While each school has its own unique scholarship offerings (merit only, merit and need, need only), they do so for a variety of reasons. Similar to admissions, a director will consider your academic indicators, your work experience, your extra-curricular activities, your goals and your community service. They also consider socio-economic factors for need-based and outstanding accomplishments for merit-need-based scholarships.
Merit-based general scholarships give the schools an opportunity to attract a candidate that they may not have the opportunity to enroll without the scholarship. For schools with deep pockets, it helps the admissions office attract and maintain individuals that without the scholarship, the school could easily lose to other schools. It also helps some schools fill their enrollment requirements. Regardless, scholarships enable the admissions director to create his or her mosaic.
In addition to general scholarships, each school may also have specialized scholarships. Those scholarships often will be given to students that diversify the population through their goals or their backgrounds. In addition to school scholarships, outside organizations may partner with the school to offer scholarships or offer scholarships autonomously. Many organizations offer scholarships for students with disabilities (National MS Society, Setoma, SBA), women (Forte, AAUW) under-represented minorities (Consortium, Tiogo, American Association of Indian Affairs, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, NSHMBA, NBMBA, Pfizer, Hispanic College Fund, and international students (Fulbright). Specialized scholarships can be found on a national level (GFAO, Peace Corps, GI Bill, Fisher House), state level (New York State Scholarship Fund) and local level (Shanghai municipal scholarship) as well as through charitable and religious organizations.
Each school also has scholarship dollars that are designated by a corporate donor, alumnus or friend of the school for specific reasons. Ernst and Young gave one school for whom I worked an endowment to distribute to candidates with accounting backgrounds, and another school for whom I worked had an alumnus who offered the school a fund designated for incoming Brazilian student scholarships.
I had the most difficulty distributing scholarships to local students with very specific backgrounds. For example at one school, an alumnus gave us a generous fund to offer scholarships to students with accounting backgrounds from a specific county in the state in which the alumnus grew up. The county was quite small and we rarely had applicants that applied to our school from that county with accounting backgrounds. We couldn’t distribute that scholarship for several years in a row and when we did find a candidate that matched the criteria, that candidate received the scholarship regardless of need or merit.
Your best sources for scholarships are Fastweb.org, Scholarships.com, and the school you plan to attend. However, check with each school's scholarship policy before applying for admission. Some schools may have you write an essay or check a box to show interest in scholarships. Others distribute scholarships based on your admissions application and you don’t need to indicate an interest in scholarship at all.
Regardless of how you piece together your school funding, don’t pay for a scholarship search. The information is free on the Internet or through your school’s admissions and/or financial aid office. Also, keep in mind that you must complete the FAFSA for U.S. scholarships and loans or the international equivalent through your country’s ministry of education. And if you have multiple offers with scholarships, you have some negotiating power. If you need additional information, please contact me.
By Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, an accomplished Accepted.com consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.
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This article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of Accepted.com.