Exploring the World of Outside Scholarships

Outside scholarships are a wonderful thing. What exactly is an outside scholarship? First of all, it's free money. It's free money that comes from an organization outside of your school. There are thousands of outside scholarships out there just waiting for the right student to win their metaphorical hearts!

(Source: whitepicketcollege.com)

Once you start thinking about outside scholarships, many questions may come to mind. Let's tackle them right now!

Where do I find outside scholarships?
The easy answer is, "The Internet," but that's a pretty big place to look. We've narrowed it down a bit for you. There are a whole bunch of scholarship search engines out there that tailor outside scholarships to you based on the information you provide. Check out some of them on our website. Also be sure to scroll down to the bottom of that page to review scholarship opportunities—we highlight some each month with upcoming deadlines! It's updated frequently, so be sure to check back often.

You'll also want to check with local organizations within your home community. Local banks, clubs, schools, and parents' employers often provide scholarships to local candidates. Ask around—the Internet is not the only place to find outside scholarships. Word of mouth is a good bet too.

Is there a limit on how many outside scholarships I can apply for?
No! The sky is the limit.

Does it affect my financial aid if I receive an outside scholarship?
Here's the breakdown of how we add a scholarship to your aid package. The financial aid you are receiving cannot exceed your determined need—and that is the need as determined by federal calculations from your FAFSA. If you have any unmet federal need, we'll reduce that first when you receive an outside scholarship. This means you'll "see" the scholarship added to your aid package with no other adjustment made. Once your total aid, outside scholarship included, meets your determined federal need, we do have to make room in your aid package. We do that by reducing what's called self-help aid, like loans and work study. Finally, if we have to, need-based grants will be reduced.

(Source: theprospect.net)

Last but not least, here are my top three tips for diving into the world of outside scholarships:

  1. Stay organized. This is hugely important—if you are applying to multiple scholarships with different deadlines, you need to have a good system in place to keep on top of all your deadlines. An Excel spreadsheet is often a good option, or even just a simple worksheet you create for yourself in a Word document, where you track the name of the scholarship, the deadline, and the amount it's for.
  2. Utilize your resources. There are a lot of them out there, some of which you might not know about. Visit the Q&I desk in Rush Rhees Library and take a peek at copies of Getting Financial Aid 2015 and Scholarship Handbook 2015. If the scholarship requires an essay and you struggle with writing, why not meet with a Writing Fellow? Writing Fellows are undergraduate peer tutors who are eager to help students at any stage in the writing process. Best of all, they take walk-ins.
  3. Be persistent. You're not going to win every outside scholarship you apply for. But be persistent! Keep trying! The more you apply to, the better your odds are. Besides, many of the applications don't require that much time or effort—and the free money will be well worth the work you put into the application.

Outside scholarships are definitely a benefit to you. They provide you with extra funding to help off-set your educational expenses and all you need to do is spend a couple of hours filling out an application. Two hours of work for $1,000?  That's definitely worth the effort!

As always, feel free to contact our office if you have any questions or concerns. Call, email, tweet—whichever you prefer. We're always here to help!

About the author

Patrick Hennessey

I am an alumnus of the University of Rochester, and I've worked in the Financial Aid Office as both a student worker and now a financial aid counselor. While at the University I was an English major, history minor, and also was involved with Greek Life. When I'm not slaving away over a hot keyboard, I'm usually at home writing, reading historical fiction and non-fiction, and playing my guitar.

One Comment

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  • I’m still confused about how any outside scholarship money would be applied to the student aid package. Theoretically speaking, can scholarship money reduce the student and parent contribution (as determined by UR’s “institutional expected family contribution”) ? There’s often a difference between the federal v. institutional determined need. You say here that UR uses the federal calculation for outside scholarships. So in theory, the student and/or parent contribution could be reduced to zero?

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