Private scholarships are great and can really help when it comes to paying for college. However, there are some things students should keep in mind about private scholarships. With the huge amount of outside scholarships available, students can spend an enormous about of time applying for the scholarships, and in the end, the scholarships might not help as much as they think they will. Here are four truths about private scholarships you should consider before applying.
- There is no guarantee you will win. Students are encouraged to apply to less competitive scholarships because they have a better chance of winning. However, if there are two or more applicants, you have some competition. Therefore, with all scholarships, do your best to make your application stand out from the crowd. Students who submit applications and essays that stand out from the crowd are typically more likely to win the scholarship.
- Most scholarship providers only notify the winner. It can be discouraging when you spend your time applying for a scholarship and you never hear back from the scholarship committee. However, most scholarship providers cannot contact every student who applied, but will list a date they will notify the winner. Keep note of the notification date and if you don’t hear from them, let it go and keep applying to other scholarships.
- The majority of financial aid comes from federal and state governments and the institutions. Many students and parents focus on trying to find private scholarships and do not realize that for the majority of students, the majority of their financial aid will automatically be awarded to them after being accepted to the institution and doing the FAFSA (and CSS Profile if required by the institution).
When searching for colleges that are a good fit for you, take into consideration the financial fit of the college. Research the financial aid options and see what type of financial aid you may receive if you were to attend the institution. Don’t just focus on the outside scholarships; find a college that can offer a good financial aid package for you. Dig into the financial aid page of the college to learn about the scholarship opportunities and how you may qualify. In addition, fill out the net price calculator to see how much financial aid they may award you if you attend.
- Private scholarships may affect your financial aid award. I have never seen a scholarship provider that discloses that their scholarship could affect the student’s financial aid award from the institution they are or will be attending. The main reason many do not disclose is probably because they do not know. However, many financial aid offices will deduct the outside scholarship amount from the amount of financial aid the student would have received if they had not received the outside scholarship. For example, if you receive a $1,000 outside scholarship, the financial aid award from the college could become $1,000 less. The hope is that the outside scholarship will take the place of some of the loans offered to students, but that is not the case. Sometimes, private scholarships replace institutional grants the college would have awarded. Therefore, here are some things to consider:
- Ask the school how outside scholarships affect financial aid awards. It’s good to know this information as you are making your decisions to apply to outside scholarships or not.
- Non-need-based scholarships from the institution will probably not be affected by outside scholarships. If you are attending an institution that awards merit scholarships based on your GPA and/or test scores, the terms usually say the student will receive these scholarships if they have financial need or not. In addition, talent-based scholarships from the institution, such as an athletic scholarship or music scholarship, are usually not need-based. Therefore, if an outside scholarship comes in, your merit and talent aid should not be affected. However, just to be safe, always check with the financial aid office for their policies.
In no way am I discouraging students from applying for outside scholarship. For many students, outside scholarships can be a tremendous help when it comes to paying for college. However, students should do their research and find out how the institutions they are attending or considering attending will use outside scholarships when awarding financial aid. In addition, follow these tips to increase your chances of winning a scholarship is you do choose to apply.