No matter what field of study you have chosen with your future career in mind, there
are various forms of funding available to you, regardless
of your financial status, from student loans to government grants to private scholarships. Which one is right for you?

If your family is fairly flush,
you won’t qualify for one of the many needs-based government grants such as federal Pell Grants, designed help the underprivileged have a fair shot at post-secondary education and degree programs. Those are based on provable income compromise. Student loans could work for you, especially if you plan to enter a field that has plenty of high-paying jobs, and the cost of repayment won’t be a problem. Most people would prefer to be the fortunate recipients of scholarships.

There are two forms of scholarships: private and public. Public scholarships are, by and large, created and managed by governments, and more often, universities and colleges directly. Without exception, there are conditions and eligibility criteria for public scholarships, some of which you may find too stringent for your purposes or your ambitions. They are also directed at the mainstream, so if you are, for example, a mature student, returning to university after perhaps a decade in the workforce, government-backed scholarships may not be for you. They are far more apt to be tailored to graduating high school students entering university without a hiatus from education.

There is no harm applying for any possible funding that you can, be that public or private scholarships; making several applications will not go against you in any decision-making process handled by the granting bodies. So, by all means apply for any type of scholarship wherein your qualifications match the eligibility stipulations. The general consensus is that given current troubling financial times, the availability of scholarships is reduced, and that may be so, but there are always scholarships to be had if you do what it takes to hedge your bets and put yourself in the position where the granting bodies just can’t say no.

If you find the competition too stiff for public scholarships, and your deadlines for higher education options are narrowing, you may find a plethora of suitable private scholarships available. There are no more or fewer individuals applying for public versus private scholarships, but the intricacies of the process vary quite a bit. Because public scholarship programs, such as those available directly through colleges and universities, are funded by the tax base, and occasionally by philanthropic donations, the granting bodies are loathe to show any hint of favoritism. Not so with private scholarships!

Private scholarships are represented by a range of types and they offer more opportunities for you to “strut your stuff” than public ones that have an inflexible, process-minded application methodology. For example, in a public process for grating scholarships, odds are you may never meet the people who are deciding upon your future, and hold that in their hands. Conversely, private scholarships more frequently involve one-on-one meetings and group discussions that involve you, the applicant.

Where can you find private scholarships? The majority of individuals and institutions that offer private scholarships include:

• Endowments. These may be created by professionals who have written a will to include a private scholarship. For (theoretical) example, a powerful businessman who was CEO of a major corporation in the chemicals field may have established a private scholarship in his own memory for a promising student that could one day fill his shoes.

• Corporate Endowments. These are similar to basic endowments, but they are established by a corporation or business entity in honor of the memory of a remarkable leader within their organization after he or she has passed on.

• Business Associations or Organizations. For example, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers a number of scholarships to up-and-coming accounting professionals.

• Leagues, Foundations, and Charitable Groups. Scholarships offered by these types of organizations may not be full scholarships, but every bit helps when you have a long road ahead full of costs and low revenue. These may be structured as endowments or be part of their fund-raising strategy, but they do exist and tend to be sympathetic in their granting process.

• Corporations. Because of the paucity of qualified staff in some areas of endeavor, certain corporations may create a scholarship to attract students that will commit to working for said company after graduation, or even part-time as they are gaining industry-specific knowledge. Typical examples might be law firms that specialize in a lucrative area of law that is under-represented.

• Philanthropists. Not everyone has an heir or business partner, and so some wealthy individuals chose to create foundations that will exact their philanthropic requirement. Among those are the sorts who are very specific about the precise amount of money and to whom it goes for what purpose. Others tend to be more open to options, and accept an interview with you to discuss your needs and ideas. This is similar to the now defunct practice of being a “patron” to an artist, common in the sixteenth century.

• Family members. Do you have a wealthy uncle? An elderly grandmother who is exceptionally well off? There is no harm, a long as you plan your approach to be respectful and properly backed up with good research, in asking someone you know to support you in your post-secondary educational endeavors. Check national tax laws to see if they might benefit from creating a scholarship for you while saving tax dollars for them; it’s a compelling argument!

Private scholarships are not as easy to find as public ones. Public funding is more widely known and can be accessed through your high school guidance office of the university student finance department. So, how do you find out about private scholarships? Read magazines, such as “Forbes” that cater to the wealthy, high-end business, and investing, and place a small classified advertisement. If you are sure of your future path, look up the name of the governing body or association that regulates your chosen profession and contact them, asking for help in finding private scholarships. If you’re a star athlete, contact the teams you think might consider you as a player and see if they offer private sports scholarships.

When you think of private scholarships, think of yourself as a private eye, uncovering every option and generating ideas to find what may be hidden in the most unlikely places. The gift of a private scholarship could see you all the way through university and on to the career of your dreams, so think creatively and try the sources listed above.

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