A couple of days ago I gave a broad overview of how most scholarships work at colleges and universities. There are a few more that are a little harder to find, and they tend to come in two flavors: talent and donors.
Talent scholarships that aren’t part of the admissions process are usually awarded by faculty or administrators that run some kind of high profile competition or performance group at the university. These would work a lot like athletic scholarships, except that athletic scholarships have all kinds of rules managed by the NCAA, while these have few rules at all. Talent scholarships tend to go to the students that are hard to find for such programs. Strong male dancers, for instance, are in high demand by top rated dance programs, while the most competitive music programs are usually looking for deep brass and, even more often, players of double reeded instruments. Debate or forensics (that’s speech, not CSI) teams may have money. There are also some dollars out there for particular academic programs. Most universities will list all of these oportunities, if available to freshmen, on their financial aid and admissions web sites. Others coordinate them through the admissions and/or audition processes, so you’ll be considered if you’re eligible. That being said, if you are REALLY FANTASTIC at something that a particular college or university has, it might be worth talking with the admissions office, department chair, program director, or coach (of a non-NCAA activity) to find out if there are any scholarships. You shouldn’t have to ask more than one of those people at any particular school, as usually everyone involved is aware of the opportunities. Bear in mind, these aren’t as common as academic scholarships, but they are out there.
There are also a handful of donor based awards. A large number of these tend to focus on continuing students, as they may have a college grade point average requirement. Others have need-based requirements, and get automatically packaged by financial aid offices (more on need-based aid in an upcoming post). A handful of these are available to freshmen, and there is usually an application to qualify, or numerous applications as at many places each scholarship requires it’s own process. The reason for all this confusion is the good-hearted desire by some donor to give money to students who are a LOT LIKE THE DONOR (or someone the donor knows and likes, or someone the donor once liked and wishes liked him or her back). As a result, you get some obvious parameters, like the award can only go to students from a particular high school, or in a particular major. Then you get the bizarre ones, like only students with a certain hair color (I assume naturally), or that have a particular philosophy. These are harder and harder to find, as universities have found them very expensive to administer (imagine the financial aid officer whose job it is to find the left-handed, one-eyed, red-haired tuba player from Cleveland). They are also often for relatively low dollar amounts. Like the talent awards, these are usually listed on the financial aid web site. A few colleges have full lists of these awards in their course catalogs. Many institutions have a general application for all of these awards on their financial aid web site, so I encourage you to look for it and complete it, but not to count on finding much.
Next up, a bit about non-university/college scholarships, then on to need-based aid. What fun! Be seeing you.
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