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What Is a Need Based Scholarship?

Amy Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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With rising tuition costs and facing the burden of student loans, college students often look for scholarships. There are many types of scholarships, with some offered by the college or university, and others offered by foundations or organizations. Some are based solely on academic performance, some on ethnic background, and others on financial circumstances. This last is a need based scholarship.

A need based scholarship may be offered by the school, a business, an organization, or a private endowment. It may take academics into account, but the primary criterion for qualification is demonstrating financial need. Students who have parents in a lower-middle income bracket may not have the funds to pay for college, but their parents might make too much for them to qualify for government grants and other assistance primarily for students at or below the poverty level.

This type of scholarship helps bridge the financial gap. It usually has more generous financial qualification criteria, and many were endowed specifically for the student who wants to attend college but whose parents make too much money for him to qualify for most federal programs. A need based scholarship may pay partial or full tuition, housing costs, and sometimes a books stipend.

A student should contact her high school guidance counselor to learn about available need based scholarships. In the US, the student usually starts by completing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Even if the student knows she probably will not qualify for federal aid, the FAFSA is used by many colleges and other organizations as the “official” statement of a student’s financial situation. She will need to get her parents’ help in filling out this form, since they will probably need to attach copies of their tax returns and other documents as proof of income.

If a student knows early on that they will need to apply for need-based college scholarships, they should consult with their guidance counselor about application deadlines for private scholarships. Many local need-based scholarship trust funds will start giving out scholarships for high school juniors, which would require the student to apply as soon as the fall of their junior year. Building those financial support relationships early can help students secure long-term funding for their education.

A need based scholarship may also be based partially on academic performance. That is, a student must first meet the financial criteria, but then must have a certain grade point average or standardized test score to further qualify. She may, alternately, need to be accepted into a particular degree program at a college. For instance, the scholarship may stipulate that the student’s parents have a combined income of under $50,000 US Dollars, that the student have at least a 3.0 grade point average, and that she be accepted into the teacher education program at her chosen university. The financial consideration must be met first, however.

A student should also always talk to the financial aid department at her chosen school to see if a need based scholarship is offered. Sometimes, the financial aid counselors know about scholarships that the general public are not aware of. The student should also check online resources, which may also have lists of available scholarships or other scholarship tips. If one is available, it may be just what a student requires to help her attend the college of her choice.

Understanding the nuances of a need-based scholarship can empower individuals and organizations looking to support education. These scholarships are vital for students whose financial circumstances might otherwise bar them from pursuing higher education. By considering the establishment of such financial aid, one can significantly impact the lives of deserving students. For those inspired by the potential of these scholarships and interested in fostering educational opportunities, learning how to start a scholarship fund is an excellent first step toward making a tangible difference in the academic community.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at SmartCapitalMind. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon117575 — On Oct 11, 2010

what if my parents are divorced?

By anon14191 — On Jun 11, 2008

The info is great. I had a few questions. Does my chances of getting aid increase if my parents are not earning the stipulated amount and are paying for two people from the same family

By Pateln381 — On Jul 26, 2007

what salary(income) if my parents have then i have higher chances to get scholarships and grants than the loans? please..... it's important for me

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at SmartCapitalMind...
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