Post #5 of "Preparing for college, what scholarships/grants to apply for?" is a great starting place -- it is an overview of the scholarship search process.
You can research the colleges you are interested in to find out how much money they have to give away in scholarships (see College Data website). You won't know specifically what scholarships a specific college would give YOU until:
1. you fill out the FAFSA*
2. you actually apply to the college (fill out the application form, pay the application fee, send in all required documents)
3. sometime later, the college lets you know if you have been accepted
4. and sometime later after THAT, the college sends you a financial aid package**, which lists the package of loans, grants, and scholarships they will offer you.
5. there are often other scholarships to specific degree programs or with other specific requirements that you apply for separately; these are usually listed on a "scholarships" page on the university's website -- search for these online with something like: "(name of university) scholarships", or, "scholarship list for (name of university)"; then you apply for these individually, following the guidelines and requirements for each scholarship you are eligible for
* = FAFSA generates an EFC number (estimated family contribution), which is used to determine financial NEED; this is the number that is used by the federal government to determine if you are eligible for work study, PELL grants, or other free federal aid; it is also the number that colleges use to plug into their financial aid equation to determine if you are eligible for financial need scholarships from the college
** = financial aid package is based on the financial aid equation:
COA — EFC = Financial Need
(cost of attending the college = tuition + room & board + books + additional expenses MINUS what the federal gov't says your family is able to contribute towards college costs EQUALS the amount of financial need)
Colleges offer a financial aid package to cover some or all of this amount of NEED in the form of: LOANS (offered to everyone) + federal work study (if need-eligible) + federal grants (if need-eligible) + scholarships (if need-eligible and/or merit-eligible)
I also recommend post #5 of the big pinned thread at the top of the high school board: "Transcripts, Credits… Scholarships/Financial Aid… past threads linked here!" -- *loads* of links to very helpful past threads on scholarships.
Can someone explain to me how we find out about all the scholarships out there… How does all that work?
To understand scholarships, you have to understand that they are just one piece of the big financial aid "pie" -- here's a helpful financial aid overview article from Forbes by Troy Onink.
There are several types of financial aid to be aware of:
- loans = money that must be paid back, with interest; almost everyone is offered loans
- grants = money given by the federal gov't or state gov't that does NOT get paid back; these are awarded based on financial need
- work-study = money given by the federal gov't in exchange for student work hours put in at the college; awarded based on financial need
- scholarships = money given to the student based on financial need OR on merit OR on special qualifications*
* = qualifications such as: sports/arts performance; volunteering; extracurriculars; member of a specific union, club, or organization; race / gender / ethnicity; disability; cancer survivor/parent died; foster child; first generation college student; etc.
Over 95% of all scholarships are awarded through the school the student attends. This is called "inside" money -- awarded from within the school. Most of these scholarships are offered to the student in the financial aid package offer given to the student after the student applies to the college. There are some additional scholarships with special conditions/requirements that can be found by doing a search of the college's website -- look for a "scholarships" page.
Under 5% of all scholarships are awarded by local, state, and national businesses, organizations or groups. This is called "outside" money -- awarded from outside of the school. Outside scholarships are found through:
- scholarship lists from your local public high school college counseling office
- local businesses, organizations, etc.
- online websites (FastWeb; Scholarships 4 Students)
- resource books at the library -- examples: Kaplan Scholarships: Billions of Dollars of Free Money for College (Schlachter), or, Peterson's Scholarships, Grants & Prizes
He took the ACT last month and did very well...Does stuff just start appearing in our mailbox because of his scores?
Alas, no one comes to you to offer you money. If DS checked the boxes on the PSAT, SAT, or ACT tests that say "yes, I'd would like information from colleges", then he will get promotional materials from schools mailed to him. The higher the scores, the more schools, and the more prestigious the schools. But that's just the school trying to attract your attention to apply to that school -- it is NO indication of any actual scholarship money awards.
How do we find out about other ones that may not be grade/score related?
- AP tests, CLEP tests, and/or dual enrollment while still in high school -- can knock out 1-2 semesters worth of college before graduating
- take gen. ed. credits at a cheaper community college, then transfer, only needing 2 years at the more expensive university
- studying abroad (often cheaper or even free tuition)
- free tuition colleges
- tuition-exchange programs (pay in-state rates at out-of-state colleges)
BEST of luck as you put on your guidance counselor/administrator hat!
Warmest regards, Lori D.