According to salliemae.com, "Grants and scholarships are forms of financial aid that do not have to be paid back. Some grants and scholarships are based on financial need, others are awarded based on achievement, religious affiliation, ethnicity, memberships, hobbies or special interests."

Beware of some private scholarship search services that lure you with promises of free financial aid. Many of them do not deliver. Their services can cost up to $150 or more; they may provide listings of sources of private and other financial aid that you can apply for, but all too often these sources can be limited and not all applicants will receive awards.

To check the reputation of a particular scholarship service, contact the Consumer Complaint/Information Section of the Massachusetts Attorney General's office at (617) 727-8400.

A more reliable resource for scholarship information and listings is at your local high school, vocational school or college. The financial aid office there will likely have information on public and private scholarships that are available at no cost or for a minimal charge.