common application help

Tip #2: Colleges are an important source of scholarships!

In this second part of our scholarship series, we will cover colleges themselves as a source for three very different types of scholarships – merit aid, donor-restricted scholarships, and department-supported scholarships. You may also want to refer to part one of our series, where we talk about the wide availability of scholarship money.

Merit Aid

A number of colleges offer “merit aid” or “merit scholarships.” Merit aid is distinct from financial aid, as it is awarded to students who offer a special talent to an institution, rather than demonstrating a financial need for assistance. Merit scholarships are often used as a recruitment tool because they might be offered in order to positively influence a student’s enrollment decision. Students will typically be offered merit aid if they are above average in comparison to the other candidates in the entering class or if they have some special talent to offer. Such talents may include, but are not limited to, music, art, athletic, or leadership capabilities. Students should check with each college to which they are applying in order to best understand their merit scholarship options. With this information, the student will be able to appropriately tailor their admissions application, ensuring that they don’t leave out relative content that might warrant additional funding from their colleges of interest.

Restricted Scholarships

Many colleges also offer restricted scholarships. Restricted scholarships are typically awarded under very specific criteria, such as family legacy, ethnic background, personal demographics, or area of academic study. Restricted scholarships often come from donors that have given money to support a specific type of student, so colleges make it a goal to match recipients with award money from these special donors. Students should be sure to contact the financial aid office to determine if the college offers restricted scholarships and if so, what the application process is. While not all colleges have this type of scholarship, it is always worth asking whether funding is available.

Department-Supported Scholarships

Another excellent source of scholarships is an institution’s individual academic departments. Once a student is enrolled at a college or university, he should make an effort to check in with professors about department-specific scholarships. Encouraging your child to reach out on his own is essential, as entities outside of the school or the financial aid office may contact faculty when they have scholarships to give. For example, if your child is an engineering major, there may be a local engineering firm looking for a scholarship recipient. If the firm has only reached out to the Chair of the Engineering department, and not the financial aid office, then the financial aid office may not be aware of this opportunity.  Students should stay in close contact with their professors, using them as a resource for obtaining additional, perhaps unseen scholarships. Note also that faculty can provide information about internship, Co-Op, and summer job opportunities. Using your student’s network when searching for scholarships never hurts, and it may help you find previously uncovered awards!

New Call-to-Action

Written by Jan Combs
Jan Combs is a college finance expert at College Coach. Before joining College Coach, Jan was Director of Financial Aid at Harvard Graduate School of Education and Assistant Director of Financial Aid at Boston University.