Breaking Down the Types of Scholarships Available to Students
With tuition costs on the rise, paying for college can be a financial barrier for many families.
According to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2018-2019 school year, students paid a net price of $13,900 at public institutions, $27,200 at private nonprofit institutions, and $23,800 at private for-profit institutions. The net price includes annual costs of tuition, room and board, books, and fees.
To afford the cost of college, many students and their parents apply for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form, known as a FAFSA, to determine how much they are eligible to receive from the school, state, and federal government. Most families qualify for some form of aid, including student loans that enable many families to afford college tuition, though they do need to be paid back with interest. Taking out loans to pay for post-secondary education may be necessary for some, and it’s important that students understand the long-term financial impact. At the end of 2021, students graduated with an average debt of $31,100.
Scholarships, however, can be a cost-effective way to cover some of the costs of attending college. Unlike loans, scholarships do not need to be paid back and they often focus on different aspects of a student’s background, from academic achievements to athletic talents. College Ave compiled a list of the different kinds of scholarships that are available to students beyond filling out the FAFSA.
Merit aid is a form of financial assistance that is given based on a student’s skill or academic accomplishments. These can include athletic or artistic abilities, high test scores, or excellent grades. Merit aid scholarships can be a way for colleges and universities to attract top talent to their campuses, rewarding students for their hard work and skills. Typically, if students receive merit aid, they may be required to maintain their school work above a certain grade point average, or GPA. The National Merit Scholarship Program is one such way students can earn merit aid, and high school students will need to take the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test in order to qualify.
Need-based aid scholarships are determined by students’ financial situation rather than only on their merit. This often means the student’s family has a household income that does not exceed a certain threshold. For example, the Greenhouse Scholars Program is offered to students who have a household income below $70,000. However, depending on the scholarship, some programs may have additional requirements as well like a minimum GPA, academic accomplishments, demonstration of leadership, and extracurricular activities. Some scholarships, like The Gates Scholarship, only cover expenses left after any other federal financial aid has been disbursed, so always read the terms of a need-based scholarship when applying.
An identity-based scholarship is a type of financial aid that is typically awarded to underrepresented groups to encourage participation in programs and fields that tend to be homogenous. This can include students who are from specific ethnic and cultural backgrounds, are part of the LGBTQ+ community, or who have learning or mobility differences. Identity-based scholarships are often offered by third-party organizations like the Point Foundation, which offers the BIPOC Scholarship for LGBTQ Students, or the Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Aside from a specific identity, many of these scholarships require a certain GPA or pursuit of a certain subject or career field.
Aside from offering student grants and loans, the government – whether local, state, or federal – also offers scholarships. These options vary across the country, so requirements to qualify for this type of aid will also vary. For example, California offers a government scholarship to students that have been in the foster care system. The state of Massachusetts provides scholarships to anyone considered the “head-of-household” with children under 18 and at risk of homelessness with its One Family Scholarship Program. Government scholarships can also go toward specific programs such as helping students afford studying abroad.
Athletic scholarships are a type of aid based on a student’s participation in a variety of sports ranging from football to hockey. Some scholarships offer full rides covering the entire cost of tuition, room and board, and books. Athletic scholarships help college and university sports teams attract and recruit talent to play for them. Like many scholarships, this type of aid also typically requires that a student meet certain qualifications in addition to their athletic abilities, like a minimum GPA, leadership skills, and extracurricular activities. Some scholarships may also require that students demonstrate financial need.
Some scholarships are based on a student’s involvement with a profession, hobby, or extracurricular activities. In some cases, funding for this type of aid comes from philanthropic donations or foundations that are partnered with the school. For example, Coastal Carolina University offers scholarships that are awarded for students’ participation in a club or their involvement in community service on campus. The scholarships are organized by the university’s Coastal Educational Foundation and funded by donors.
According to a 2020 report by the National Center for Education Statistics, there were nearly 1.2 million military undergraduate students and 241,000 graduate students from 2015 to 2016. Scholarships are available for all five branches of the U.S. armed forces: the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy. This type of aid typically goes to active or reserve service members and veterans. In some cases, military scholarships may even extend to family members. As with most scholarships, this type of aid may be dependent on grades or financial need.
Employer-sponsored Tuition Assistance
Through financial assistance, employers can sometimes make the difference that enables someone to complete a post-secondary education. Employer-sponsored scholarships and tuition assistance are provided by a company to support employees seeking to further their education and skills. Companies such as UPS, Chipotle, Walmart, and Starbucks are just a handful of employers that will financially support their employees who go back to school. Chipotle will cover the entirety of an employee’s tuition depending on the program. Whether they’re part-time or full-time employees, Starbucks will pay 100% of the tuition for students who choose to get their bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University via its online program.
These are just some of the examples of the variety of scholarships available to students to help cover the cost of college. Take the time to do your research to make sure you meet all of the criteria and eligibility. And keep applying for scholarships year-round, as every little bit helps.