Applying for Outside Scholarships

Outside scholarships are typically given by individuals or groups (non-profits, local organizations, companies, etc.) to students. Most students seek out outside (or private) scholarships to reduce the amount of loans that they may need. “Outside” in this case just means that these scholarships are not awarded by your university or college.

Completing the FAFSA does not automatically qualify for consideration for these types of scholarships. So students must complete these applications individually. It will take some research and time, but can be well worth the effort.

These scholarships can range in value from small amounts of $500 all the way to full-tuition scholarships. Also, unlike FAFSA, these scholarships can and will have their own deadlines and requirements. It’s important to stay organized and mindful of different dates and deliverables to stay on track. Consider applying for multiple types and amounts – keep in mind, even small amounts can add up.

Where to find private scholarships?

Here are some tips and strategies to help find outside and private scholarships.

Start local first

  • Reach out to local businesses and groups in your own backyard. Sometimes their websites will have a page for scholarships. Email or call to find out more if it isn’t publicly listed. Don’t be afraid to ask!
  • Ask your teachers and counselors. For example, you can ask: “What outside scholarships have local students won before?”
  • Consider reaching out to alumni from your school. Or look up recipients of scholarships you’ve found and try to ask them for advice.

Narrow your search online

  • Read our post on how to use search engines to your advantage to find specific scholarships based on your interests, intended career path, personal hobbies, etc.
  • Look up your city/state with keywords like “outside scholarship” and “private scholarship.”

The benefit of outside scholarships

The goal for private scholarships is to help avoid student loan debt. By winning more scholarships, you will need to take out fewer loans. This helps you graduate from school with less debt and save money for the future.

It is worth noting: external scholarships can affect your financial aid package. It’s worth reading this article if you have been awarded external funds and how to communicate that with your college’s financial aid department. For example, when you receive an award letter detailing your scholarship, you will typically forward a copy to the Financial Aid Office.

How Outside Scholarships Affect Aid Packages

So you’ve worked hard and applied for a good amount of scholarships. Congratulations on your commitment to the process. Now, after you wait…the fun part starts… and the money begins to roll in! It’s time to tally up the total and see how those dollars can stretch to help cover tuition for the first year.

However, before getting too excited, we need to first understand there are different types of scholarships. Secondly, we will need to clarify how outside scholarships impact the grant and scholarship aid provided to you directly from a college.

Internal and External Scholarships

There are two types of scholarships available to incoming students:

  • Scholarships provided directly from each college to the student (received after applying)
  • External scholarships given to students by entities other than the college (organizations, non-profits, corporations, etc.)

For some individuals, the majority of scholarship money comes directly from the college itself, but there are a number of ways to secure outside scholarships.

How to Find Outside Scholarships

Perhaps you already have a few scholarships in mind that a school or organization promoted. Or maybe you spent time searching online to find others. Some online scholarship search engines provide a great resource for students looking for outside scholarships. That being said, not every online database is going to have recent or new scholarships.

Check out our article on how to win scholarships. It includes some basic tips for using Google Searches to your advantage to find some specific scholarships.

Think Micro and Macro

Another fantastic source of external scholarships are local companies and organizations in your city or state. Search their websites (see article above for help) and look for a scholarships page or send a quick email. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

Students have also had success with local credit unions and banks, charities and non-profits, as well as their parents’ and grandparents’ employers. Others have had good opportunities sourcing part-time employment from companies that offer students scholarships. This includes companies like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Wells Fargo, Walmart, and many others also provide tuition assistance programs. Be sure to understand the details as most companies have restrictions based on how many hours you work and other variables.

Renewable Scholarships

As you start to search for scholarships, consider the amount and the duration. Most scholarships that come directly from the college are renewable for all four years as long as you remain in good academic standing. In contrast, most external scholarships are only good for one year and you will need to reapply or find other scholarships for your subsequent years in school.

The Bottom Line

Once you have secured outside scholarships, you aren’t home free. It’s important to understand how outside scholarships impact your overall aid package. Most private colleges will offer students a generous amount of scholarship money directly from the college. In fact, that is the number one source of scholarship money for students attending private schools. Unfortunately, most colleges will reduce these scholarships if students bring in additional external scholarship money. 

For example, if you receive a scholarship package totaling $20,000/year directly from the college, and you also are the recipient of a $2,000 scholarship from your local bank, your college will then adjust their original scholarship to $18,000. Be sure to contact your college’s financial aid office to learn about the terms and conditions of the scholarship package they are offering you as each school is different.

Invest Time Wisely

For colleges that aren’t offering any scholarship money, external scholarships can be applied directly to the tuition and are only a benefit to the student. And this is good news for students.

Ultimately, use scholarships wisely depending on what kind of school you are attending. If you will be attending a college that offers a generous scholarship package, find out if external scholarships will impact their offer. That said, it just wouldn’t make sense if those scholarships will just reduce their aid. If you are attending a college that won’t offer you any internal scholarship money, seek relevant scholarships to offset the cost of school.

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