I’m always asked about scholarships and how they are given out and what is the difference between a scholarship and a grant. Let’s take a look at the “free money” or as I have one client that likes to say the “pile of loot” that schools and other organizations have and do give to students.
Notice I said other organizations! Scholarships come in TWO distinct forms. Those from the school and those that students apply for from the private sector. Many large companies and organizations offer scholarships to students. Typically there are guideline criteria that need to be met as well as the submission of an essay on a given prompt. Companies like Coca Cola, Tylenol, Jif and US Bank all offer scholarships as do hundreds of other companies, clubs and organizations. The rule of thumb is typically as follows, the larger the amount of scholarship offered, the more competitive the scholarship will be to earn. Look at it like this, obtaining free money to college from outside sources should be treated by the student as a job. It’s a numbers game. Match to as many scholarships as possible, apply and wait. You can stack scholarships one atop another and before you know it, earning $10 thousand or more in scholarship is commonly achieved.
School scholarships are merit based. Schools have numerous categories of scholarships that are awarded and range from as little as $500 to full rides. Often they are a function of GPA and test scores other times they are grades, test scores and leadership or other non academic activities. Many schools have scholarships that are offered through the alumni associations or alumni donors. There are also departmental scholarships that are given to students from each of the schools within the college. Honors colleges also award scholarship that stacks on top of other school awards.
One thing that families often are not aware of is the scholarship opportunities that are available to ongoing students once your child has enrolled there is an old but poignant expression,” the squeaky wheel gets the grease”. This means be persistent, ask the financial aid office, ask your departmental office, and ask your faculty. Nobody will come knocking at your door to offer you additional money but it’s out there for the taking if the student is diligent.
Grants are also free money, meaning money awarded by the school that the student receives without any obligation to pay back. Typically grants are given on the need based side of the financial equation, meaning they are offered by the school to help defray the cost of attendance for families with lower incomes as derived from filing of FAFSA and or the CSS profile.