college scholarships

I sat down with my son a few weeks ago and he applied to 9 different colleges. Some of these were done with the Common Application. He has heard back from three of them and gotten accepted by all three. One of them offered scholarship money in the acceptance letter and the others did not. I am not sure from looking at their websites if they wait a bit to offer scholarship money or not.

My son is the Star Student this year, meaning he is in the top 10% of his class and has the highest SAT score in his senior class. He’s very smart with a high GPA and takes several AP classes.

This is my first child to do the college thing, and I’m completely overwhelmed. We are wondering what to expect. Do colleges typically wait to offer money or what? Is there something we should be doing? Thanks for any help in advance!

It depends.

For stellar academic performance (top 10% and a few AP classes may **not **be stellar depending on where he is now and where he applied), some schools will flat out offer scholarships. Other performance-based money must be applied for. Some is offered by the school, and some is offered by private organizations.

For need-based financial aid, you generally have to fill out the FAFSA, and perhaps other forms, and apply to the school for aid. Every college he applied to should have a financial aid website. I suggest looking at them. You can probably call too, but calling to ask for information that is easily available online might just annoy people.

I suggest doing this now. Sometimes financial aid forms must be submitted with the other application material. I just checked one school that says “All financial aid application materials for the coming academic year should be submitted by mid-February. We ask this so that admitted students may receive our aid decision along with our admission letter early in April.”

Good luck.

If your son hasn’t completed the FAFSA, do it now.

I may out of date on this but acceptance and financial aid were two separate things when I applied to college in the early 1990’s. I hope this information isn’t too basic but financial aid for college is complicated. The college itself can award tuition waivers but there are also metric tons of independent scholarships that a student can apply for. You generally have to research those on your own but there are resources to locate potential ones. There are also student loans of course that your child will have to pay back but also federal grants for some that don’t have to be paid back. In short, there is a lot to know.

What I can tell you is that all colleges and universities have a financial aid department that you can call and speak with a professional that handles this type of thing for free of course. You don’t want to do that for every single school because it takes lots of time to work through the whole process but your child can pick the top choices and see what they will offer in detail. Some of this will be common across schools because it is federal financial aid that is dependent upon parental income so contacting a top pick will give you some insight into the others.

Colleges aren’t used car dealerships but they don’t like to see students not attend for purely financial reasons either. If your child favors one school much more than the others, spend some time talking to a financial aid person there to see what they can come up with as a solution. They do have some degree of discretion.

I should add that the financial aid process isn’t locked in at the 1st year either. It may be possible to apply for grants and scholarships that may already be taken this year but are available for following years. If money is a real concern, that is one avenue that can help. I switched full scholarships and grants from year to year for example because of minor differences that still ended up being worth some money.

Not to rain on your parade, but there are thousands and thousands of other students in the same boat for many top colleges every year. Being smart is not terribly unique; many college look for that “special something” - a volunteer project, a class president that started something new, a particular cause he furthered that shows he’s not just a drone.

I’ll give you an example - I got into a top 5 college and was offered a half scholarship by a top 20 college (merit based - I had absolutely no financial need). These were the only two top 20 schools I applied to; I ended up attending a top 25 school on a half scholarship. This was 2004. Both the top 5 and top 20 schools made it clear that my acceptance was based not on my GPA or SAT’s (those are simply just pre-qualifiers) but based on a project I’d done (middle school based curriculum addendum), a rigorous pre-college program I’d been accepted to, and two letters recommendations from unique members of my community.

It’s why Harvard rejects 1/3 of the perfect SAT applicants every year. Being smart is just the starting point.

Most places offer a scholarship or an interview (to be considered for a scholarship) in their acceptance packets. So what you’ve got so far is it. Don’t expect anything more merit-based.

As to what you should be doing right now, he should be applying out the wazoo to every scholarship he can get his hands on. Is he left handed? Not a WASP? Any military family members? Any scholarships available through your or your husband’s workplace? Now is the time to apply to as many 5-10 grand renewable scholarships as possible.

Fastweb is a good place to start, since you can sort by deadline. There are tons of other sites around, just google for them. Many will be essay based.

If you don’t have financial need (and always assume you don’t) these scholarships are the only thing preventing him from taking out massive loans in the future. Treat them seriously; he should be spending tons of his free time on them.

ETA: My boyfriend’s top 25 law school acceptances are rolling in. They aren’t really based on his top 5% percentile LSAT or his 3.8 GPA. They’re based on his extracurriculars.

“Most places offer a scholarship or an interview (to be considered for a scholarship) in their acceptance packets. So what you’ve got so far is it. Don’t expect anything more merit-based.”

Just wanted to say that one of the schools DS applied to and got an acceptance letter from a month or so ago sent another letter which we received yesterday. They offered him a $20,000 per year presidential scholarship.

It appears that offers may continue to come in and I think it must be determined by whom the schools have applying.

Indeed. I’m a grad student at a school where, I have been told, something like 85% of the undergrads were high school valedictorians.

What does a top 5 or top 25 school refer to? I am familiar with US News rankings, but they have a million categories.

Right, those schools considered top for whatever reason need a third thing to accept you. At smegheads school 85% were valedictorians. The other 15% don’t have academic credentials nearly good enough to be accepted. They have a third thing. Being a legacy is great at most schools, but you can’t choose who your relatives are, or where your older sibs went to school. The easiest to do is a varsity sport and to do it well enough. Winning an academy award, being a published novelist, or being an Olympic gold medal winner is also looked on with favor.

Some schools make a scholarship offer as part of their acceptance letter. Many do it a few months later. Get in touch with the financial aid offices at those schools to find out.

The financial aid offices can help point you to other funding sources, whether they are grants or loans, whether they originate at the school or somewhere outside.