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Online Scholarship Search: Swamp Or Savior?

[Scholarship-Matching Services] [Will It Reduce My Aid?] [Scholarship Myths] [Where Do I Look?]

If there's anything the Internet is good for, it's making searches simple.

From federal documents to financial aid, the Internet can turn a two-hour trip to the library into a two-minute search on the Web.

Does the same apply to scholarships? Does the Net open new avenues to students too busy to pore over endless reference books? Yes, says Mark Kantrowitz, author of the Financial Aid Information Page. But prospective students still shouldn't depend on private-sector aid.

Will Scholarships Really Help?

Won't more scholarship dollars just mean less need-based aid?

Probably. But you should still apply for private dollars, says Kantrowitz. A few schools will choose to reduce a student's institutional grant if they see extra scholarship money. But other schools will use a portion of the outside award to reduce the student's loans or work-study contribution.

The bottom line? Contact prospective schools, and ask them how private scholarship dollars will affect your aid package.

Should You Use A Scholarship Matching Service?

In a word: no.

Paid scholarship search services don't provide much more information than free, Web-based services. And according to Kantrowitz, informal student surveys suggest the success rate of fee-based scholarship search services is less than one percent.

Most of these services advertise that all students are eligible, says Kantrowitz. That's probably the reason they show a low award ratio.

"No scholarship sponsor is going to give you money just for breathing," he says. "If you're a C-average white male with no special talents, you are very unlikely to win a private sector scholarship."

Scholarship Myths

Most aid dollars come from private-sector scholarships.

You've probably heard about students who've won hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are true scholarship success stories -- but they're the exception, not the rule. According to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, conducted by the US Department of Education, only about four percent of students receive non-employee, non-college-controlled private-sector aid.

Among those who did during the 1992-93 year, the average award was $1,655.72.

Several million scholarship dollars go unclaimed each year.

According to Kantrowitz, this myth is based on a 20-year-old estimate of employer tuition assistance programs, not private-sector scholarships. There is no evidence of major scholarships going unclaimed in the last decade. (Read More)

Scholarship search service "X" has a 90-98 percent success rate.

Many scholarship search services lead you to believe that 90 to 98 percent of the students who use their services win big dollars.

According to Kantrowitz, the truth is that 90 to 98 percent of the students who use these services receive a list of at least six sources for which they superficially qualify. The students then have to apply for the scholarships like everybody else.

All a scholarship matching service does is provide you with a short list of a few leads -- no more than a free, Web-based search.

The rest is up to you.

Where Do I Look?

Kantrowitz's Financial Aid Information page, at www.finaid.org is a great start. There, you can jump off to several scholarship and fellowship databases, including FastWEB and Sallie Mae's Online Scholarship Service.

You'll also find:

Copyright 2001 by Channel 2000. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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