At six-foot-one, Soleil Gaylord can stand tall and be proud of receiving the Wendy’s High School Heisman trophy and the $10,000 college scholarship that went with the award.
After growing four inches in one year, the senior at Telluride High School feared her running days, which began at the age of 5, were finished. Any prolonged strides would stretch her tendons too far and leave her hips prone to injury. Despite a 12 ½ size shoe that was more suited for basketball, Gaylord was not about to cut short her passion for long distance running in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
Instead, Gaylord worked harder, rising to all occasions to become a state champion in cross-country and track and field, a World Mountain Running Championships competitor, a World Champion snowshoe runner and a Colorado Sportswoman of the Year.
Several colleges are courting Gaylord’s talents. The Wendy’s scholarship could certainly influence her choice of schools. But, most high school seniors like her aren’t afforded such a luxury; although, the playing field to compete for college scholarships has leveled somewhat and become more efficient.
“The internet has changed things,” said Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of Grantwatch.com, which lists college scholarships from the government, schools, and private organizations including foundations and community groups. “If you want to find college scholarships, you just need an internet connection and a phone, tablet or computer.”
Hikind said unlike financial aid, students do not have to pay back grants, awards and scholarships. GrantWatch has a dedicated category for unique college scholarships, grants for college, awards for college.
“All types of students can receive grants and scholarships,” she said. “There are thousands of funding sources for college, but you have to find them first.”
Scholarships and awards are typically merit-based and awarded to students who exhibit proven ability and have rules for maintaining aid. Grants, on the other hand, are need-based and usually awarded depending on the financial situation surrounding the applicant.
The U.S. Department of Education provides many grants to help college students offset the rising cost of tuition. More than $28 billion of that money is disbursed to about 7.2 million students through the Pell program, which provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduates.
Federal and state governments combine with colleges and universities to offer more than three-fourths of all grant money, but many large and small corporations and private nonprofits can be a source for “free money” as well.
Private and public nonprofits utilize scholarships as a tool to perform charitable work and assist struggling students and their families to defray the cost of college. Most of these scholarships have requirements that are targeted to specific groups.
Hikind suggests that students thinking about going to college should start looking early for extra financing.
“Millions of students receive financial help,” she said. “But, those that do, apply early and often to as many different sources as possible.”
About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com