Types of College Scholarships

Guest Post by Evelyn Alexander

Types of College Scholarships

Understand your options when it comes to college scholarships and financial aid.

Most parents with superstar students assume that their straight-A, top-scoring student will be offered lots of college scholarships. They are shocked and disappointed when they realize that many top-tier colleges don’t offer merit-based scholarships — getting in is the only reward they give!

3 Reasons Why Your Kid’s Grades Won’t Pay For College

This article summarizes three mistakes and assumptions people make about financial aid and potential college scholarships. Here’s our summary, with some additional thoughts:

Private scholarships:

The largest amount of money that helps students pay for college each year, aside from federal grants and loans, comes from colleges themselves. Of the approximately $237 billion that is given to help students pay for college, $42 billion comes directly from colleges. Only a quarter of that amount, about $11 billion, comes from private scholarships. Most of them are small dollar amounts, highly competitive and one-time grants. Your time is better spent researching colleges that give substantial merit awards, which are generally renewable for four years, rather than being the 307,612th applicant for a highly-competitive, one-time $1,000 scholarship.

Merit scholarships:

Michelle’s comments here are spot-on: you should ONLY expect to be offered a merit scholarship if your grades and test score are in the top 25% of a college’s applicant pool. The more competitive the college, the more difficult it is to be in this elite group, and the less likely it is that the college even offers such merit rewards. You can generally find the range of scores for each college’s admitted student pool on their website.

Top-50 colleges:

This is the harsh reality that often causes such consternation. Many of the top-ranked US News colleges have made the determination that they will use most, or all, of their available scholarship funds to assist students who don’t have the ability to pay for their high-priced education. They either don’t offer merit-based scholarships at all, or they offer only a few. You can research historical merit-based giving on the Collegedata.com website, and you can also learn more about their giving history on the College Board’s Big Future website. We recommend that students and parents review the merit-based giving data for all of the colleges on their list prior to applying, so that they won’t be disappointed in the end.

Beyond financial considerations, we always recommend that students look beyond the rankings. They provide some information, but they certainly can’t tell you if any of these schools would be a good match for you.

Evelyn Alexander is the founder of Magellan College Counseling, an independent educational consulting firm with six counselors. While Magellan’s counselors are based in Los Angeles and Boston, they work with students across the country, guiding them through the college search and application process.

To learn more, visit magellancounseling.com

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