When financial aid is concerned, it’s important to explore every opportunity available—and thoroughly! Scholarships are, perhaps, the most ideal way to pay for a college education. Since scholarships fall under the category of “gift-aid” they do not have to be paid back, unlike student loans. So essentially, scholarships are free money. There are primarily two kinds of scholarships: private and institutional.
We’ll start with the one that most people think of when they think “scholarship.” These are the awards that are sponsored by private sectors—companies, individuals, local businesses, community organizations, etc. Private ones are almost always merit-based, meaning that you have to accomplish something or be part of a certain group to earn them. For example, if a computer company wants to promote computer sciences and engineering, they might sponsor a scholarship for students who are intending to pursue that major. Or a religious group might sponsor a scholarship for a student of their particular faith.
These scholarships can come in almost any shape or size. There will be smaller amounts and larger amounts. Some might be renewable for up to four years, others might be a single use. These awards are as diverse as the people who sponsor them, and who benefit from them. In other words, there’s definitely a scholarship out there that perfectly fits you! You just have to go and find them.
Second to the government, the colleges themselves are the ones who award the most scholarships and grants. Most colleges give out financial aid packages to their students—both in merit- and need-based fashions. In terms of need-based, the award given to a prospective student will vary, depending on the student’s EFC, test scores, GPA, and other factors.
Oftentimes overlooked, institutional scholarships should be a student’s second stop during their scholarship search—right after filing out the FAFSA and applying for federal financial aid. While private scholarships are great, there are many more institutional opportunities available for them. And you should definitely file the FAFSA. Filing the FAFSA opens you up to institutional scholarships, so don’t miss out on those.
More About Scholarships
To recap, there are two types: private and institutional. The difference is where the scholarships are coming from, whether it’s a third-party organization or the college you’re going to.
Here are also a few tips on winning scholarships:
- File the FAFSA! A lot of private scholarships also want you to file the FAFSA as a requirement first, not to mention the institutional ones you’re opening up
- Only apply for scholarships that you 100% meet the requirements for. That means not applying for a one even if you have 3 out of the 4 requirements. You won’t win, and your time is better spent applying for ones you completely qualify for
- Keep an application calendar! Keep track of the due dates and block out some time every day to work a little bit on applications. Take it slowly, instead of rushing as the deadline approaches
Use College Raptor to discover personalized college matches, cost estimates, acceptance odds, and potential financial aid for schools around the US—for FREE!