One great way to pay for college is scholarships. Scholarships are gift-aid, meaning that you don’t need to repay anything. Many people think of college scholarships as coming only from the government or from colleges themselves—and most do. However, there are many other “outside” scholarships that can also offer aid. Community centers, private companies, and other organizations are just a few examples. Here are a couple pros and cons of utilizing these outside scholarships.
Pro: Fewer people apply to these scholarships.
This is especially true of local scholarship opportunities and smaller awards (unlike a big scholarship). Many local scholarships require you to live locally, which already decreases your competition Local scholarships are often somewhere on a town’s website. You can always ask your high school guidance counselor if they have a list they can provide you with as well. After that, it’s up to you to do research, whether it’s through the internet, scholarship databases, specific websites, or even asking local businesses.
As for smaller awards, many students focus on big awards and forget about the small ones. However, smaller awards have less competition, which means a better chance of winning. Just because it’s not money as a bigger award, doesn’t mean smaller awards aren’t worth applying for.
Con: There’s the chance that the scholarships will have more stringent requirements.
Some scholarships might have you be from a certain area, or going to certain schools. They might only be awarded to people on specific career paths. The thing to remember is that there are scholarships for you out there if you do a scholarship search. Even with stricter requirements, there are still so many scholarships available. You’ll have no issue finding scholarships that fit you, no matter how strict the requirements are.
Pro: You’ll be able to find scholarships that are need based, and ones that aren’t.
For some people, need-based scholarships are imperative. In other words, your financial circumstances are taken into account when the scholarship decides who they are awarding. For others, there is a better chance that they will win awards based on their application alone. Many school and government scholarships are need-based. If you look to outside scholarships, you will find a plethora in each category, need-based and not. Regardless of your financial needs, there’s always a scholarship that you can apply for.
Con: outside scholarships affect your school’s financial aid package.
When you are awarded scholarships, your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) increases. The school will make an adjustment because your EFC is now closer to your CoA, or Cost of Attendance (college costs). It might be that you just decrease the amount of student loans you take out (which is good), but you should always check with your financial office and ask how outside scholarships might change your aid package. There’s no harm in asking, especially when it comes to your finances.
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