An outside scholarship is gift aid (money you do not repay) that is awarded from sources such as employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations.
Q & A
Can I use outside scholarships to pay for any school?
Usually. A few scholarships have restrictions, such as those offered by some religious groups to students who will attend a college with a specific religious affiliation, and those awarded by professional organizations that require that you attend a school that offers certain academic majors. Most outside scholarships, however, are unrestricted.
How competitive is the application process?
It varies from scholarship to scholarship. There are literally thousands of outside scholarships awarded each year. Some organizations receive many applications, some not so many.
How can we find outside scholarships?
Start in your high school counseling office to see what is available from local organizations. Also, have your parents check with their employer or union. After that, explore one or more of the FREE scholarship search engines listed in the right hand margin.
Is it really worth the effort to apply for outside scholarships?
There is no doubt that is a lot of work to research scholarship opportunities and complete applications – some of which require essays or other supplemental information. But, if you win just one scholarship then it is well worth the effort.
Do the math.
If you spend 100 hours on the outside scholarship process, submit 50 applications and received only one scholarship for $1,000, you will have earned $10 per hour (tax free). If the scholarship is renewable for four years, you will have earned $40 per hour.
More importantly, your outside scholarships funding might be the resource that makes your target schools affordable. Or, they may allow you to reduce the amount of student loans you have to borrow and/or allow you to reduce the number of hours you have to work.
Remember: Outside scholarships are GIFTS that you do not have to repay and lower your net cost of education dollar-for-dollar. Last year over $3.4 billion of outside scholarships were awarded to students in the US.
How early can we begin the process?
You can begin researching outside scholarship opportunities as early as you want.
Start by exploring the free outside scholarship search engines. Complete a profile on one or more of these search sites.
Log all the relevant information about each scholarship opportunity you discover in the Outside Scholarship Tracker. During the summer between junior and senior year, create a master calendar for deadlines.
TIP: We suggest that you set up a separate email address dedicated to this process so that your regular email mailbox doesn’t get cluttered and so that your parents can help monitor the emails and manage the process if they are willing to do so.
How will outside scholarships impact my financial aid package?
Despite what you may read on the internet, you should NOT worry too much about colleges reducing your school awarded discounts when you tell them you have outside scholarships. If you have so much outside scholarship funding that the schools is forced to reduce your other awards, the good news will far outweigh the bad.
For the vast majority of students at the vast majority of colleges, outside scholarships will have no effect on your financial aid package – they will simply increase your total discounts and reduce the amount you have to pay.
However, if you receive a school awarded need-based grant from one of the at the roughly 70 schools that meet full need then your outside scholarships might reduce some of the other financial aid you have been awarded.
Typically, these schools allow you to use your outside scholarships to reduce your student loans and/or work-study award first.
There are a still some schools that still “share” your outside scholarship with you by reducing your school-awarded grants, but even at these schools you will benefit from your outside scholarships.
Most schools disclose their outside scholarship policies on the financial aid web site.
Don’t let the policies at a handful of colleges discourage you from applying for outside scholarships!