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No scholarship is guaranteed, but many wonder whether it is easier to obtain merit-based scholarships or scholarships that are strictly based on your financial need. If you are are applying for various national, local or school specific opportunities, it is time to do your homework so that you choose the awards that you are most likely to obtain. There is nothing wrong with applying for a competitive national scholarship against hundreds of thousands of other students who are performing well in school, but you need to be realistic about the outcome so that you do not put all of your eggs in one basket. Read on, and find out what you should expect before you submit any of your scholarship applications.

Understanding Merit Based Scholarships

Merit-based financial aid comes in several different forms, but the most popular type of aid applied for today are  merit-based scholarships . Many often confuse the word merit with academic. While academic performance is one category that falls under merit, you do not have to be an outstanding student academically to qualify for some opportunities. In addition to academics, you can find merit-based aid if you can demonstrate artistic ability, athleticism, or community involvement. You must be about to show that you are an asset in a specific category and therefore deserve the award for your achievements. Some merit-based awards have income restrictions and others do not.

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Understanding Needs Based Scholarships

A needs-based scholarship will have eligibility that is solely based on your assets and income. If you are a dependent, your parents’ income will also be considered when determining if you are in need of the award. If there are limited scholarships available, those who are most in need will be offered awards. Some schools will issue awards to the students who apply first. You must also check the criteria to find out if you must be enrolled full-time or have a certain number of credits under your belt before applying.

Which Type of Scholarship is Easier to Obtain?

Most scholarships offered by foundations, corporations, and schools are merit-based. With this being said, there are still some limited opportunities where strictly need is considered. The reason for the limited needs-based opportunities is because needs-based aid  generally comes in the form of a federal or state grant . This money does not have to be paid back but is issued solely on your need. If you do find private organizations, foundations or other donors willing to offer needs-based awards without looking at merit, it is easier to obtain these. The competition usually only exists when your test scores, grades, school involvement and community service are factors in the determination.

It is very important to review criterion and note the deadlines for scholarships that you want to apply for. If you do this, you never have to rush your application or your essay. Make sure that you review essay questions carefully and really put thought into it when it is required. You can also request letters of recommendation and transcripts months ahead of time to ensure that they are ready to submit with all of your documents. If you are prepared and you put your eggs in multiple baskets, you will better your chances of getting even the competitive merit-based scholarships.

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