How To Fund Your College Education And Where Is The Money?

college admissions Sep 10, 2021

Applying to college and getting accepted is by no means an easy task. With the rising costs of school, the happy moment of acceptance can easily be dampened when the first few congratulatory lines are followed by a hefty sticker price. For many, this might seem more like a bill than a happy welcome letter. This feeling can, however, be prevented if you have done your homework of researching and applying to scholarships ahead of time.

Need-Based vs. Merit-based

Just when you think your job is done with putting together the college list, another question creeps up: How to pay for this awesome school that will be my home for the next four years or more. Then, you feverishly begin researching where the money will come from.

Here is a quick overview of what to know before starting the process:

Need-based scholarships are, as the name implies, awarded based on financial need (you may be more familiar with another name–financial aid:). Unlike merit-based scholarships, you usually won’t need to write any additional essays or provide any letters of recommendation to earn a need-based scholarship. Universities use your financial information that they’ve received, usually through an outside service like the FAFSA or CSS Profile, to determine your family’s financial need. The colleges redistribute the funds, so that families that are unable to pay the sticker price are asked to pay less than families who have more funds available to contribute to a college education. The money, the college offers to supplement the cost of tuition, is a need-based scholarship, or financial aid. While need-based scholarships are obviously awesome, they do come with a few catches. Most schools have limited funds to assign for financial aid purposes, so even if you end up with a need-based scholarship, your family may still not have sufficient funds to finance your education entirely. This is going to be true if you end up in an expensive real estate area such as New York or Silicon Valley, where rent and living expenses along can force some high digits to add on to your credit card.

Needless to say, there are benefits to the need-based scholarships. They are awarded entirely on the basis of family need, and you don’t have to worry about repaying. So, generally, there are no strings attached, unlike merit-based scholarships, which may require maintaining a certain GPA or participation on a sports team to keep the scholarship.

The merit-based scholarships are usually what comes to mind when the word scholarship is mentioned. Students with exemplary academic records or exceptional athletic skill earn merit-based scholarships from universities that try to entice them into choosing to enroll at their school. The better student or athlete you are, the more money you’re offered; many universities even offer full-ride scholarships for extremely strong candidates. With a merit-based scholarship, you have more control over the entire process, since you will be able to select a school and not just be selected by a school. Here is where your individual performance plays a role.

The amount you receive is proportional to your degree of academic or athletic success, so you can have a significant impact on the size of your award. When getting excited about such money coming you way you must remember that there are some drawbacks. A lapse in performance in school or sports can jeopardize your scholarship, and in the case of athletic scholarships, you’re tied to participating in that sport for all 4 years of college unless you are willing to forfeit your scholarship. It’s notable that many top schools don’t offer any merit-based scholarships, or if they do, they are very few in number and very competitive. Strong students looking to receive generous merit-based scholarships often apply to schools with average stats (GPA, standardized test scores) below the student’s own in order to maximize the opportunity to earn merit-based scholarships. At many schools, the selection process for merit-based scholarships happens upon admission; at other schools, additional scholarships may be available through an additional application process.

Special Interest/Outside Scholarships

There are of course many scholarships, often awarded by outside parties, offer awards that are restricted to a specific demographic or group. There are scholarships specific to race, gender, major, career field, religion — even height! Many websites have scholarship search tools that allow you to find scholarships that are not well advertised. Scholarship opportunities can be found in the local community centers as well. Some high schools feature scholarship programs specifically for college-bound seniors, so check if your school offers such a program. Churches, local government, clubs, businesses, and more offer scholarships to local high school seniors.

The key to being successful in your scholarship search is to start early and do your research.

Obviously, your chances at winning a scholarship offered only to a select group are higher than a scholarship to which anyone can apply, so look for specific, local scholarship opportunities. Additionally, don’t be quick to ignore smaller scholarships as the money can quickly add up.

Ask family and community members if their places of employment or community groups offer any scholarships to graduating seniors, or do some quick online searches. With time, research, and hard work, you’ll have a great shot at earning scholarships that can make attending college a reality.

Here are some top-ranked schools that are very generous with their money but also very selective in the type of students they admit:

Williams College – is a liberal arts college in the East coast. It offers a need–blind admissions policy (need–blind is a great admission because they give you admission irrespective of who you are and do not select you based on scores). To find out more about the variety of grands and scholarship options click here.

Columbia offers – offers a need-aware admission process and it is very generous, however, you have to be super well qualified. Columbia Scholarship Grants.

University of Chicago – this is one school with maximum amount of aid and international aid it is also need aware if you are qualified and you are accepted, you might be able to get your entire cost of attendance off, including books. This school also offers merit scholarships irrespective of financial aid. UChicago offers variety of options, and for more information you can click here.

Amherst College – located in the East coast this is one of the top Massachusetts based schools that offer need-blind admissions process. Amherst College Financial Aid.

Washington University at Saint Louis – top 100 in the world, known for its medicine and life science majors offering with about 50 scholarships that go out every year to a qualified applicant. On the common app, you must specify this particular university when applying. You also need another essay and an additional letter of recommendation. Since this school offers a plethora of scholarships, I have included the link to the first year academic scholarships. Washington University

Yale University – the top 15 in the world, this is an need-blind school that offers about 100 to 150 students every year scholarship that meet the entire educational need.

MIT– top university in the world that offers a need-blind admission. The scholarships are awarded based solely on financial need and come from endowments, gifts from MIT alumni and friends, and MIT general funds. 58% of the undergraduates receive MIT Scholarships that average $51,500 per student. For more information visit here.

It is a common knowledge that these schools churn out alumni that are very successful and they are able to come back and drop generous checks to their alma mater.

Princeton University – is the top 10 IVY league school with anywhere between 500-600 scholarships every year. If the family income is 65K a year then you will pay nothing if accepted and if it goes up to 180K family income some part of the tuition will be paid for. Princeton’s financial aid program is recognized as one of the most generous in the country. The school determines the family's ability to pay using their own need formula, with fair and generous individual results. Princeton’s no-loan policy replaces student loans with grant aid that students do not pay back — this makes it possible to graduate with little to no debt. For more information visit Princeton Cost Aid.

NYU – New York University Abu Dhabi campus – every year about 300 students receive need-blind package from about 100 different countries includes tuition fees, cost of living, and foreign travel. The school offers a generous stipend each year including paying for your travel back home. Although this is a hard to get in school, with all the perks outlined it is worth the effort. More about NYU here.

Last but not least is:

Harvard – has a need-blind admission policy and for students with a family income under 65K they ensure that the students can attend Harvard free. They gave about 500-600 scholarships with an average of 60K. Here is the link. If admission to one of the above schools is not very likely, then starting early with some of the scholarships offered from outside sources is well worth it. There seems to be a scholarship for everything and everyone these days. Here are a variety of scholarships to fit the needs of almost every type of student:


Athletic scholarships

College-specific scholarships

Company-Sponsored Scholarships

Merit-based scholarships

Minority scholarships

Our Scholarships

Scholarship Contests & Sweepstakes

Scholarships by major

Scholarships by state

Scholarships by Type

Scholarships for graduate students

Scholarships for high school students

Scholarships for undergraduate students

Weird Scholarships

Additionally, Unigo offers scholarships titled: OUR SCHOLARSHIPS

$1,500 - I Have a Dream Scholarship

$10,000 - Unigo $10K Scholarship

$1,500 - Sweet and Simple Scholarship

$2,500 - Superpower Scholarship

$3,000 - All About Education Scholarship

$1,500 - Fifth Month Scholarship

$1,500 - Do-Over Scholarship

$1,500 - Flavor of the Month Scholarship

$1,500 - Make Me Laugh Scholarship

$1,500 - Shout It Out Scholarship

$2,000 - Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship

$5,000 - Education Matters Scholarship

$1,500 - Top Ten List Scholarship

One of the scholarships I recommend to take a look at is the Coca Cola ScholarshipsThe Coca Cola foundation receives about 150K applications every year and the process for selection follows several stages:

1. Initial stage

2. Semi-final stage

3.Skype interview

4.Summit in Atlanta that you must attend if you


5.The application deadline is October 31st

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is a subsidiary of the famous Coca-Cola Company. Its focus is, in its own words, “bring[ing] better to the world through investment in exceptional high school students who are dedicated to leadership, service, and action that positively affects others”. Through its scholarship programs and Leadership Summits, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation has helped high school seniors achieve their academic and intellectual potential for over 25 years. The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation supports more than 1,400 college students each year through its 3 nationally recognized programs. One of these programs is the Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship. About 150 high school seniors are selected each year to receive this $20,000 scholarship.

Read on to learn what you need to know to have a fighting chance of becoming a Coca-Cola Scholar, with all the perks and privileges that come with it.

Eligibility Requirements

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation very clearly outlines what types of students are eligible for the Coca-Cola Scholarship, and they will ask you to show proof that you meet all of their eligibility requirements when you fill out the application. In order to qualify for the Coca-Cola Scholarship, you must be a graduating high school senior in good standing. You must also be a US citizen, a US National, US Permanent Resident, Refugee, Asylee, Cuban-Haitian Entrant, or Humanitarian Parole. You must also be planning to pursue a degree at a postsecondary institution within a year of completing your graduation. You must also have earned a minimum 3.0 weighted GPA at your high school.

What is the Application Process Like

In order to apply for the Coca-Cola Scholarship, you will need to submit a Google Form application via their online portal. However, if you want to see a sample application, you can view it here.

There are no essays, transcripts, or other supplementary documents needed to apply for this scholarship. However, I do recommend securing a copy of your transcript before filling out this application in order to ensure that you are providing the most accurate and up-to-date information about yourself. In addition, here are some other things you will need to gather before you start filling out this application.

◦ The High School Code for your school from CollegeBoard.

◦ Your parents approximate combined income before taxes last year (optional)

◦ Information about all of your school-sponsored extracurriculars (e.g. how long you were in each club, what your official leadership titles were, how long you’ve been in these roles, etc)

◦ Information on any and all awards and honors you have received throughout your time in high school

◦ Information on any community service hours you have completed throughout high school

◦ The number of AP, IB, and Honors classes offered at your school

◦ Your grades throughout high school

◦ Your current class rank and class size

◦ Information on any and all work experiences you’ve had in high school (what was the job, how many hours did you work per week, etc.)

The second largest scholarship to apply is: Jack Kent Cooke – this is a two-parts young scholar program. For more information on the requirements click here.

The Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship Program

The Jackie Robinson Foundation (JRF) Scholarship program addresses the financial needs of college students and provides extensive, hands-on mentoring and support services. Once chosen from a national, selective application process, Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars receive a generous four-year grant to attend the undergraduate school of their choice and enroll in JRF’s celebrated “42 Strategies for Success Curriculum”. This four-year program guides JRF Scholars to effectively navigate their college environments, explore career options, develop leadership skills, and embrace a commitment to service. The program also promotes the values and character traits embodied in the heroic life of the Foundation’s namesake, encouraging Scholars to positively impact the lives of others.

The JRF scholarship is awarded to outstanding high school graduates who plan to earn a baccalaureate degree from an accredited four-year college or university. One reason why this is one of my favorite programs is because it helps young people with internships and after applying, even if not accepted, you will have many connections where you can go back and remind them of who you are and ask for any leadership opportunities here or abroad. Additional fellowships are given to JRF Scholars to pursue opportunities to work and study abroad.

(Rachel Robinson International Fellowship) and for post-graduate education (Extra Innings Fellowship).

Important Deadlines To Know:

Every academic year, the application for the Coca-Cola scholarship opens in August and is due on October 31st. You may apply during the fall of your senior year.

When you’re figuring out when to start this application, you should keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to secure important documents like your official transcript and your parents’ tax information. Thus, it’s best to start sooner rather than later. You don’t want to be caught in a pinch at the last minute!

National Merit Scholarships

The first and most commonly considered scholarship program related to standardized tests is the National Merit Scholarship Program. This program is actually linked to your PSAT, which is taken during the first semester of your junior year. The National Merit competition recognizes top scorers by state and awards up to $2500 to top performers. But this isn’t the only way that you can earn a scholarship through the National Merit program. Many individual schools also team up with National Merit to sponsor scholarships. These have a wide range in value, beginning at just a couple hundred dollars and extending all the way to full rides. Usually, in order to be eligible for one, you’ll need to fill out the college interest forms offered along with your PSAT (which are entirely optional) and check off the school whose scholarship you are interested in as your top choice.

Generally, public universities offer more funding through this program than private schools do, but you’ll need to research each school you’re interested in to get their specific details. As an example, at both the University of Idaho and the University of Oklahoma, your performance in the National Merit competition can earn you a full ride scholarship. The same is true at Baylor University, a private school, but this is an exception. At Loyola, another private school, National Merit awards top off at $2000. To learn more about the National Merit Program sponsoring universities, see the National Merit Sponsorship page.

You might be wondering how you can receive a scholarship.

The National Merit Scholarship Program looks to reward students who have demonstrated significant academic achievement. Much of this scholarship has to do with a student’s scores on the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, also known as the PSAT.

So, what else to do and how to get college scholarships – adopt a robust scholarship application mindset. Start early and keep trying. You will get rejected before you get approved and that is only normal. For more information on strategies and resources contact VoicED and schedule a free consultation.

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