Researching Scholarships and Educational Grants
The hope, of course, is that your education will ultimately lead to a fulfilling career and a reasonably well-paying job, through which you can pay off any educational loans you might take out.
In the meantime, scholarships and grants offer opportunities to reduce your debt load. Some awards are large enough to cover all tuition and fees, or substantial portions, and some even include a stipend for living expenses. While such generous awards are less common, and competition for them can be fierce, they are out there. It is also true that even an accumulation of small awards can make a big difference in a given semester. We know of one undergraduate who paid for almost her entire degree by cobbling together dozens of small scholarships, most just hundred of dollars.
In addition to perhaps garnering some free money, it is crucial that you spend your money wisely. To learn ways to stretch your finances as far as possible, use the resources on the IU MoneySmarts page.
Best wishes in your search as you consult the suggestions and award resources below!
You will need to develop your own methods for researching awards, organizing what you learn, and managing the application process, but the ideas below can give you some ideas for how to begin.
- It is perhaps more common for students to receive smaller awards of a few hundred or a couple of thousand dollars than to receive a "full ride." Still, every little bit helps. Students who cast a wide net by applying to a dozen or more scholarships can sometimes cobble together thousands of dollars worth of free aid comprised of a number of small awards.
- Obviously the process of researching and applying for multiple awards requires a considerable investment of time and effort, but take heart: once you have written and assembled a set of application materials for one scholarship (letters of recommendation, essay responses, résumé, and so on) you will be able to reuse much of this material for other award applications.
- You might organize your time so that you can devote and hour or two each week to researching and applying for awards. Building this process into your weekly schedule can make it less stressful and more fruitful.
- Don't be deadline-driven! Make note of application deadlines and turn in all application materials early—several weeks early, if possible—just in case you encounter a complication that takes some time to resolve.
- A word of caution to keep in mind as you research scholarships and grants: there are some excellent web resources out there that will save you a lot of time and garner useful results (many are listed below), but there are also some websites that are really just marketing ploys or phishing schemes. Use caution when providing personal information to websites, and use extreme caution when it comes to your Social Security number and other such vulnerable information.
- You might consider opening a free email account through Google, Microsoft, or another provider (separate from your IU account and from other personal accounts you might have), and using it when you request information or register for the various award search engines and search sites. Keeping such emails separate from your other accounts can not only increase your privacy, but can simply make your Inboxes easier to manage.
- In addition to keeping your award research emails separate from your other messages, keep hard copy folders of any awards that require submission of hard copy materials (as distinguished from materials submitted electronically).
- Some awards require letters of recommendation.
- If you find yourself having to gather hardcopy letters, ask each letter writer to put his or her return address on the envelope, seal it, and sign his or her name across the flap.
- You might also ask that they avoid mentioning the name of any given award to which you are applying so that you can more easily use the same letter for multiple award applications.
- Give your recommenders as much time as possible to write the letter—eight or more weeks before you will turn in the application if you can manage it. (Some recommenders certainly won't need that much leeway, but it's best to give it anyway whenever possible.)
- Note that members of certain populations—e.g., women entering a science or healthcare field, African Americans, first generation college students, and so on—are sometimes eligible for special scholarships. You can keep an eye out for such awards as you do your research.
- Similarly, many scholarships are awarded to students pursuing certain degrees; for instance, awards for nursing students or for law students.
If you have not taken out loans as an undergraduate, be sure to file your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on time in relation to loans you might need for graduate school. When to file will depend on when your program begins. The January prior to the start of your program might be a useful benchmark, but it is your responsibility to confirm your FAFSA application timing and deadline information. If you have already filed your FAFSA, leave yourself time to make sure everything is in order for additional graduate school loans. Important: You must complete the FAFSA again each year you are enrolled in your professional program.
Federal Stafford loans are "fixed-rate student loans for undergraduate and graduate students attending college at least half-time."
Federal GradPLUS Loans are "federal loans that graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for college or career school. PLUS loans can help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid." Federal GradPLUS Loans can be taken out in addition to Stafford loans.
- The first place you should look for free money and other aid is the schools and programs to which you think you may apply. Look on the web first, and then contact them if you feel you need more information. Phoning is often the most efficient method, and email is sometimes less efficient, but some sources may have a preference for one over the other.
- Thoroughly utilize the scholarship search engines at IUB's Office of Student Financial Assistance page (at the top of the page, click the External Scholarships tab). Some engines may yield results only for undergraduate money, but some do include post-undergraduate awards. (Also refer to the tabs at the top of the main Financial Aid page, especially with regard to aid during your IUB undergraduate degree.)
- The Indiana University Office of Scholarships page lists some scholarships offered through IUB (click the Scholarships link at the top of the page). Be sure to look over the opportunities on their Additional Scholarship Opportunities page.
- www.finaid.org/ includes information about different types of financial aid. Also, behind the homepage links, you will find links to specific awards and financial aid search engines. (At the same site, don't miss the Scholarships link.)
- Indiana residents, utilize the resources at www.in.gov/ssaci/. Hint: Be sure to click "Awards / Scholarships - By Program," in the left-side menu.
- You can find information about numerous financial aid opportunities for a wide variety of educational and career paths at Students.gov, which includes links to scholarship search engines and career tools.
- The IU library site lists some resources for researching scholarships.
- US Armed Forces Student Loan Repayment Program. On the same site, you'll find additional links to other educational financial aid programs offered through the various branches of the armed forces.
- Look into the National Health Service Corp Scholarship if you intend to become a physician assistant, dentist, nurse practitioner, physician, or certified nurse-midwife. (Be sure to read the paragraph regarding the service commitment successful applications must fulfill with this particular scholarship.)
- National Health Service Corp Loan Repayment Program: "Pay off your student loans while serving communities in need."
- U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Specialist - Healthcare Practitioner. While not specifically offering scholarships or grants for professional school, these career opportunities offer financial benefits which could ultimately help off-set the cost of your education. You might consider this option as part of your long-term planning.
- Bloomington Hospital Foundation Healthcare Merit-Based Scholarship, for students enrolled in a professional program, such as OT, PT, nursing, other health professions.
- The School of Nursing scholarships page includes information about both nursing and prenursing funding.
- Pre-physician assistant students, visit the American Academy of Physician Assistants for a listing of PA financial aid resources. See also the AAPA Foundation page for information about AAPA Scholarships. (Contact AAPA directly if you can't locate the online application, or have questions about the application cycle).
- Premed students should use the resources listed on the American Association of Medical Colleges FIRST For Students page.
- Prelaw students should refer to the financial aid information linked toward the bottom of the HPPLC Law homepage contents menu.
This information was prepared for Indiana University Bloomington students by the Health Professions and Prelaw Center. Please note that specific requirements and policies can change at any time without notice. Students are responsible for obtaining the most current information directly from application and testing services, financial aid resources, and the schools and programs in which they have an interest. Refer to each program's web pages, bulletins, and other publications for the most current information. Students are responsible for understanding degree course requirements, as well as other requirements, policies, and procedures related to the degree(s) they are pursuing; for enrolling in appropriate courses; for understanding IU policies/procedures; third-party policies/procedures; and for following through properly with regard to all of the preceding.
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