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When financial aid is offered to a student to meet costs of his studies it is known as a scholarship. There are two main categories of scholarships, merit-based and need-based. Merit-based grants are given to students based on their academic, athletic, or artistic performance, while a need-based grant is given to help a student in need of financial support.

The first step is to gather information about available scholarships bursaries by checking databases and publications that are relevant, or by using a computer scholarship search service, CASHE, at the UCI Office of Financial Aid. Such computer systems are programmed to match scholarships against applicants for a small fee.

Among the many kinds of scholarships are college scholarships, company scholarships, local scholarships, military scholarships, religious scholarships, major scholarships, ethnic scholarships, and athletic scholarships. It is important for you to know which scholarships you are eligible for.

Most scholarships have criteria like financial status, academic achievements, athletic prowess, public service, nationality, or ethnicity. A scholarship could cover full tuition or part, and can be funded by an educational institution, individual trust or non-profit organizations.

To be successful at applying you must start the process early. Take time to research different scholarships. Send in requests for information you need or do not understand. Complete the application process well within the deadline. Do ensure that you comprehend the eligibility norms thoroughly. Be systematic and create separate files for each scholarship application, and maintain a chart that gives on-tab information about scholarship, deadline, date of application, reply received, and so on.

For most applications you will need all or some of the following: transcript; test scores; financial aid form, FAFSA or PROFILE; financial information of parents including tax returns; essays that are well-written and present your thought processes and abilities; letters of recommendation; proof of eligibility; proof of athletic prowess or interests in social work.

It is essential and important to read the instructions and follow them to a ‘t.’ Fill the application completely and never leave any blanks. If you do not understand something, ask. Submit an error-free application and keep copies of all documents.

Last but not least, select which field you want to qualify in, and apply to scholarships relevant to that field. Find out whether you are eligible to apply for only one scholarship, or can apply for more than one.

Beware of scams that ask for payment to get you a scholarship, or ask for a deposit or credit card details.

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