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How to Find Scholarships for College That Are Not Based on Financial Need

Updated on June 19, 2012

Let's face it: if you are applying to college, chances are you're going to need some money to help you make it through. The cost of college these days is sky-rocketing, with the average cost of a private institution reaching almost $24,000 a year. And that's before meal plans, books, and additional fees! Public, in-state tuition has risen over 6% since last year (2009) and now stands at about $7,000 a year. Any way that you look at it, you're probably going to need some additional help from outside sources to pay these fees. Before resorting to student loans or attempting to borrow the money in some way, you should consider every option for scholarships. But here is the dilemma: almost all scholarships that you can find require the applicant to demonstrate significant financial need. To an outsider, this seems obvious; why give money to someone who might be able to pay for college themselves? Well the truth is that financial need isn't necessarily what it sounds like. Take, for example, these situations:

  • Your parents earn just enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle, but paying the additional $24,000 a year would put a large strain on the family budget
  • Your parents have set up a 529 College Savings account in your name with some, but not enough money to pay for college
  • Your parents have told you that, although you still are dependent on them, they will only pay a small amount towards your college education
  • Your parents earned a lot of money last year when they filed their tax return, but this year they are earning a lot less because of a layoff or position cut

What is the similarity among all of these situations? It is that, to the school, government, and other agencies that give out scholarships, you have enough money to pay for college on your own. There are so many people out there who do well in school or sports (or both) and need some additional assistance for college. But based on the formula the government uses, they make too much money to qualify for financial need. They are stuck in the "make too much to qualify, but not enough to pay" situation. This issue affects a surprising number of people all throughout the country, almost all of them in the mid to upper middle class.

Before going too far, I want to stress that I am not in favor of just giving everyone scholarships. There are reasons that most scholarships have a financial need requirement. However, there are a lot of people (like in the situations above) that really need help paying for college as well. The good news is that there are scholarships out there that do not have a "financial need" requirement. This article will help you to think about places to find these scholarships. The article is not intended to be a list of every scholarship available, rather it is meant to point you in the right direction. For that reason, I am not mentioning any specific scholarships, but instead I am offering examples of places to search and ways to get started. There are just too many scholarships and organizations that offer them to list them all here.

Start Early. Way Early

If you're reading this, you're probably a high school junior or senior that is looking for some scholarship opportunities. But sometimes parents stumble across these articles as well. Or, you can let your sibling know if they are younger than you.

  • Cut out newspaper articles and print websites that you run across that mention a scholarship. Keep them in a folder for when your child starts looking at scholarships. Even if they're in Kindergarten now, it will help a lot when you have a folder of 100 different places to apply by the time he reaches senior year.

Consider Your Minority Status

This is not intended to be discriminatory at all; rather it is meant to make you think about places to get a scholarship. Try to think of anything or any part of you that is not "the majority." For example, if you are Native American, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, etc., there are many scholarships out there that are based more upon the fact that you are a member of a minority race or demographic than the fact that you need money for school. Because of the extent and number of these scholarships, the best direction I can point you in is to:

  • Do a Google search for "[your race / minority status] scholarships in [your location]." There are millions and millions of opportunities out there if you are a minority in any way.

The College Itself

If you applied to a college according to the date and other guidelines, chances are you probably qualify for an academic scholarship, assuming you meet the eligibility requirements. Many schools automatically award these scholarships to everyone who, for example, has a GPA of 3.7 or higher. However, some schools may need you to fill out additional paperwork, or even apply separately.

  • Contact your school's admission department and ask if you are automatically considered for "non need based, academic merit scholarships," or if you need to apply separately.
  • Don't forget to check with your individual department, such as the Engineering department and ask if there are any scholarships that don't consider financial need


Do you use a wheelchair? Are you deaf? Blind? An amputee? Have speech problems? If you have any disability that you can think of, search out scholarships that offer awards for your disability.

  • Do a Google search for "scholarships for students with [your disability]." There are many organizations that offer scholarships focused more on the aspect of overcoming a challenge than financial need.
  • Even if financial need IS a consideration, apply anyway. A friend of mine was in a wheelchair, and applied for a scholarship for which financial need was a consideration. Despite the fact that his family made over $100,000 a year, he still won. You never know.
  • When applying for any scholarship, never forget to mention how you have overcome your disability. It will get you a lot of respect with the scholarship board.

Parents Who Were Lost on the Line of Duty

Were there any tragic instances when a father or mother was lost in the military, fire or police department? Almost all children who have parents who were injured or killed in the line of duty can receive scholarships from organizations.

  • Do a search for "scholarships for children of [military/firefighter/police] parents."

Parents With Cancer

If you lost a parent, or possibly grandparent to cancer, there are opportunities for scholarships. Because of the financial burden of such a loss, these organizations are often aware that, although the other parent may have a large income, a lot of it probably went to medical expenses.

  • Search for "scholarships for children of parents with [type] cancer."

Your Parent's Job

Some companies offer scholarships for the children of their employees. Even if your family has a large income, these scholarships are usually based more on essays than financial need.

  • Check with your parents to see if their places of employment offer any scholarships that don't take financial need into consideration

Writing Contests

There are many contests open to high school seniors that offer a one-time-only scholarship to the entry with the best story, poem, etc. These are more of a "cash award" than a scholarship, but they don't usually consider need.

  • Check with your guidance counselor and local newspaper to find any writing contests

Your Church or Community

Many churches and community centers offer scholarships based more on service than financial need.

  • If you were active in your church or community, check with its leaders to see if there are scholarships available that don't take into account your financial need

Good Old Internet Searching

If you still can't find a good scholarship, you can turn to some of the following searches that I have found yield pretty good results:

  • "Scholarships not based on need"
  • "Scholarships not based on finances"
  • "Scholarships for medium-income families"
  • "Scholarships that don't consider need"
  • "Scholarships that don't take into account financial need"
  • "Non need-based scholarships"
  • "Scholarships that don't look at need"
  • "Non financial based scholarships"
  • "Academic scholarships"
  • "Academic scholarships not based on need"
  • You can also try out any other things you can think of such as local organizations or clubs you are involved in. For example, the Boy Scouts offer scholarships for Eagle Scouts. Think of any thing and everything.
Hopefully this guide has helped put you on the right track to finding money for college. With a combination of applications with the places mentioned above, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to find some money for college. Good luck!


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    • animalLover11 profile image

      Michaela Gibson 

      5 years ago from Greenville NC

      Hey, great hub! I'm a sophomore and definitely going to start keeping a folder of info on scholarships, thanks:)

    • Ranbeer Thakkar profile image

      Ranbeer Thakkar 

      5 years ago from Kanpur

      Hi xnotion,

      The cost of college these days is sky-rocketing, with the average cost of a private institution reaching almost $24,000 a year

      I agree with you on this. Good post. You can my latest post on

    • angelachristine profile image


      6 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      Great Hub, Students (traditional age or older)can use all of the help they can get in finding scholarships.

    • keithlipke profile image


      7 years ago from Fort Wayne, Indiana

      Yes this is a great article and using sites like is a good way to go too

    • profile image

      Mendel Potok 

      8 years ago

      Thank you for the tips, it's so lame that they base financial need on your parent's income, even though many of us are paying for college on our own. If I was an emancipated minor in high school I would have more financial aid, but as an adult I am assumed to be dependent on my parents? Anyway, rant over, thanks for pointing me in the right direction for finding free money.

    • profile image


      8 years ago from California

      These are some great tips! Especially the tips for internet scholarships. Good job on the hub

    • profile image


      8 years ago from California

      This is great stuff. Very informative. Keep up the good work.


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