Let's be honest: The terms used on scholarship applications are not always the easiest to understand. I remember wanting to apply for a scholarship for Jamaican students. It said "must be full from Jamaican heritage," and I asked my mom, "Am I fully Jamaican or just sort of Jamaican?"
Things like this can sometimes prevent a student form applying for a scholarship. While I can't go over every weird eligibility line, I can help you to better understand seven of the most common terms used.
The minimum requirements to apply for the scholarship. This could be an endless combination of requirements—from GPA, race, age, major, or career choices to your height or even your last name (I see you, Zolp family!). When searching for scholarships that you can apply for, you are checking against the scholarship's eligibility requirements to see if you are a match.
2. Award Criteria
This is very different from eligibility. Eligibility is what you need to apply. Award criteria are what the scholarship providers expect from their winners.
Don't pay too much attention to this, as the scholarship judges will pick the best applicants from the group—even if they don't totally match the award criteria. Again, it's the best out of the applications that they receive ... not the best students in the world.
Unless specifically outlined by the scholarship, "minority" generally means underrepresented groups (African-American, Hispanics, and sometimes Asians and women as well). The term is used loosely in the scholarship world, and if you are any flavor of minority, then you can most likely apply for a minority scholarship.
For example, if your grandparent is Hispanic, then you technically count as Hispanic for the scholarship. Scholarships are rarely (very rarely) going to ask for proof of your heritage; it's mostly for students who "identify" as minority somehow through their ethnicity.
4. Must Be Enrolled Or Planning To Enroll In An Accredited College Or University
If you have applied, been accepted to, or are currently enrolled in a college that is accredited by an accreditation body in the United States, then you can apply.
MOST schools are accredited (just Google your school and "accreditation" to double-check). This means that almost every student at every school (community college, 4-year college or university, vocational school, etc.) should meet this requirement—unless the requirement explicitly says otherwise.
5. Must Be Interested In A Career In The Field Of "_____"
"Interested" is a loose term. If you are majoring in something related to this field, have work experience in this field (regardless of major), or plan on working in this field after college, then you meet the criteria for this scholarship.
6. Deadline Vs. Postmark
If the scholarship has a postmark date, then that means that date is the last day you can drop the application in the mail. If you mail the application after the postmark date, then the scholarship provider may disqualify your application.
Deadline is the last day that the scholarship provider will accept applications. Sometimes a scholarship provider will require that they receive the application before the deadline, and sometimes they will require that you mail the application before the deadline.
7. Must Be Majoring In "_____" Or A Related Field
Use your best judgment here. If the scholarship says "biology or a health-related field," feel free to apply if you are majoring in chemistry, pre-medical, anatomy, pre-dental, microbiology, or anything else that could conceivably apply to the health field. If you have doubts, just apply anyway and hope for the best!