What Is a Need-Based Scholarship?

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There are many different types of financial aid that students can receive, and navigating the world of financial aid can be complicated. From pell grants and work study to federal student aid, understanding the world of college financial aid is essential to affording higher education.

One important form of financial aid is the need-based scholarship. A need-based scholarship is financial aid provided on the basis of student's financial situation. Depending on the expected contribution that a student and their family can give toward their college tuition, organizations and institutions will give out scholarship money to help them with their college's cost of attendance. In some cases, colleges promise to meet all of a student's financial need, while other need-based scholarships may be smaller awards. No matter what need-based aid you receive, it can go a long way in paying your college expenses.

What is a need-based scholarship

You can get need-based scholarships from the federal government, colleges, or private organizations. Those with exceptional financial need can get merit scholarships in addition to need-based scholarships. Unlike need-based scholarships, merit-based scholarships are awarded based on academic accomplishment, athletic achievement, and involvement in extracurricular activities rather than financial status.

Low-income students can benefit from both merit-based scholarship awards and need-based scholarship opportunities, while wealthier students should focus more on the former.

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How to get a need-based scholarship

In order to get a need-based scholarship, it is important to apply for financial aid. You can apply for federal aid online using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Depending on how much federal aid the government and your college think that you need, you can get a financial aid package that fits your family income. This package is determined based on the information you enter about your family finances. As part of the application process, you'll have to include information about your family income as well as your parents' tax returns. If you have a job, you may need to include information about your own finances as well.

Your application will then be analyzed to determine if you qualify for any grants or loans from the federal government. Even if the government doesn't directly give you any money, the information you include in your FAFSA can be used by colleges to help determine how much aid you will be given by your school.

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Once you get as much financial support as you can from your college and the federal government, you can apply for other need-based scholarships through private organizations, such as Bold.org, a scholarship platform with hundreds of awards available for all different types of students.

While any student can benefit from a Bold.org scholarship, some awards are exclusively open to low-income students with high financial need. Other private scholarships can also be found, such as those offered by your employer, community organizations, large companies, athletic clubs, etc. These scholarships can be an instrumental part of your college payment plan and can help you attend college without turning to student loans.

How to apply for a need-based scholarship

What is a need-based scholarship

You can reach out to your college's financial aid office to better understand what your options are for need-based grants and scholarship programs. By applying through the FAFSA form, college students can determine which need-based aid they can earn.

Once you understand which need-based federal grants, scholarships, and loans you are eligible to receive, you can apply for private scholarships. While private loans can be helpful, private need-based scholarships do not have to be repaid, so there is no risk of getting into debt.

On Bold.org, there are plenty of options for need-based scholarships. In order to apply, you can make a profile and submit your applications with just a few clicks. You can do so when you are as young as 14 years old, so high school students can also apply for scholarships to prepare for college. No matter your background, field of study, financial status, etc., there are scholarships available for you so start now!

How do I know if I’m eligible for a need-based scholarship?

The eligibility criteria for each scholarship will be included in the description. You can look for scholarships for certain identities or financial need levels. Some scholarships that focus on students who demonstrate financial need may also look for students from a certain identity like low-income or first-generation students. Always be sure to read the eligibility requirements carefully to make sure you're not wasting time on scholarships you don't qualify for.

Frequently asked questions about need-based scholarships

What is the difference between need-based and merit-based scholarships?

Need-based scholarships are strictly based on how much financial aid a student needs to get through their college education. Students from low income families can receive more federal student aid through need-based scholarships than wealthier students. These scholarships may take other factors into account in addition to financial need, but finances will be a critical component of receiving a need-based scholarship.

Merit scholarships, on the other hand, are for students attending college who are high-achieving students, or those who have a certain skill or passion. This skill could be academic, like having certain GPAs or College Board test scores. A scholarship can also be based on athletics, with applicants being the captain of a team or winning a competition or championship. If you are not athletic, though, there are also merit scholarships for musicians, leaders, and more. Whatever your skills are, scholarships for merit seek to reward students who excel in their field. Merit scholarships are also great for middle-class students who need help paying for college but may not qualify for need-based scholarships.

How are need-based scholarship winners determined?

What is a need-based scholarship

Need-based scholarship winners are determined based on one's Expected Family Contribution. Need-based financial aid helps college students receive the amount of help that they need in order to get a degree. For students who are listed as dependents on their parents' tax returns, their financial aid package and Expected Family Contribution will be based on their parents' incomes. For students who work, their own income will be considered as well and students may have an expected contribution as well.

Depending on the scholarship, students may qualify for need-based funding based on their family's income status. Some need-based scholarships may require applicants to fall under the poverty line, qualify as low-income, or meet some other financial benchmark in order to be eligible.

Students who are no longer considered dependents may qualify for need-based scholarships based on their own income.

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