The Role of Scholarships in the College Financial Equation
Paying for college may seem like a daunting task, especially as college tuition costs have increased 25% over the past 10 years. This surge in tuition usually means more debt accrued due to student loans withdrawn to cover the costs. Fortunately, this isn’t the only way to pay for college.
Each year, an estimated $46 million is awarded in grants and scholarships through the U.S. Department of Education and higher education institutions nationwide. Grants and scholarships don’t need to be repaid. They go straight towards your tuition and fees, dropping the net price you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket. The challenge, though, is that the process of discovering scholarships, completing the right forms, and assessing eligibility can be difficult and confusing. In fact, over 90% of students that participated in the annual Naviance Student Survey confirmed that the process of finding scholarships was difficult.
In this blog, we’ll dive into what scholarships are and how to find them.
What are scholarships?
Scholarships are a form of financial aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. Essentially, it’s free money. Scholarships can be awarded by individual colleges and universities, corporations, non-profit organizations, or professional associations. Below we’ll highlight a few different types of scholarships.
These scholarships are offered by colleges to students who enroll at their institution. Many types of college-specific scholarships are available, including academic merit scholarships and scholarships based on achievements, skills, or interests.
Academic Merit Scholarships from Colleges
Many colleges offer academic merit scholarships in recognition of excellent academic performance. Award amounts and eligibility vary by institution, but these scholarships are typically awarded in either one-time or renewable amounts and based on GPA, class rank, test scores, or any combination of these criteria. For instance, you might qualify for a renewable amount of $5,000 each year based on having a 3.8 GPA.
These scholarships typically don’t require a separate application; you simply apply to the college to be considered. However, it’s important to check the college’s website for detailed requirements. It’s also important to note that not every college offers academic merit scholarships.
Other Types of Scholarships from Colleges
Colleges typically offer a variety of other scholarships based on factors like extracurricular involvement, leadership, athletics, intended major, and more. A separate application is usually required, and details for applying can be found on college websites.
National and Local Scholarships
These scholarships are offered by corporations, non-profit organizations, or other groups. You can qualify for these scholarships based on a wide range of factors, including interests, leadership, financial need, intended major, and more. A separate application is usually required.
Need-Based Scholarships and Grants
Need-based scholarships and grants are another form of financial aid given to those with financial need based on family income. Similar to the scholarships described above, this form of aid doesn’t need to be repaid. Need-based scholarships can be awarded by both individual institutions and corporations, non-profit organizations, or other groups. To apply for need-based aid, you first need to fill put your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.
There are other types of need-based aid from the federal government in the forms of grants, loans, and work-study. To determine eligibility, you must complete the FAFSA form.
How do I find scholarships?
Scholarships can be discovered through a number of sources including:
- Naviance: To find scholarships in Naviance, navigate to “Scholarships and Money” under the “Colleges” tab and click on “Scholarships List.” On this page, you can choose to see the college-specific scholarships you may be eligible for as well as national and local scholarships under the corresponding tabs.
- Your high school counselor
- Financial aid or admission rep at a particular college or university
- Specific college websites
Scholarships can significantly lower the net price of attending college, and it’s important to fully understand how the process works early in your college search. By understanding what the true cost of your education is sooner, it can open the doors to institutions that may not have been a financial fit based on their sticker price.
Throughout the process, be sure to leverage your high school counselor for guidance and don’t be afraid to reach out to a specific institution’s financial aid or admission office with any questions. Everyone is here to help you get to where you’re trying to go.