Scholarships for College

Archived Q&A and Reviews


How to find out about non-need-based scholarships

May 2014

Does anyone have advice or ideas of where a college freshman can apply for non need based college scholarships? We are a family of four with an income of $98,000. We have been helping to support elderly parents as well who live out of state. I know it sounds like a lot of money but after all monthly bills are paid there just isn't much left for college. I would appreciate any leads as the second child will be heading off to college as well in a year. Thank you anonymous

The best source of private non-need based funding is A word of advice -- fewer people will bother to apply for a $500 grant/prize than for a $10,000 one, so sometimes they are easier to get. Put a bunch of them together and it makes a difference.

The best financial aid web site out there is There's also lots of good info on the federal site, And you can get to state programs/Cal Grants at

Also, try to figure out how much aid you'd qualify for. This should tell you what you can expect in financial. The money you're devoting to elderly parents may receive enough consideration to increase your final aid package. (Note: some private schools also use the CSS Profile, which could mean more or less aid than shown on FAFSA4caster)

Finally, when your student starts looking at colleges, check out the financial aid pages. Some have more money available if they apply by an earlier date (though NOT as an early action/early decision applicant). Others may indicate that set GPAs or SAT/ACT scores result in automatic merit money. Some public schools are also part of the WUE system ( -- schools in the west that charge less than out-of-state tuition (but more than in-state) for students from other western states. Each school should have a link for a ''net price calculator'' which can estimate how much you'll actually pay at that particular school, and generally how much/what kind of aid you can expect.

I hope this is a good start, and helps relieve your anxiousness. wbrown

Scholarship possibilities for a middle-of-the road family?

Feb 2013

Our family is not needy, nor are we from any minority group. However, we'll have 2 kids concurrently enrolled in college for at least 3 years, and we can't afford to send them both (or possibly either) to big-name schools. I wonder if there are any scholarships for academic merit anymore, or for music (rather than sports!). Is there a way to find merit-scholarships online? Any help would be appreciated. (I know that one option is to enroll at first in community colleges or in-state or local schools, and I'd happily receive wisdom on those sorts of lower-cost choices as well.) - Too much income but not enough money

My daughter applied for about 15 scholarships when she was a high school senior but wasn't awarded any of them. She ended up transferring after her 1st quarter from a Cal State that was way too expensive to a more affordable community college to complete her general education requirements. That being said, there is a ''Scholarship 101'' workshop on 2/23/13 at 1:00 pm at YMCA Teen ASP, 2111 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley. For more information, email gmsa.berkeley [at] college isn't cheap

Your kids' high school should have some resources about scholarships. Start there for recommendations. As far as specific scholarships, I honestly don't think you're going to get much that way--there's no free ride these days, if there ever was. But you could always research specific schools you're interested in and see what they offer, if you don't turn up anything through your high school's resources.

In the spring of the year your first child will start college, you will need to fill out the FAFSA online. That is a consolidated financial aid website and a pretty much mandatory first step to getting any aid. Via that you will hear about Pell grants, Cal grants, whatever financial aid your college offers you, and loans (subsidized and unsubsidized).

Having two kids in college at once should help some; they do take that into account.

A few random things: in case of divorce/separate households, you only need to put down one family's income, not both. We used mine, which was far lower. If you're self-employed, get a good accountant so you can get your income as low as possible the year before your kids start.

I personally think that, with few exceptions, there's no reason not to do CSUs. If your children are going into a field where an Ivy League type degree is required, fine. But most people don't need that. I don't know if there's much benefit to doing community college and then transferring to a CSU or other--my husband wished he'd just gone to a CSU first. Also, he was in a program at Laney College that was supposed to help him transition to UC Berkeley, but then he was turned down by UCB because his GPA wasn't high enough, something the program had never flagged as an issue. Very upsetting at the last minute. He went to SFSU and was very happy there (as was I, for both BA and MA degrees).

Your kids should expect to work during college to help defray expenses.

Overall, what's difficult about the whole situation these days is that you need a college degree to get just about any job that's not retail, but a college degree is absolutely no guarantee of anything. The job market for young adults is staggeringly bad. My feeling is that college still opens doors and still gives kids a chance to round out their education while finishing growing up. I would not break the bank the achieve these goals, however. one kid is out of college, two to go

We have a junior in college and have been through the process of trying to finance a very expensive education on what would appear to be ''too much income''. Despite this our daughter received generous scholarships for her cost of tuition. Yes, she is a very good student, but she didn't have perfect test scores or perfect grades. All of the other schools where she was accepted had a ''big'' name but were not nearly as generous with their grants and scholarships.

Having two kids in college will definitely be taken into consideration when/if you apply for financial aid (FAFSA). Merit scholarships that are granted by outside organizations other than the school itself will go toward tuition, etc., but will also reduce whatever financial aid you may be granted by the school. It's a Catch-22.

When you and your kids look at schools consider what sort of endowment they have, and how many of their students are given financial aid, this information is usually published on their website and can give you a pretty good idea of how well the school will be help you offset the costs.

Lastly, we would not have been able to finance our daughter's education without federal parent loans. I tried to encourage our daughter to attend two years at community college to save money but I'm very happy she chose otherwise. Her working relationships, academic challenges and successes, and close friendships have really paid off for her. But when it comes down to it if your kids are happy following that route it is a great savings in the end and can greatly improve their chances of going to any of the UC schools to finish their last two years. It's the route I had to take and I don't regret it at all. Best of luck

You kids can get a merit scholarship by attending a school that is slightly lower, in terms of test scores, than what they qualify for. These can still be GREAT schools!!! Schools want these ''top'' kids (for them) because it raises their rankings. Our son receives $14,000 a year, or about 1/3 off. middle class mom

Letter from "National Student Financial Aid" offering grants & loans

Oct 2000

We got a letter from National Student Financial Aid saying that according to their research, my daughter is eligible to apply for grants, scholarships, negotiated tuition discounts and interest free loans through their college assistance program. Is this just an ad or something real that should be taken advantage of? Can anyone advise? Toby

I work in Cal's Financial Aid Office. I also have a senior in high school, so I am also receiving letters from companies such as the one mentioned above. I actually called a different company called, Educational Assistance Council, whose strategy is similar. These companies all say that your child is eligible according to their information. I asked the company how they determined whether or not my child was eligible and the receptionist said that their determination is based on lists that they receive from the SAT. So, in other words, they really have no idea what your child is eligible for. They will charge you a fee to do something you can do for free. You are going to have to fill out a financial aid form (FAFSA and/or Profile). Your child should also be talking to your high school's college/career counselor. I also recommend looking at the website, That site has links to free scholarship search engines. Many high schools also host a financial aid night, where you will get advice on how to fill out a financial aid form.


Scholarships for Private College Aren't Enough

April 2003

My daughter is a senior in high school and has been accepted to several colleges - UC's as well as small privates. She would really love to go to a small private but financial aid packages have not been enough to make it possible. Does anyone have any experience with trying to get awards increased? Any advice at all? Is there any point in trying? She thinks her dream school is Smith but has also been accepted at Occidental, neither of which has offered enough to get there ($38,000!!! - start saving now!). Maybe we shouldn't have let her apply to these places, but we got carried away thinking everyone would think she is as terrific as we do (parental blinders)... Thanks for any ideas. peggy

It seems to me that the less-well-off families get financial aid, the wealthy write checks as the tuition is due, and those in the middle pay over time. So anybody can go to whatever college they want to, if that is what they desire.

We did not qualify for financial aid for the small private school back east that my daughter liked best. And we did not have enough money to pay the tuition out and out. But we did qualify easily for loans, so you might look into that. Especially in Massachusetts, the MASSPLAN loans help finance a college education. In our case, we borrowed 20K (or so) for each year of the four years in college, and put it on a 15-year (the max) term. I still have some 7 years to finish re-paying, but I find it to be manageable, even with a son in college now and a teen-ager in private high school.

Besides the loans, my student searched for a job on campus. When she visited before accepting she asked about jobs. She had lifeguard training and was offered a job at the sports center, which she kept all 4 years. So that helped with spending money for books, etc. And if the college does not have a job available, maybe your student can use his or her own talents to financial gain. I know an enterprising student who creates web pages and has his own business and even hires other students...he's putting himself through CalPoly.

In addition, my daughter got took out smaller loans in her own name. I think these were federal loans, which she will pay back eventually (I think they are deferred at this point, since she's working on a Ph.D.)

Also, since she was the first of three children in the family to go to college, we made an agreement that if she went to this school for undergraduate work instead of a less expensive school, she'd need to help re-pay the 4 loans. We initially had her paying starting 2 years after graduation, at the rate each month of the freshman-year loan. Then each year she'd add in the amounts for the next loan. But as our family finances got better, and after doing some analysis, I realized that that way she'd end up paying more than half for her own college education, which did not seem right. So now she'll re-pay about 1/4 of the loan monies. We've decreased the monthly amounts she's paying rather than increasing them.

She went off to college knowing that she'd have a large debt to manage. Some people warned that it might make it harder for her to own a car, a house, have a family, etc. But that has not been the case.

Not qualifying for financial aid is not the end of the world. I think that you can manage a private education if that is what you value and if that is what seems to best suit the needs and interests of your student.