The cost of college is skyrocketing, with the College Board reporting that, for the 2013–2014 school year, students can expect to pay $22,261 for public universities and $43,289 for private universities. A scholarship can dramatically decrease -- or even eliminate -- college costs. If you have a skill that your school can use or a reputation that will make your college look good, you could be eligible for a scholarship. College admissions officers look for a number of traits in scholarship recipients, and the more skills you have, the more likely it is that you will get a scholarship.

Academic Achievement

Excellent grades can position you to get a scholarship. If your grades are well above average among applicants at a particular school, it increases your likelihood of getting a scholarship. Admissions and financial aid officers will also examine how difficult your high school classes were, how you did compared to other students at your school and whether you took Advanced Placement classes. If you chose a very rigorous program, you might be eligible for a scholarship even if your grades aren't perfect.

Extracurricular Activities

Colleges often want students who are well-rounded and who will participate in the school's culture and student life. Extracurricular activities, such as doing volunteer work, serving on the yearbook staff, coaching a Little League team or doing any other activity that shows skill and dedication can help you. If you're applying to a religious school, religious involvement can also help your chances of getting a scholarship.

Sports and Arts

If you're a talented athlete, musician or artist, you're more likely to get a scholarship if you choose a school dedicated to your chosen pursuit. For athletes, large state-schools with sports teams can be good choices, but smaller schools with lesser-known teams might be ideal if you don't qualify for a big-ticket scholarship. Musicians and artists can also get scholarships when their chosen schools have programs designed to nurture these talents.


Many schools offer need-based scholarships. Wealthier students may get less money in scholarships, while low-income students may be eligible for scholarships if they meet certain minimum grade requirements. Your financial aid office can also help you apply for need-based grants and loans.

Test Scores

Some scholarships are based upon standardized-test scores. For example, the National Merit Scholarship requires high scores on the PSAT and offers scholarships to the students with the highest scores. Your school will also examine your SAT or ACT scores and may offer you a scholarship if your scores are significantly higher than the average applicant's.

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