Are You Guaranteed a Scholarship From the College You Attend?

Did you know that many scholarships come from the colleges themselves? They’re known as institutional scholarships. While many students rely on institutional scholarships to help pay for college, you are never guaranteed a scholarship from a college you attend. Although you may be granted one, it is never set in stone. However, there are ways you can work to earn one and steps you can take if you aren’t awarded a scholarship from your school.

A brick college building covered in ivy.

What Scholarships Can You Get From a College?

Merit scholarships are usually not based on any financial need, but rather on your abilities, whether that is athletic, academic, artistic, or special-interest. Getting accepted into a college does not mean you automatically qualify for one of these awards. Some schools, like Stanford and MIT, don’t even grant academic merit scholarships.

For academic scholarships, you will need a minimum GPA, high test scores, high SAT/ACT results, and/or top AP test scores. If a college is impressed with your athletic ability, you may be granted an athletics scholarship. For an arts award, you’ll need a portfolio that puts you above the rest in theater, music, or art. Different types of specialties can fall under “special interest” and it varies from college to college.

Schools may also award scholarships or grants based on other criteria or financial need.

How Many Students Get Institutional Scholarships?

Using data submitted by 1,076 ranked schools, the U.S. News found that 22% of undergraduates received merit scholarships in 2019 and 2020. They also found that the average amount granted in the same year was $11,287.

However, how much a school gives and how many students receive aid really does depend on the school, whether merit or need based. For example, 57% of students attending Harvard University received an institutional grant, with an average of $53,183. For the University of West Florida, 71% of students received an institutional grant, but the amount granted was $3,929.

What Do you Do If You’re Not Awarded a Scholarship From Your School?

It’s normal to not receive a scholarship—merit based or need based—from your college of choice, so don’t fret. However, you do need to come up with a game plan. First, you need to consider your finances. You’ll have to complete the FAFSA, go over your loan options, talk to your parents, and review any savings you may have. You might want to look into any other programs the school supplies or take up work-study.

You should also be taking this time and all throughout college to apply to scholarships. Databases provide a wealth of awards based on different criteria, and some receive barely any submissions! Even if the award is only for $100 or $1,000, anything you win can add up over time and make paying for college much easier.

Though You’re Never Guaranteed a Scholarship…

It’s important to never rely on a college scholarship when attending a school. Although they do hand out grants and awards based on merit, need, and other criteria, it is never a guarantee. It’s essential to have a plan for your finances for your four years and also apply to any scholarships you do qualify for.