Regional College Access Center

Finding scholarships

Nadir says: I don't like filling out forms. Come on, nobody likes filling out forms. The truth is that looking for scholarships felt like going out of my way to make more work for myself. More applications! More essays! Great.

I kept myself going by thinking about the fact that I wasn't working for free. I knew that if I was awarded even one of the scholarships that I applied for, then the hours I spent on those applications would pay off. I'd rather earn a scholarship than take out a bigger loan.

What is a scholarship?

Scholarships are grants of money awarded to students, usually based on academic merit or financial aid. There are also other types of scholarships, including athletic scholarships and scholarships based on membership in a specific group (such as a specific religion or ethnicity). Like other kinds of grants, scholarships do not need to be paid back.

Scholarships can be a very important part of your financial aid package, if you are willing to find ones that you're eligible for and apply for them. Some schools automatically consider you for scholarships when you apply to them, but you can get more money by finding and applying to scholarships yourself!

What is the difference between a scholarship and a grant?

In some cases, a scholarship requires the recipient to keep meeting some kind of standard in order to keep receiving funds, such as maintaining a high grade-point average or playing a college sport. Grants do not usually have these kind of after-the-fact requirements.

The truth is that there's a lot of overlap between these two kinds of financial aid. Some scholarships are basically just grants, and some grants may have continuing eligibility requirements. Whether you're applying for a grant, a scholarship or a loan, you should always read the details of any financial aid award very carefully.

What kinds of scholarships exist?

  • Merit scholarships: These are awards made to students with strong grades or some other extraordinary achievement, such as volunteer work or participation in extracurricular activities. Merit scholarship applications often require specific high school grade-point averages (GPA), personal essays and letters of recommendation from teachers or other adults. If you earn a merit scholarship, you may be required to maintain a minimum college GPA in order to keep receiving money.
  • Need-based scholarships: Need-based awards are almost always made based on the information you submit in your FAFSA. Colleges and universities sometimes offer these kinds of scholarships to cover part or all of your tuition if you would be unable to attend without aid. There are also need-based scholarships available from other organizations, so do some digging!
  • Athletic scholarships: If you're likely to be eligible for a college athletic scholarship, you probably have some idea already. Schools with major athletic programs often recruit standout high school athletes to play football, basketball and other sports. If you earn an athletic scholarship, you will probably be required to play well enough to keep your spot on the team while also maintaining a minimum GPA.
  • Other scholarships: Many private organizations offer scholarships for students who meet specific criteria, such as being from a minority background or being the first student from your family to attend college. These kinds of scholarships are quite common, and you might be surprised at the kinds of things that make you eligible. There are scholarships available for cancer survivors, for being particularly tall or short, and even for being left-handed!

    There are also scholarships available for students interested in specific subjects or careers. Degree programs for jobs that are in high demand in some places, like nurses and teachers, often offer more generous financial aid packages. If you're willing to work in an underserved location for a set period of time, these degrees are sometimes paid for by your school, the government or a local company!

Links to scholarships

This is not a complete list of scholarship resources. Not even close. But it is a place to get started. If you don't see information here about scholarships that you might qualify for, don't give up. There are lots of resources out there! Here are a few further places to look for help:

  1. Try doing a Google search for the word "scholarship" together with a word that describes you or one of your interests. For example, search for "cooking scholarship," "Jewish woman scholarship" or "skateboarding scholarship."
  2. Ask your guidance counselor for help finding scholarships that you could apply for.
  3. You're also welcome to call the Metropolitan Education Commission (that's us) at 520-670-0055.

Finally, remember that just because you don't qualify for a scholarship right now does not mean that you won't next semester or next year. Many scholarships have minimum GPA requirements, or require that you be enrolled in college full-time, or that you be pursuing a specific major. That kind of stuff isn't set in stone! It's a good idea to take notes on scholarships even if you don't plan to apply for them... yet.

Arizona-specific scholarships

Make sure to visit our page on financial aid resources from Arizona colleges and universities, as well as our page on Arizona government financial aid programs.

The Arizona Community Foundation is a private organization that oversees dozens of scholarship and educational grant programs. There are so many that they created a separate website specifically to let you sort through them. Use the search tab to narrow things down based on your GPA, college major, or keywords that describe what you're looking for.

The University of Arizona recently launched "Scholarship Universe," a search engine that asks you questions and determines which UA scholarships you are eligible for. The UA also maintains a page linking to dozens of free scholarship search tools, including several that focus on scholarships for Arizona residents.

Arizona State University has a search engine of their own, focusing on scholarships for ASU students. Some ASU scholarships aren't listed in this search tool, so make sure to also check the list of scholarships available from each ASU college.

ScholarshipsA-Z. Their goal is to make higher education accessible to all, regardless of immigration status.

Scholarships for specific groups

You can find links to scholarships for specific student groups on these pages (these links are also in the menu at the top of every page under "College Costs" > "Finding Scholarships").

Arizona Eligible Scholars Programs and Scholarships

AZ Assurance Scholars Program

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The Arizona Assurance Scholars Program at The University of Arizona (UA) is a financial aid program for low-income students in the state of Arizona. The program is designed to assist students by providing both financial aid and support services to successfully attain their bachelor's degree. The Arizona Assurance Program partners with college and departments on campus to provide scholars with comprehensive programming from their freshmen year through their senior year, so that they are able to have a smooth transition into and out of the university upon graduation. The mission of Arizona Assurance is achieved through first year transition programming, mentoring, leadership, and career development, graduate/professional school preparation and cultural enrichment.

Barack Obama Scholars

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President Barack Obama represents outstanding academic achievement, thoughtfulness, a long record of service to others, inspired leadership and a commitment to building strong communities across this country. He has set new standards for what is possible in America, and encouraged people around the world to pursue their dreams. In Arizona we have many motivated, high achieving students. For some of them, a lack of family resources has been a barrier to higher education. With the right support, these students can be successful, build better communities and create positive change. Arizona State University is committed to providing these opportunities.

Flinn Foundation Scholarship

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Flinn Scholars receive an unparalleled package for undergraduate study: free Tuition and room and board; funding for study abroad; mentorship from brilliant faculty and exposure to world leaders; and fellowship in an extraordinary community of current and alumni Scholars. The program, in partnership with Arizona's three state universities, provides enriched educational offerings that expand Scholars' life and career options and create the kind of stimulating, intellectually challenging environment that students might find at the nation's most selective colleges.

Dorrance Foundation Scholarship

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The Dorrance Merit Scholarship was established by Bennett and Jacquie Dorrance at the Arizona Community Foundation in June of 1999. The original gift supported 10 Arizona public university students. Twelve years later, the Dorrance Family Foundation sustains four distinct scholarship programs. What is now known as the Dorrance Scholarship Programs supports as many as 150 recipients at Arizona's three public universities and at South Mountain Community College. The generosity and foresight of the Dorrances have made the scholarship one of the most influential, privately-funded educational initiatives in the state. The Dorrances scholarship is a model for educational philanthropy and is a signature program at the Arizona Community Foundation. In 2012, scholarships will be offered to Big Island high school graduates who will attend the University of Hawaii-Hilo.

The Gates Scholarship

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The Gates Scholarship needs your help in identifying America's top minority students who may be eligible for an exciting, new scholarship.

*Cost of attendance includes tuition, fees, room, board, books and transportation, and may include other personal costs.

College Success Arizona

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College Success Arizona is building public will for college completion and providing a unique combination of scholarships and mentoring that increase college graduation rates among low-income and first-generation students across the state.

Pima Community College Scholarships

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In addition to other scholarships (found on the website), some of the scholarships provided for PCC students are: