Private scholarships are usually the first place people look for college cash, but they are a highly overrated option. While there is no doubt that winning a private scholarship would be fantastic, the largest scholarships are found from the colleges themselves in the form of merit scholarships. If you are not sure that you stand to gain much more financially by looking toward merit scholarships, consider these excellent benefits that merit scholarships have to offer:
- Larger awards – Colleges award over $11 billion dollars every year in merit scholarships as opposed to the $7 billion that is given out through private scholarships. This difference is because of the larger amounts awarded. The typical merit scholarship is valued at $5,000, while the average private scholarship award ranges between $1,000 and $2000.
- They are renewable – While most private scholarships are one-shot deals, merit scholarships from colleges and universities are typically renewable as long as the student meets the criteria for the award, or for up to four years.
- Better odds – While only around 7% of students who apply for private scholarships win one, around 25% of undergraduate students are able to snag a merit scholarship.
- Ease and convenience – While private scholarships may ask applicants to do a great deal of work, including writing an essay and filling out a long application, merit scholarships are typically awarded to those who meet the requirements with no additional paperwork at all.
- Won’t hurt other aid – Merit scholarships are generally not counted against a student’s financial aid eligibility. On the other hand, schools are required by federal law to consider any private scholarship money when determining the financial aid package for a student. If the student earns a $2,000 private scholarship, he or she is likely to lose the same amount in need-based financial aid.
- Many are eligible – Schools offer merit scholarships to many students who are no more than average. Some schools will even offer such scholarships to students with a GPA as low as 2.0. In addition, students can get merit scholarships based on talents, interests, choice of major, and much more that has nothing to do with academic performance.
- Easy to find – There are abundant resources for finding private scholarships, but not many people realize how easy it is to find merit scholarships. All you have to do is visit the website of your chosen college to see what is offered for you.
While it is always a good idea to pursue any and all scholarship opportunities that come your way, make sure you take the time to look into merit based scholarships offered through your intended college or university. They are more likely to work out and can also offer much larger award amounts. In short, merit scholarships are a great place to find your college cash.