The Best Way to Pay for College Part 2: Scholarships


Previously, I published an article entitled "The Best Way to Pay for College" (February 16, 2021). This is an expansion on one of the topics covered: specifically, scholarships.

Searching for scholarships by browsing the internet is not the best way, nor the safest. There are scammers and hackers out there, right?! Some professional organizations, however, do the vetting and the research needed to help you find the "legit" awarders. One of those is the reputable and resourceful College Fund for North Carolina (

A visit to that group's website will confirm my major point about scholarships. That is, they are narrowly defined, and awards are typically modest. Take note! I am not discouraging anyone from searching for a private scholarship. What I do hope to help you understand is that private scholarships are unlikely to sustain you through four years of undergraduate education.

Narrowly defined

Among the scholarships listed on there are the following qualification restrictions:

  • At the top of the list, the applicant must be Latino or Hispanic 

  • Another requires the applicant be "a lesbian woman" (in quotes because of the current issues around gender)

  • Another states the applicant will compete based on class rank, GPA, SAT/ACT scores, leadership and note that word and financial need.

  • One more applicant must have been in Social Services foster care after the age of 12, and have remained in care at age 18.

Those examples are on the first page at the website. Listing the eligibility requirements is not meant to be a criticism, and much less a complaint. Any person or organization who wants to help pay for college, I say, "Yay! May their tribe increase." Taking the red pill, however, you probably agree that socio-economically middle-class students, with average grades and average lives probably will have a long search looking for scholarships for which they are eligible to apply.

Furthermore, the amount of money awarded to any one student mostly falls in the range of $500 - $2,000; and are a one-and-done award. Again, don't brush off the thought of any free gift, and don't expect any free gift, or combination of gifts to pay for college.

And that free gift brings us to our final point. Most scholarships stipulate that the award will be paid directly to the student's college account, to be applied against tuition. You may not see the snag, unless you've read my book, College is a Consumer Purchase.

Need-based financial aid awards are typically not cash awards, but rather discounts against the price of a semester of tuition. In other words, the college is not giving you anything. They are simply charging you less, up to 100% of tuition (the so-called "full ride" you hear people bragging about). Think about it: if your college has given you a full-tuition grant-in-aid of $4,242 per semester (example is based on Appalachian State University), and then they receive, on your behalf, a private, $1,500 scholarship, they are going to apply that against their own discount of $4,242. In other words, they will discount your tuition by $2,742 for one semester and add to that discount the $1,500 cash grant. You will still attend tuition-paid, but you will not have $1,500 to tool around with.

Let's wrap it up this way: welcome to the world of business where the ability of the business to keeps its doors open is its first responsibility. That means customers, as a rule, pay for the service and/or product provided. You, the student, and you the parent ARE THE CUSTOMERS.

Enjoyed this post? Here are others you may find helpful as well: 

The Best Way to Pay for College Part I 
College Planning: Doing the Impossible
3 Things Every Busy High School Student Needs to Know

Posted in College Planning, College Planning Strategies. Tagged as scholarships.

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