There are three types of college scholarships:
1. Merit Based Scholarships
2. Private Scholarships
3. Campus Based Scholarships
The most abundant types of scholarships are typically the need-based and merit-based scholarships. You may be surprised to learn that private scholarships can actually work against you with regard to financial aid.
Many students spend countless hours searching and applying for free private scholarships. They locate the sources, gather letters of recommendation, write essays and meet the deadlines. Yet private-sector scholarships make up only about 3% of the college funding awarded annually. We think of this as spending valuable time and energy going after the crumbs. These private scholarships still help pay for college costs, right? Maybe not!
Many colleges deduct private-sector awards from the money that the school already offered you or would have offered you. Simply put, the money from your private scholarship may go back into the school’s treasury, and is eventually given to another student! The funding package from your college still contains the same proportion of gift aid (free money) and self-help aid (money that student works for or loans that must be paid back), but the college’s “contribution” is now less. Who may really benefit from all of your hard work? That’s right, the college!
Detecting Scholarship Scams
Some college scholarship companies are making false claims regarding their services, such as claiming they can help families receive thousands of dollars in unclaimed free college scholarships. They assert that there are millions of dollars in unclaimed scholarships just waiting to be awarded. As you read above, even if you are awarded some of these private scholarships, in some cases it may benefit your college and not you!
Watch out for claims such as:
- We've already secured funding for your college.
- "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back".
- You've been “pre-selected" by a "national foundation" to receive a scholarship.
- We have you scheduled for an "interview"
Maximize Your Scholarship Opportunities
- Apply only if you’re eligible! Read all of the scholarship requirements and directions carefully to make sure you’re eligible before you send in your application. Your application can’t win if you’re not eligible for the scholarship.
- Complete the application in full. If a question doesn’t apply, note that on the application. Don’t just leave it blank.
- Follow directions. Provide everything that is required, but don’t supply things that are not requested. You could be disqualified.
- Neatness counts. Make several photocopies of all the forms you receive. Use the copies as working drafts to develop your application packet. Always type your application. If you must print, do so neatly and legibly.
- Make sure your essay makes an impression. The key to writing a strong essay is to be personal and specific. Include concrete details to make your experience come alive.
- Watch for deadlines. To keep yourself on track, impose a deadline on yourself that is at least two weeks before the stated deadline. Use this time to proofread your application before you send it off.
- Make copies before sending. Before sending your application, make a copy of the entire packet and keep it on file in case your application goes astray. Make sure your name (and social security number, if applicable) appears on each page of your application to ensure that nothing is lost.
- Give it a final “once-over.” Proofread the entire application carefully. Be on the lookout for misspelled words or grammatical errors. Ask a friend, teacher or parent to proofread it as well.
- Ask for help if you need it. If you have problems with the application, call the funding organization and ask questions.
- Remember: your scholarship application represents you! Your ability to submit a neat, timely, complete application reflects on you. It’s your face to this organization. Take pride in yourself by submitting your best application.
Any additional tips to share? Leave your comments!
About Smart Track™ Toolkit: The toolkit is a web based service that assists families with everything from admissions and test prep, to student athletics and financial aid. Our intuitive software and on-demand workshops are key components to making sure students find their top choice colleges, and families can afford to send them there.
About the author: Laura Guarino is the Student Services Coordinator with College Planning Strategies, LLC. Laura has a degree in Human Development from Boston College and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in School Guidance Counseling. She is also enrolled in a certificate program in College Admissions Counseling. Laura is at the forefront of the college admissions process for the families of CPS and The Smart Track™ Toolkit.
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