What does it mean?
In the college financial aid world, scholarships are a form of gift aid, or free money, that you do not have to repay. The term “scholarship” is loosely used and can refer to money coming from different types of sources. Private scholarships are free money that is awarded by corporations, non-profits, community organizations, etc. – generally anyone that is not a college. Another scholarship type is merit aid–these are scholarships given out by colleges themselves.
Generally, students are expected to “earn” scholarships in some manner. In other words, they are based on some merit of a student’s accomplishment. Most frequently, the primary qualification is academic.
However, scholarships can also be based on leadership or other non-academic achievements. Many private scholarships will also have non-merit qualifications such as being a member or related to a member of specific organization, pursuing a specific major, or living in a certain area.
How do scholarships affects how much you pay for college?
Ok, the answer seems easy: the more scholarships you receive, the less you have to pay for college. The problem is that there is a major misconception on the best places to look for scholarships.
Many families think since their students have great grades, they’ll just need to apply to a bunch of private scholarships to pay for college after they submitted their college applications.
The reality is that most of the private scholarships they’re thinking about (scholarships not awarded by colleges), are usually pretty small. We’re talking in the $1,000 or less range. It’s going to take a lot of private scholarships to make a dent in your college tuition bill.
And did you notice the emphasis on “private scholarships not awarded by the college” we just used? You should because it’s important. More scholarship money comes from colleges themselves, as opposed to private scholarships! The largest source of scholarships, or grants for that matter, that individual students receive will come from the colleges they actually attend.
This can make a tremendous difference in how much you pay for college. It means that you have to apply to the colleges most likely to provide your student the most money or merit aid scholarships. Unfortunately, too many families don’t realize this strategy until after they get their financial aid award.
If you’re trying to pay less for college, here’s the motto to live by… you can’t get a scholarship from a college you never applied to. That’s why researching how colleges give out their money and being strategic about where your student applies to college, is so important.
Where can you learn more?
Connect with other parents figuring out how to pay for college
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