A breakdown of the different types of scholarships available, and advice on how to get them
In 2002, 81 percent of students at private colleges and universities received need-based grants or merit-based scholarships from their schools, compared to 63 percent in 1990, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Much of the increase comes from the growth in the number of merit scholarships. But the size of a typical scholarship or grant has grown, too, rising from 27 percent of tuition in 1990 to 39 percent of tuition in 2002. Here's a breakdown of some scholarship options:
If you have a lot of financial need (in other words, your family's expected family contribution, or EFC, is low) and attend an expensive college, your financial aid package will probably include a need-based grant funded by the college (in addition to loans and work-study).
What many schools call a scholarship could just as easily be dubbed a "recruiting discount." Studies have shown that students are more likely to attend a school that awards them a merit scholarship than one that gives them a grant because they have financial need. That's why a growing number of schools are using merit scholarships to entice talented students.
Many schools choose scholarship recipients solely on the basis of a student's admissions application. But some universities, like Wake Forest University and the University of Richmond, require a separate application for many or all of their awards. Be sure to check with the college to find out what scholarships are available and how to qualify for them.
Lewis and Clark College, in Portland, Oregon, boasts more than 150 scholarships for its 543 entering freshmen. Each year, the school awards up to 10 Barbara Hirschi Neely Scholarships (which cover a full year of tuition and fees) and up to 15 Trustee Scholarships (which cover one-half of tuition and fees annually) to students with top grades and test scores, with special preference given to those interested in math, science, or international studies. In addition to those plum awards, the school gives out more than 100 Dean's Scholarships, in amounts varying from $4,000 to $8,000, plus other scholarships for leadership and service, and for special talent in music or forensics.
Awards for outstanding community service and for special talents in art, music, dance, drama, writing, and other areas are common among colleges, too. Many schools offer scholarships specifically for minorities. The CIGNA Scholars Program award for African Americans at the University of Richmond, for example, covers two-thirds of the cost of a four-year education.
Some scholarships are awarded automatically. At the University of Connecticut, for example, all incoming freshmen who were high school valedictorians and salutatorians are given a Presidential Scholars award worth $3,000 to $9,300 per year, plus a one-time $2,500 research fellowship. At the website of Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia (www.mbc.edu), prospective students can enter their grade point averages and test scores into a "scholarship calculator" to see how much merit money they are likely to receive. A student with a 3.7 GPA and 1150 on the SAT, for example, is eligible for an $8,400 scholarship.