Helping with the Rising Costs of College Tuition: An Overview of Scholarships

Posted by Stephanie Brady on 2/1/2019

The cost of college tuition has hit record highs over the last few years and is continuing an upward trend. With price tags ranging from $20,000 - 70,000 a year, scholarships are an important part of the financial aid process. While there are tuition savings programs such as WUE to consider, there are also thousands of scholarships available. Scholarships can range from $100 to help pay for textbooks, to full-tuition scholarships given by universities and large organizations. The key is understanding the options and knowing where to find them.
Categories of scholarships
Merit: Merit scholarships are awarded on various factors of success such as leadership involvement, community service, athletics, GPA or other skills.
Need-based: Need-based scholarships are often determined based on a families income. Many universities and organizations use FAFSA or the CSS Profile to determine a students financial need.
Types of scholarships
University Scholarships
Most universities and colleges will offer both merit and financial need scholarships. Depending on the school, a student might automatically be considered for scholarships when applying while some require a separate application. These details can be found on individual university websites.
Athletic Scholarships
Only about 0.12% of all high school athletes receive a full ride athletic scholarship to a university. Athletic scholarships are merit in nature, as they solely depend on a students athletic ability. Scholarship money for athletics is allowed within Division I and Division II by the NCAA regulations.
ROTC is a college program offered at over 1,700 colleges and universities that comes with a military service obligation upon accepting a scholarship. Different branches of the military offer a variety of scholarships ranging from full tuition to smaller partial scholarships.
Company & Non-profit Organization Scholarships
Within this category, there are scholarships given by organizations such as Boy and Girl Scouts, Rotary Club, and Coca-Cola. If you are a parent, check to see if your employer offers scholarships. Also check with any organizations or professional memberships you are a part of to see what they might offer. Many companies and organizations will offer scholarships to a specific high school or county, which reduces competition and increases the chances of your student winning.
When to start the process
August of senior year is a good time to begin the scholarship search process. With most scholarship application deadlines occurring in March starting early provides ample time to sort through the options. It also allows you to not miss any of the early deadlines for bigger scholarships like Coca-Cola or Boy Scouts of America whose deadlines both fall in October.
Where to look
When doing a search for scholarships please note there are some scholarship scams. A good rule of thumb is if the scholarship requires you to pay to apply or asks for your social security number it is a scam. There are also many reputable sites for national scholarships that house many options including:
Additionally there are some popular local scholarships to consider :
  • Assistance League of Diablo Valley High School Scholarships - Up to $6,000 - Due March 18th
  • Rotary Scholarships - Up to $2,000
  • AAUW - $2,000 - Due March 1st
With hundreds of scholarship options available, the cost of attending college can be reduced. It may be a smaller award used to pay for books or a larger one to significantly offset tuition. The key is knowing where to look, as well as, having the patience to sort through the information and complete the applications. In the end, any scholarship helps. For a full article on scholarships and where to find them, please see  ‘ How to Get a Full Ride Scholarship