• Schedule a Demo

What are Need-based Scholarships, and How to Manage Them?

Better application management of scholarships, grants, awards, and more.

What are Need-based Scholarships, and How to Manage Them?

Like all scholarships, a scholarship that is needs-based can be the difference between a student that can afford higher level schooling and one that can’t. Needs-based, just like it sounds, are based on need - meaning they are intended for low-income families.

For organizations managing need-based scholarships, it’s imperative they do so properly in order to help the intended recipients make the most of the funds. Below, we’ll peel back the curtain on things like “what are need-based scholarships?” and why they matter for education. We’ll also share some tips for students to manage them responsibly. Let’s dive in!

What are Need-Based Scholarships?

Need-based scholarships are awarded based on a student's financial need rather than grades or talents. Schools determine eligibility through a careful review of each applicant's financial situation.

Assessing Financial Need

Colleges and scholarship programs use a standard formula to calculate each family’s financial strength. This analysis considers factors like family income, assets, size of household, and number of children in college. The result is a number representing the family’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC). The lower the EFC, the greater demonstration of financial need.

Providing the Right Documentation

Students must supply detailed documentation to verify financial need such as:

  • Tax returns and W-2 forms
  • Bank statements
  • Proof of government assistance
  • Pay stubs from parents’ employers

The financial aid office reviews all documents annually to calculate each applicant’s aid package based on current need.

Varieties of Need-Based Aid

While need-based scholarships share the common eligibility requirement of financial need, they originate from different sources including federal and state governments, colleges and universities, nonprofit groups, and private companies.

Government Scholarships and Grants

Federal and state governments offer considerable need-based aid including the Pell Grant, FSEOG grants, work-study programs, and low-interest Direct Subsidized loans. These provide the foundation for most financial aid packages.

College-Sponsored Assistance

Many schools use their own institutional aid budgets to offer need-based grants, scholarships, and additional work opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students demonstrating hardship. College aid letters outline this assistance.

Outside Scholarships

Numerous nonprofit organizations, foundations, corporations, and professional associations administer private need-based scholarships with a wide variety of criteria. Students typically apply directly to these programs.

Benefits of Need-Based ScholarshipsBenefits-of-Need-Based-Scholarships-Internal-Image-29-Jan-2024

For students from less advantaged backgrounds, need-based scholarships can make the difference between attending college or not. This critical aid supports diversity and provides access to higher education no matter a family’s income level.

Reducing the Tuition Burden for Students and Families

The cost of college continues to rise every year, causing a heavy financial strain. Need-based assistance reduces this burden substantially by covering tuition, fees, room, board, books, and other expenses that families struggle to pay. Recipients enjoy peace of mind and avoid huge debts.

Empowering Smart Students to Achieve Full Potential

Intelligent and talented students often fail to continue their education because they cannot overcome affordability obstacles. Need-based scholarships fix this social inequity. They empower deserving scholars to develop knowledge and skills essential for professional careers.

Creating Access for First-Generation College Attendees

Students are more likely to attend universities and earn degrees if their parents graduated from college. Need-based aid gives first generation students the opportunity to blaze a trail by becoming the first in their family to complete higher education.

Challenges in Managing Need-Based Scholarships

Since financial need exceeds available aid, programs cannot fund every eligible student. Though it’s unfortunate that not everyone will receive assistance even if they need it, applicants must understand that budgets are limited when managing expectations. Waiting lists are common for government grants and popular college scholarships alike. Creative financing strategies should supplement need-based awards.

Meeting Strict Eligibility Requirements

Because the demand outweighs the supply, need-based scholarships impose responsibilities on recipients to keep grades up, enroll full-time, follow conduct codes, and regularly verify ongoing financial need. Students feel immense pressure handling these stringent requirements while adjusting to college academics. Some fail to maintain standards and lose critical support.

Handling Changing Family Finances

Families often experience job losses or changes in household size that affect a student’s financial need equation. Scholarship providers may increase or decrease awards during college. Managing unpredictable changes adds complexity for recipients dependent on continuous assistance until graduation.

Tips for Successful Management

It’s important for hopeful recipients to carefully read all scholarship terms to understand required GPAs, enrollment levels, eligibility verification, and pertinent rules to avoid missteps. It’s also a good idea to mark deadlines for providing updated tax forms and other paperwork. Knowing the policies for how awards get renewed annually can also help recipients avoid lapses in funding.

Submit Timely Documentation in Proper Format

Students are responsible for tracking deadlines to supply all required financial statements each term or year. Submitting complete, accurate paperwork in the proper formats prevents delays that can jeopardize aid. For government forms, follow instructions precisely to showcase eligibility.

Update Financial Profile Details Annually

A family’s finances evolve, so students should notify financial aid staff about changes impacting needs like earnings decreases, job losses, fewer working adults at home, more dependents enrolled in college, or unusual expenses. Provide supporting materials to seek award increases responding to heightened need.

Explore Beyond Need-Based Options

Managing a multi-pronged financing strategy prevents overwhelming dependence on limited need-based aid. Apply for merit scholarships, student jobs, private loans (sparingly), federal parent loans, payment plans to spread costs, and other options to supplement key need-based grants and scholarships.

How Case Studies Help You Scholarship ProgramsHow-Case-Studies-Help-You-Scholarship-Programs-Internal-Image-29-Jan-2024

Understanding how real students managed their need-based scholarships offers encouragement and lessons for current and future recipients. It can also help your scholarship management team gain appreciation for the work they are doing.

Whether it’s a story of a first generation college student becoming a doctor against all odds, or a less advantaged student fulfilling a lifelong dream of teaching future generations, case studies are helpful in a lot of ways. Whether you’re managing needs-based scholarships or some other type of scholarship, we highly recommend adding case studies into your program workflow.

Strategies for Maximizing Need-Based Scholarship Opportunities

Let’s explore some advice you can share with your potential recipients. For starters, we recommend letting potential candidates know that numerous need-based scholarship programs exist beyond federal and state aid if students research carefully. Databases, search engines, nonprofit groups, community organizations, public libraries, high school guidance counselors, and college financial aid offices are just a few places hopeful college students can uncover possibilities for aid. For best results, it’s important to build and continually expand their prospects list.

Crafting Standout Applications and Essays

Help your would-be applicants learn how to make applications shine. Explain the importance of showcasing not just financial need, but their passions, inspirations for attending college, and dreams for the future. Applicants should write any required essays with care and polish. It’s also important to share the instructions and encourage them to follow them closely thereby demonstrating attention to detail. Hopeful candidates should also highlight community service experience addressing real-world problems.

Consulting Financial Aid Advisors

Encourage scholarship applicants to build relationships with college financial aid advisors who guide students through the complex processes of applying for need-based assistance and managing continuing eligibility. These advisors can even review scholarship essays and applications since they understand what makes a strong case for demonstrating need. They can also match students with grants from their intended institution and local community sources.

Balancing Academics and Scholarship Responsibilities

Juggling classes, studying, extracurriculars, jobs and the demands of need-based scholarships stretches students thin. It’s a good idea to recommend that your recipient use calendars, to-do lists, and schedules to prevent missing deadlines for GPA requirements, financial documentation submissions, and annual scholarship applications.

Staying Above Minimum GPAs

Need-based awards require meeting GPA minimums each term or year. Encourage your recipients to set realistic goals higher than the minimums to allow for adjustment periods adapting to college-level course rigor. Students familiar with grade histories in certain subjects should weigh class options accordingly.

Enrolling Full-Time

Most need-based scholarships mandate enrolling full-time taking around 15 credits per semester. If your scholarship requires this, make sure that your recipients understand the importance of mapping out demanding courses across multiple terms to sustain the pace required for continuing aid while also working, conducting research, or pursuing internships. It’s also a good idea to encourage them to meet with advisors regularly to balance everything.

Future Implications - Long-Term Benefits Beyond College Years

The value of need-based scholarships extends beyond just paying for college. Recipients gain critical support pursuing advanced degrees for greater career success. Those with financial barriers get equal footing to achieve highest potentials.

Opening Doors to Graduate School

College students focused solely on affording undergraduate degrees often don’t consider future graduate school critical in many fields. Those managing need-based undergraduate scholarships become savvy securing aid, positioning them to continue studies required for leadership roles.

Achieving Career Goals and Leadership Roles

Need-based scholarship recipients gain access to education, mentors, experiences and networks that propel them to greater career success than possible without degrees. Their achievements showcase the profound, far-reaching returns on these scholarship investments.

Paying It Forward as Alumni

As college graduates, former scholarship recipients feel immense gratitude for the opportunities and doors opened by critical need-based assistance. Many choose careers and volunteer activities serving disadvantaged groups. They also support alma maters and scholarship providers through monetary gifts when possible.

Want help managing your needs-based scholarship program? SmarterSelect can simplify and automate several of the tasks in your workflow. Click here to schedule a demo and learn more!


Schedule a Demo



see all