Making Dollars and Sense of Scholarships

If you’re a senior, chances are that by now the stress of the application process has come to an end, and most results are already in for those who applied early. So now what? This is a great time to research and apply for scholarships. Many scholarships are seen as hallmarks of commendable work and some scholarships may even grant you extra access to research or study-abroad opportunities.
There are several types of scholarships available to college students. To help you get started on your search, IvyWise’s expert counselors have created an introduction to the four basic types of scholarships. It’s important to keep in mind that there are different criteria and benefits associated with each type, so read on for more information.

Need-based
Need-based scholarships are distributed by the college or university and are generally awarded using the information provided by your family on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the College Scholarship Service Profile (CSS Profile). The award is based solely on income and reported assets, meaning there are generally no additional essays or requirements to fulfill, though these scholarship grants will vary in amount for each university. The difference between these scholarships and other types of financial aid, such as student loans or work study wages, is that you don’t have to repay the funds via monthly payments or through working on campus. In recent years, some schools, such as Vassar College, replaced loans with grants and scholarships for students whose families demonstrated a certain amount of need. However, in light of current economic conditions and shrinking endowments, at least one school, Williams College, has had to abandon this policy (beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2011).

Merit-based
If you excel in academics, the arts, sports or a particular extracurricular such as chess or debate, your college may take this into consideration when it comes to financial aid (they definitely already noted your achievements during the admissions process). As with need-based scholarships, merit-based scholarships may be awarded from your school without the completion of an additional application. However, some schools do require additional essays, activities, or applications for their merit-based scholarships. You should research available scholarship opportunities at the schools to which you have applied. You can often find this information by using the admissions or financial aid page on each college’s website. You can also contact the admissions office.
Many independent organizations have established scholarships devoted to recognizing accomplished students. We have included information on these in the “Specialty Scholarships” section below.

Career-based
Career-based scholarships are often awarded to students entering into specific or high-need fields such as education and healthcare. They help reduce the cost of education for students entering careers that benefit society, particularly because those careers may be less lucrative in the years immediately following graduation. For example, the Journalism Education Association awards scholarships to students majoring in education who intend to teach journalism. Some of these scholarships are contingent on working in a particular field, such as cardiovascular nursing. Overall, they tend to not be as competitive, due to their specialization, and they may help to distinguish your resume for future employers and graduate schools.

Specialty Scholarships
Specialty scholarships award money to students who have a specific background, interest or ability. You can find one for almost any passion you may have, such as environmental sustainability, vegetarianism or diplomacy. Also included in this category are regional scholarships and scholarships based on heritage or personal attributes.
Capitalize on your unique skills, talents and interests by applying for one of these. Often times, the purpose for these scholarships is to allow the recipient to have time to pursue their interests and to reward his or her achievements. For example, the Public Relations Society of America Foundation has several different awards specifically for undergraduate students who show promise in the field of public relations.

It can be difficult to research all the different scholarships that might be available to you.

If you’re wondering where to look, you can start with a scholarship search engine, which will often help match your interests and background to available awards. This is particularly useful for these smaller, specialized scholarships, as they may not be advertised elsewhere. Be wary of scams and use trusted sources like www.FastWeb.com and www.FinAid.org, both of which are owned by www.monster.com. Additional sites include www.tuitioncoach.com, www.petersons.com/finaid, www.studentedge.com, and www.collegeboard.com/student/pay. As with all sites, even those you may trust, you should use caution or ask a parent before submitting any personal information. You can also speak with your high school’s college counselor or contact the financial aid office of the college to which you’ve been accepted for more information.

Scholarship Tips and Hints
Reach out to any organizations to which you or your parents belong. For example, if your family belongs to a volunteer organization, such as Kiwanis, inquire into their potential scholarship options.

  • Constantly update your search. New scholarships become available all the time, and announcements and deadlines don’t always correspond to other admission dates. Furthermore, if your GPA or test scores change, you may be qualified for additional scholarships.
  • Read the fine print and follow instructions. If you’re applying for multiple scholarships, you will have to keep track of many different dates and requirements. Use a calendar to help you establish goals and deadlines for completing applications.
  • Generally, if a scholarship asks for an application fee, it may not be legitimate. You should not have to pay money for the opportunity to earn money. While this is a good rule of thumb, if you are unsure about a potential scholarship you should conduct additional research. You can do this through the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org), which advises students to watch out for phrases like, “The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.” and “We will do all the work.”
  • Nationwide corporate scholarships often offer large rewards. For example, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation awards between $10,000 and $20,000 to its recipients.
  • Your summer job might be more profitable than you thought. Many national retail and food service chains offer employee scholarships. Taco Bell, McDonalds, and Borders are just a few.

Applying for scholarships can potentially bring in important financial assistance and the process may help you develop important academic skills, such as the ability to communicate clearly and prioritize multiple deadlines. Now that you’ve got a few ideas, use the research skills you picked up during your college search to compile your list of possible scholarships. A few extra hours of effort may result in new opportunities, as well as additional honors commending your years of hard work. Good luck!