The Complete Scholarship Guide: Everything You Need to Know

head of woman looking at scholarship written on a black board representing what are scholarships

head of woman looking at scholarship written on blackboard representing what are scholarships

Paying college with scholarships isn’t as simple as it sounds.

Let’s start with the definition, scholarships are simply free money for students to spend on their education. This basic definition includes scholarships awarded for pre-schools, dance classes, camps, and, of course, colleges. When you start asking what are scholarships in terms of paying for college, things don’t seem as simple any more. Now you have athletic scholarships, academic scholarships, and other various merit scholarships. And scholarships are just one kind of financial aid available for college so you probably need to have some understanding of how it differs from grants, loans, and work-study.  However, even as you wade through various definitions, essentially a scholarship is free money for students to spend on their education.

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5 Crucial Items Missing from Your College Comparison Spreadsheet

female using college comparison spreadsheet on a laptop

female using college comparison spreadsheet on a laptopA college comparison spreadsheet is really the most effective way to narrow your list of colleges you want to actually apply to. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s pretty useful when trying to make the final decision on which to attend as well. It’s just that I think that by putting in a little spreadsheet grease at the beginning of the process will provide you with much more affordable choices at the end of the process. The key is to make sure that your college comparison spreadsheet contains these 5 often overlooked pieces of information that will give you some idea of how much you’ll pay for college.

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Find Colleges with the Most Merit Scholarships in 4 Easy Steps

person on stepping stones representing easy steps to finding colleges with the most merit scholarhsips

Person crossing stepping stones representing steps to finding the most merit scholarships(For those looking for colleges with the most merit scholarships, I’m updating this post. Because I’ve updated the spreadsheet several times since I wrote this post, some of the numbers in the text won’t match the results in the graphics. You can see a video demonstration at the end of the post.)    

If you’re looking for colleges that provide the most merit scholarships, start with the information the schools report to the Department of Education. This information states how much money institutions distribute in grants and scholarships and the number of students who receive it. In just four easy steps you can use this data to find colleges most likely to provide generous merit scholarships. These are schools that students with high Expected Family Contributions (EFC) should target for non-need based aid. This is in no way a guarantee. Rather, consider this a way to improve your chances for merit scholarships given the available information. The idea is to use this list as a basis to create the final list of colleges to apply to.

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Beware of Best Colleges Lists

fallen skier representing why to beware of best colleges list

Fallen skier representing why you should beware of best colleges listsRecently I was profiling Saint Michael’s College in Vermont and learned about their Ski and Ride program for students. They offer various discounted passes to the Sugarbush ski resort along with a free weekend shuttle. I thought it was a pretty appealing program and did a quick web search for other colleges for skiers. I found several sites claiming their lists had some version of the best schools for skiers. They ranged in length from 10 to 30 schools. Saint Michael’s didn’t show up on a single list. Why not?

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4 Reasons People Don’t Pick Affordable Colleges

College student thinking about affordable colleges

Female college student considering what's wrong with affordable collegesThere are over 1,600 four-year public and private colleges in the United States. And guess what, they don’t all cost an arm and a leg to attend. With this many colleges, there have to be quality, affordable options available for families who look for them. And there are students attending college without facing the prospect of years of debilitating debt. Yet, attending affordable colleges comes with some trade-offs that not all families are willing to make.

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Parents: Don’t Ignore These 5 Numbers when Comparing Colleges

stacks of coins representing numbers to use when comparing colleges

stacks of coins representing numbers to use when comparing collegesBefore parents sit back and let their kids drive the college application process, there are some numbers they need to understand when comparing colleges. Because while it’s true that it’s the student who is going to attend college, the colleges are pretty clear that they are going to turn to the parents to pay the bill. And anyone expected to write a check to cover the cost of college, needs to have some meaningful numbers to evaluate the value of what their buying. However, not all numbers are created equal. For example, the acceleration speed of a car and its sticker price are both numbers, but one probably will have priority over the other for most people making a car purchase. Understanding these five numbers will provide you with some basic references for comparing colleges to decide if you’re willing to pay the college’s asking price.

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7 Useful Ways to Compare Colleges

couple sitting on sofa reading about the 7 ways to compare collegesIf you have kids old enough for you to be thinking about the college admissions process and how you’ll pay for it, you also need to be thinking about how you’re going to compare colleges. Because the fact is that you’re going to be comparing lots of colleges, the sooner the better. You’re going to compare colleges when you decide which colleges to visit, which admissions reps to talk to at the college fair, which colleges to apply to, and which one to ultimately attend. So take this opportunity to consider the various ways you can actually compare colleges and their relative worth to your family’s situation.

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50-50 Colleges: 600 Schools You Can Get Into and Graduate From

University street sign representing 50-50 colleges

University road sign representing 50-50 colleges(Updated for 2022) I just finished updating the list of 50-50 colleges with the latest IPEDS data release and, as usual, thought I would share some statistically non-significant (as far as I know) observations. For those who don’t know what I mean by 50-50 colleges, these are colleges that accept at least 49% of students and have at least a 49% graduation rate. There are currently 600 such institutions with at least 500 or more full-time undergraduates up from the previous year’s 561.

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10 Essential Clues Students Miss When Researching Colleges

Sherlock Holmes representing researching colleges

Dictionary defiition of research representing researching collegesUnless you’re willing to just pick one set of college rankings and use it to decide between colleges, at some point you’re going to have to dig deeper and actually start researching colleges. The fact is that once you get past adding or removing colleges from your list based on things like size, majors, and locations, most students will still need to narrow down their lists. There’s no magic formula for deciding between schools–what’s important to one student won’t be for another. And given the cost of college, students should commit to researching them further to find their differences. But how do you research a college?

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