Need-Based Scholarships
Most colleges and universities maintain their own financial resources for student financial aid. Admissions directors and financial aid counselors work together through the admission season to determine how to use this money to attract the best students to their campuses. Many schools use their financial aid programs to balance enrollments along gender, racial, age, or economic lines.

A number of public charities and private foundations operate their own need-based scholarships, especially for students that meet specific requirements. Some foundations award scholarships and grants to working parents who want to return to school and finish their original degree programs. Other organizations reward students that intend to pursue a specific profession, such as teaching or science.

In all of these cases, students must demonstrate their need to bridge the gap between other sources of financial aid and the total cost of attending their chosen institutions. In addition, students must commit to completing their degree programs on time and achieving specific academic goals.

Merit-Based Scholarships
Some students may not necessarily need financial assistance to attend the college of their choice, but can still benefit from a variety of merit-based scholarships. Most merit-based scholarships are administered by college financial aid departments based on criteria established by wealthy donors or other funding sources.

In some cases, family and friends of a deceased alumnus establish a scholarship to reward a student that reflects the ideals of their loved one. Financial aid officers and faculty members may nominate returning students for these awards, or admissions counselors may recommend that money go to a prospective first year student that shows promise.

At other times, colleges and universities can use their financial aid resources to woo potential students away from higher profile institutions. State universities and smaller private colleges often recruit academic achievers away from Ivy League institutions using merit-based scholarships. Students receive the same caliber of learning that they would have enjoyed at the better-known schools, and the schools enjoy the benefit of cultivating future influential alumni.

Scholarship Competitions
Throughout the United States and Canada, many businesses, charities, and community organizations host scholarship competitions. Many of these competitions allow students to write essays or submit other qualifying material to earn additional money for college. Frequently, local groups that want to use their financial resources to assist students from their region sponsor these competitions.

Legitimate scholarship competitions require a small entry fee, or no entry fee at all. Beware of competitions that promise big awards but do not have a track record of awarding scholarships. They could be operated by scam artists who pocket the entry fees without ever doling out a dime to winners.

Most scholarships competitions offer sponsor organizations the opportunity to earn some positive public relations. If you win a private scholarship competition, expect to spend an afternoon or an evening posing for photographs with your sponsors and their oversized check. Remember that it's the easiest tuition money you'll earn all year.

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