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!
While you will develop your own methods for researching awards, organizing what you learn, and managing the application process, the ideas below can give you some ideas for how to begin.
- It is more common for students to receive smaller awards of a few hundred or a few thousand dollars than to receive a "full ride," but these smaller amounts can add up. We've seen students cast a wide net applying for dozens of grants and scholarships, and by garnering just a percentage of what they applied for, cobble together thousands of dollars worth of free aid comprised of a number of smaller awards.
- Especially in the beginning, the process of researching and applying for many awards can take a fair 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), and simply get experience with the applications, you will be able to reuse much of this material for other award applications. The more awards you apply for, the more you will develop your application materials portfolio, and the easier it will become to more quickly apply for awards.
- You might organize your time so that you can devote a couple of hours 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 award application deadlines and turn in all application materials a few weeks early if possible, just in case you encounter a complication that takes time to resolve.
- A word of caution: 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 personal information. FinAid.org offers reliable information about avoiding scholarship scams, along with other tips. Other resources: Better Business Bureau and Federal Trade Commission.
- You might consider opening a free email account through Google, Microsoft, or another provider, separate from your IU account and other personal accounts you have. Use this separate account when requesting information or registering for the various award search engines and search sites. Keeping such emails separate from your other accounts can increase your privacy and make your Inboxes easier to manage.
- Keep hard copy folders of any awards that require submission of hard copy materials, and a folder on your computer for 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 ask recommenders to 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; if possible, six or eight weeks before you will turn in the application.
- As you are able, keep in touch with recommenders in case they are willing to write future letters or update previous ones for additional award applications.
- People from certain backgrounds or demographic groups - e.g., women entering a science or healthcare field, African Americans, first generation college students, and countless other backgrounds - are sometimes eligible for special scholarships. Look for such awards as you do your research using the resources below.
- Similarly, many scholarships are awarded to students pursuing certain degrees; for instance, awards for nursing students or for law students.
- Some awards are need-based, some are merit-based, some are awarded based on these and/or other factors.
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. At this link you will find guidelines for determining FAFSA timing and deadlines. If you have already filed your FAFSA, leave yourself time to make sure everything is in order for additional loans. Important: If you are pursuing a professional program, you must complete the FAFSA again each year you are enrolled such a program.
Direct loans, sometimes called Stafford loans, are federal student loans for undergraduate and graduate students. Direct Loans offer lower, fixed interest rates and subsidized interest to eligible undergraduates. For additional information, consult the Federal Student Aid direct loan page.
Direct PLUS Loans, sometimes called PLUS loans, are federal loans that graduate students and parents of dependent undergraduate students can use to help pay for college or career school or professional programs. (You might also see references to GradPLUS loans.) PLUS loans can help pay for education expenses not covered by other financial aid. PLUS Loans can be taken out in addition to Stafford loans. For additional information such as eligibility and how to apply, consult the Federal PLUS page.
Compare federal student loans HERE. (Note that federal loans are available for students enrolled in at least 6 credits.)
- 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 linked from the IU Office of Scholarships page. Some engines may yield results only for undergraduate funds, 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).
- 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 State Financial Aid in the left-side menu. Resources include State Financial Aid - By Program.
- Find information about numerous financial aid opportunities for a wide variety of educational and career paths on the Federal Student Aid site, which includes links to scholarship search engines and career tools, such as careeronestop.
- 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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