The potential of winning a free college scholarship should be attainable for anyone who has the motivation to attend college, but needs financial aid. For many people, a scholarship provides the only opportunity they have for furthering their education, so preparation is essential when considering going to college on a scholarship High school students should begin to build their academic resumes as early as possible: the more they have to show, the better their chances will be of receiving financial assistance for college.
The first place for students to start when the goal is a free college scholarship is with their grades. Although not all scholarships are based on academic merit, students need to show some consistency to prove that they can fulfill a degree plan. The objective, however, should be to have the highest GPA possible. In addition to grades and grade point averages, scores from tests such as the SAT and the ACT are evaluated and even calculated with other grades to qualify students for some scholarships. If there are pre-tests or practice tests that can be taken, students should take that opportunity to find out where they stand and where they need improvement.
High school is also a great time to start volunteering and serving the community. The amount of time that is volunteered is important in receiving free college scholarships, but not as important as the personal characteristics that it develops, such as leadership and dependability. Also, volunteering can open students to new interests that may affect their career choices.
Having clear goals for the future is a quality that is highly regarded by scholarship selection committees and the sponsors of awards. It is in the student’s best interest to have specific education and career plans if they have expectations of winning a free college scholarship.
With adequate preparation, free college scholarships should be attainable for most students.
Not All Scholarships Are Free
The majority of students who receive scholarships are under the impression that they have been awarded a free scholarship. While in most cases this is true, and a scholarship, by definition, is a gift given to pay for college that does not need to be paid back, there are instances where a scholar will end up owing something. Many people do not consider tax penalties that may be associated with scholarships. There can also be stipulations in some scholarships stating that the students are required to pay back the amount of the award by way of service in their field.
While a scholarship is, in fact, free for most students, scholarship recipients should be aware that scholarship awards are not taxable only when the award is used to pay for tuition, enrollment fees, and books and materials that are necessary for the courses they are enrolled in. On the other hand, if the student uses the scholarship to pay for room and board or for travel expenses, even if associated with school, the amount that is spent for these purposes will be taxed. Even scholarship money that is spent on research may be taxed. Since equipment for research is taxable, is would be wise to inquire with the sponsor of the scholarship or the IRS to distinguish between equipment that is taxed and other materials that are not.
Students who are awarded scholarships which require repayment in the form of work or service, are in the monetary sense, receiving a free scholarship, but they still owe their time. Those who fail to work as specified may owe the remaining balance, with interest. These are facts that all scholarship recipients should be prepared to face, not things that should discourage anyone from applying for or using scholarships as part of a complete financial aid package.