apply: Scholarships don’t cost money—ever. If you’re asked to pay a fee as part of your application, run.
  • Unsolicited contact: If you get a text, call, or email from someone claiming that you won a scholarship you never applied to, it’s likely a scam. This is especially true if the spammer creates a sense of urgency around accepting your “award.”

Of course, scholarship green flags exist, too. Here are signs that a potential scholarship opportunity is legit:

  • The website is compliant. The privacy policy, terms of use, and terms and conditions are all accessible and updated within the last year.
  • Eligibility criteria are clearly listed. Even if a scholarship has lenient requirements, awards are financial in nature and subject to regulation. That regulatory information, at the very least, should be readily accessible.
  • The sponsoring organization exists outside of the application page. If you find news articles and active social media accounts for the company funding the scholarship, that’s a good sign. (Bonus points if those articles or posts feature past winners!) 
  • You can easily contact the scholarship committee. Working contact information is another indicator that you’ve found a reputable opportunity. 

When in doubt, reach out. Ask questions about the scholarship, and gauge how helpful the organization’s responses are. A trustworthy scholarship source will be forthright and transparent. 

If at any point you feel pressured, uncomfortable, or guilty for doing your research, trust your gut and walk away. There are far too many ways to pay for college to risk your information falling into the wrong hands.