How To Find Additional Scholarship Funds On Your Campus
If cost is a major factor in your college search, the first thing you’ll likely concentrate on is finding scholarships. While it’s important to do your research on colleges with great merit scholarships for incoming freshman students, merit scholarships are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to finding additional sources of financial aid on campus.
Most families know the drill: merit scholarships are offered based on students’ “statistics” or GPA and ACT/SAT scores combined. With their potential to be renewable, merit awards may be considered to be the most impactful financial component. These awards are predetermined by each school’s Office of Financial Aid before the admissions cycle begins and are usually also publicized on their websites. Merit awards at public universities are fairly rigid, since the amounts are released to the public.
Being aware of the merit scholarships available on your college list is essential to securing an affordable college experience, but you should know: merit awards are just the beginning to finding funding through your school.
Check First With Your Major
While these funds are more available in science and business majors, departmental scholarships are the best source of additional money found on campus. When you are accepted into a major, your major falls into a cluster of similar majors to create a broader department. For instance, majors like Marketing and Economics fall into the department of Business, while Graphic Design and Sports Media may fall into the department of Journalism. Departmental funds are controlled by the department you are accepted into when you choose a major. Within these separate departments are their own funds to control and use as needed for recruitment.
So, why is the separation of these funds from the Admissions office so important? Well, departmental funds are the college way to offer a marketing incentive to attract top students without being restricted by the greater college, and they can usually use these funds at their discretion. They are usually funded from a variety of alumni sources.
What this means for you is simple: These funds are negotiable.
You may be asking next, how do I access these funds? As stated previously, these funds exist for marketing incentives to attract top students. Therefore, it’s up to you to prove that you are the best and the brightest potential student. In the Department of Arts and Sciences, for instance, the department heads will be watching for students with the most potential for putting their own research on the map to gain recognition for their department to attract the brightest minds in future years to come. It’s all a cycle.
Now that you understand the bigger picture at work behind the scenes, the answer to securing funds is simple. The secret is to convince the department that you are the “next big thing” in the field. This is where your activities resume comes in: showing them that you have demonstrated leadership and creativity in your intended field. You could do this any number of ways: showing them the book you’ve self-published or talking about the event you built from scratch for a local charity organization. It’s your job to prove you are an unparalleled applicant for these department funds. For a list of creative ideas to help spark your imagination, check out this article: Here’s What Actually Makes Your High School Resume Impressive to Colleges.
Departmental scholarships often have early spring deadlines and typically require an additional application and essay. These essays may ask you to detail your leadership experience, community service work, or minority background. Immediately upon receiving an offer of admission, email individuals in your future department to inquire into additional awards, as many of these awards are unpublished.
Be Prepared to Work
Much like the FAFSA, work study programs are available to students on a need-based structure, but before you skip ahead: it’s a little known fact that their requirements are more flexible than the FAFSA. So, if you didn’t qualify for aid from the FAFSA, this doesn’t disqualify you from receiving funds from a work-study program.
How do these programs work? For a work-study program, you will apply for an approved campus job and work part-time at this position during the school year. You can earn up to a certain amount (usually around $5,000) and either receive this money in a normal paycheck or have the option to have the funds go directly to your student bill. You then begin receiving a paycheck once you’ve reached the maximum of the original qualified amount. Unlike scholarships, these programs are not only available for incoming freshmen, but also any year of your undergraduate education. Of course, the details of these programs vary from school to school, so you will need to do your research on your intended college.
Even better, you can discard your visions of working the most undesirable jobs on campus. Many jobs involve working the front desk of a department, allowing plenty of time to study during your downtime. With these types of jobs available, you can stay on a study schedule, boost your resume during college, and cover a major portion of your tuition all in one fell swoop. Other jobs include the campus recreation center, giving campus tours, or assisting with laboratory research.
Navigating these additional avenues of financial assistance on your campus can be tricky. If you find yourself needing guidance, you are always welcome to contact me at Moon Prep for individual scholarship tutoring. You should never feel alone on your path to an affordable education, and there are experts with years of experience eager to share with you.