Many students are very familiar with the scholarships available nationally and awarded by major companies and large academic institutions, but relatively few students are aware of the many institutional scholarships awarded by individual colleges.
When most people think about college scholarships they tend to think about scholarships being awarded by major companies and by the larger academic bodies and these are certainly very good sources of funding. However, they also carry one major problem and that is that competition for these scholarships is fierce with hundreds of thousands of applications pouring in from all across the country. It might be a great feather in your cap to get one of these scholarships but your chances of doing so are almost as good as they are of winning the lottery.For many students a better alternative would be to look for an institutional scholarship.Almost every college will award at least one institutional (in-house) scholarship each year and many of the larger colleges will award several, often having scholarships available within each department of the college. If you are attending one of the larger colleges it is possible therefore that you could be eligible to apply for several scholarships within your own institution.Although institutional scholarships have been around for many years, surprisingly a relatively low percentage of students tend to apply for them in comparison to the better known and well publicized national scholarship programs. Now one thing to note here is that not all of these scholarships will cover the full costs of attending college and many will be limited to just tuition fees, or to covering only housing costs. Nonetheless, the sums of money available are often substantial and they can certainly reduce your college costs considerably.Many of the larger colleges will also have departments dedicated solely to student financial aid, including scholarships, and will provide you with details of just what scholarships are available and how to go about applying for them. This can be a very good place to start as you can get a great deal of information to point you in the right direction and help to ensure that you get your application in on time and prepared to put you in the best possible light for consideration. You will also find that some colleges have websites which also provide information about available scholarships, together with details of the application procedure.For those people who are familiar with the application procedure for nationally available scholarships, you will find that the process is essentially the same for institutional scholarships. Each scholarship will however have its own specific requirements and so you need to ensure that you read these through carefully and follow the instructions precisely. Also, be sure to check carefully to ensure that you are eligible for a scholarship before applying. Most scholarships will have a list of criteria which you must meet before submitting an application and, if you are in any doubt, you should ask the awarding body before applying.One benefit of institutional scholarships is that, because there is less competition, you do not usually need to wait too long before finding out whether or not your application has been successful. Another benefit (although it may not seem like a benefit at the time) is that, if you are not successful, you will nevertheless have gained valuable experience of the application procedure at your college and will therefore be better prepared when it comes to making a further application in the second and subsequent years.If you have not investigated the availability of scholarships within your own college then take the time to do so now and get your applications in. If you are successful then it will certainly make your time at college (and in the 'debt repayment' years following college) a lot easier and you have nothing to lose by applying. If they turn you down you are no worse off than you are now, but it they award you a scholarship then you are sitting pretty.