Where to Find the Best Scholarships

kittens trying to find the best scholarshipsSometime during their senior year in high school, students will start receiving notices from the counseling office on tips on how to find scholarships and news about the various available college scholarships. These scholarships will probably range in the $250 to $1,000 range with a few hitting $5,000. They’ll be encouraged to start using the different scholarship search websites so that they won’t have to take out student loans. By January, they’ll hear that if only they would get organized and be persistent in their scholarship search, they can take advantage of all the college scholarships out there that haven’t been taken because no one applied.

So where will you find the best scholarships?

From the college you attend.

That’s right. The organizations that give out the most scholarship money to the most students are colleges and universities. That means if you’re trying to find the best scholarships, you need to check out colleges first.

Look for yourself.

Go to the College Navigator Website, select a college, and look at the information under the financial aid section. The category with the largest average amount received and the largest number of recipients is the Institutional grants or scholarships category.

At Duke, 47% of freshman received an average of $50,659.

Beloit College gave 98% of its freshman an average of $35,052 in scholarships or grants.

67% of the freshman at the University of Texas at Dallas received an average of $10,179.

These scholarships are usually renewable for four years as long as the student maintains a minimum GPA. Institutional grants include both need-based and merit-based scholarships. How many non-institutional scholarships can you find that can match that kind of money for as many students?

What you need to understand about college scholarships (institutional grants)

This is why it is so important that you have a good idea of what your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) is so that you find the colleges that will give you the most scholarship money. It is also essential to understand the differences in institutional aid between private and public colleges. As seen in the table below, private schools give out significantly more aid to more students than public schools do.

Institutional Grants for Freshman




Average of Total price for in-state students 2019-20




Average % Freshman Receiving Institutional Grants (18-19)




Average Amount of Institutional Grants for Freshman (18-19)




The above table is from the DIY College Search Spreadsheet which consists of IPEDS data from September 2020. Remember, institutional aid includes both need-based and merit-based money. Some colleges award more of one kind than the other. The average institutional aid at private schools lowers the total cost from an average of over $50,000 to just over $31,000–competitive with the cost of some of the most popular state flagship universities. This is why you should never assume that you can’t afford a private school. However, while public schools don’t award as much aid, they also don’t cost as much as private schools lessening the need for institutional aid.

You also must remember that these numbers are averages, some students receive significantly more, some significantly less. This generally varies by family income and you can find the average price by income level at the College Navigator website. (And you know what this means, don’t you? Know your Expected Family Contribution!)

What about outside scholarships?

Unfortunately, many colleges will reduce the amount of need-based aid you receive from the institution by the value of any outside scholarships. In other words, the colleges apply the scholarships to reducing their burden first rather than the student’s EFC. Most colleges will have some standard amount that they will allows students to apply to their EFC first. But beyond that amount, the college will start reducing its contribution. You’ll need to check with each college to find out the specific amount.

Outside scholarships can make a significant difference in the cost of attending public schools where the scholarships can make a bigger dent in lowering tuition bills. They can also be useful to students at schools that can’t or won’t meet a student’s full demonstrated financial need.

Ultimately, if you are trying to reduce your college costs, your time will be better spent by focusing on finding colleges that will provide you with the best deal rather than looking for those scholarships that no one else is applying for. Check out 4 Easy Steps to Find Colleges for Potential Merit Scholarships for a different approach on how to find scholarships.



Where to Find the Best Scholarships