How do scholarships differ from other types of financial aid?
Scholarships are classified as gifts and do not need to be repaid. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, financial need, or a combination of the two. Many scholarships have additional requirements as well. For example, you may have to be resident of a particular state, be involved in extracurricular activities, have a special talent, or be pursuing a specific major.
What types of scholarships are distributed at UCCS?
UCCS students receive more than $4.5 million in scholarships each year. This figure includes private scholarships as well as the institutional scholarships given by UCCS.
Private scholarships are distributed and managed by external organizations, not UCCS. The application and selection processes are between the external organization and the student. Students can use these scholarship dollars at any college, unless the donor specifically limits where the funds can be used. UCCS only awards the scholarships after the funding has arrived from the donor.
Institutional scholarships are distributed and managed by UCCS. They are scholarships set up by donors through the CU Foundation or the University. Selection methods vary for each scholarship. Many awards are distributed by selection committees. Representatives from the donor organization may participate to some degree in the selection, processing, and management of these scholarships.
If I have a scholarship, what impact does this have on my eligibility for other financial aid?
In order to understand how scholarships and financial aid work together, you must first understand a few core concepts about the financial aid system.
To apply for financial aid and need based scholarships, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA will determine your Estimated Family Contribution (EFC) which is the amount that you (and your family) are projected to be able to contribute towards your educational expenses for the year.
Your Cost of Attendance (COA) is what the UCCS expects it should cost for tuition, fees, books, room and board, travel, and miscellaneous costs for the nine month academic year (August – May).
Your EFC is subtracted from the COA and the difference is considered your financial need. Need based scholarships, grants and loans can never exceed your financial need. The total of all of your aid may never exceed the total COA. If your aid exceeds this need or the COA, awards must be adjusted accordingly. Any scholarship you receive will be used to meet your COA for the year.
Can scholarships be awarded for the summer semester?
Institutional scholarships are not usually awarded during the summer; however, other aid may be available. If an independent organization wishes to grant you a scholarship for use during a summer session, notify the UCCS Scholarship Office.
Searching for Scholarships
When is the best time to start looking for scholarships?
The sooner the better! Searching for scholarships does take time so start early and search often. Eligibility requirements vary in addition to deadlines, so do not limit yourself or become discouraged if the results are not exactly as you expect right away.
Where should I search for scholarships?
The best place to begin your search is right here on the UCCS Scholarship website. You can look for UCCS scholarships as well as other scholarships offered by private donors.
You can also look for additional scholarship opportunities offered by private organizations by using scholarship search engines such as Fastweb.com or Scholarships.com. We recommend that you register a separate email address when using these services, as they generate high volumes of email.
What about the scholarship search services that I keep reading about? They make it sound so easy and often guarantee finding scholarships that I would qualify to apply for and receive.
If any scholarship service requires you to pay a fee or claims that you are guaranteed at least a small award, stay away. Most likely, it is a scam. There are legitimate, trusted sites out there for you to use. Two recommended sites are www.fastweb.com or www.scholarships.com.
Applying for Scholarships
What makes a good essay?
When you are applying for scholarships to help with your college educational expenses, a good essay is an extremely important part of your application. The scholarship essay is one place where you can describe your unique qualities and personal attributes.
A good essay should:
Specifically address the essay prompt or question.
Follow the guidelines specified about length and formatting.
Tell why you are special; why you got involved in particular club or volunteer projects; why you chose your current major and field of study.
Give the scholarship committee insight into your personality, interests, motivations, goals, etc.
Describe significant people or events in your life that have helped shape your interests, attitudes, goals, etc.
Give an explanation of special circumstances you feel would be important for the scholarship committee to know when reviewing your application.
Show that you have put as much effort into writing the essay as you would expect the scholarship committee to put into reviewing your application.
What are my chances of receiving a scholarship? How could I improve my chances?
Chances of receiving a scholarship vary greatly depending on the amount of scholarship dollars available and the number of qualified applicants. Sometimes, only a handful of applications are received while at other times, we receive hundreds of applications. The number of scholarships offered may vary from one student per year to one hundred students per year.
To improve your chances of being selected, find scholarships that are a good fit for you by reading the eligibility criteria carefully and apply for scholarships for which you meet the minimum criteria. If a scholarship is for students from New Jersey, and you’re from Colorado, it’s probably not a good fit.
Also, scholarship organizations like to see students who are involved in the community and give back to those around them. Make sure you describe your extra-curricular activities in detail. Instead of using acronyms that the scholarship committee may be unfamiliar with, type the full name of the organization. For example, NHS should be typed out National Honor Society or FBLA should be listed as Future Business Leaders of America.
No matter what, your chance of being selected depends on the amount of effort you put into your application. Make sure to read the directions carefully, supply all of the required application materials, proofread the application for mistakes, and submit your application on time, if not early.
Who should I ask to write my letter of recommendation?
Teachers, professors, employers, or mentors are all good individuals to ask to write your letter of recommendation. Be sure to ask them at least two weeks before you need to send the letter. You may also want to give them your resume, facts about the scholarship, or important factors you want them to focus on in the letter. Also, make a point to send a thank you note to your advocate after you have received it to show your gratitude.
Letters of recommendation should not come from relatives or personal friends. While your friends and family will give you a good letter of recommendation (you hope), these letters will be biased. Scholarship committees are more likely to give preference to letters that come from a professional source.
If the required GPA is 3.8, and I have a 3.7, should I still apply?
No. All applicants are pre-screened for the basic requirements such as GPA or areas of study. If you do not meet these requirements, you will not be considered for the scholarship.
How does the scholarship committee choose a recipient?
Generally, the first step involves a preliminary screening of all applicants. Incomplete applications, which do occur, are taken out of the running first, followed by applications that are not meeting all requirements of the scholarship. If an applicant does not meet the required GPA, their application will not make it past the first screening.
After all eligible candidates are identified, the entire application is read by members of the selection committee. Recipients are selected or the applicants are nominated to move to the next round of the selection process. This process may be an interview or selection by a higher party. A winning application must make it through all of the pre-screening requirements to be considered.
How quickly will I be notified on the status of my application?
After the deadline has passed, the scholarship committee will begin to meet and select the student(s) to receive the scholarship. Every effort will be made to thoroughly evaluate all applications and notify applicants as soon as possible. An exact time frame is hard to give but typically, you should hear from us within four to six weeks. Private donors and organizations may have a different timeline for notifying applicants, and it is typically stated on the application when the recipients will be notified.
I did not receive a scholarship. Why? What can I do to improve my application?
There are a number of reasons why a student who meets the minimum scholarship criteria didn’t get the award. The most common reason is that scholarship funds are limited. The myth of there being hundreds of thousands of scholarship dollars that go un-used each year is simply untrue and causes false hope for many students.
The second most common reason is that you may not be the ideal fit for the scholarship even if you meet the basic criteria. We receive many applications each year, and selection is highly competitive. Typically, only ten percent of students who apply for awards are selected each year. Grades are not the only factor when you apply for scholarships. Your essays, volunteer work, and academic achievements have to all shine.
Many scholarships are offered to students in their sophomore, junior, and senior year, so don’t get discouraged. Apply each year and improve your applications by taking advantage of the on-campus Writing Center to work on your scholarship essays.
Also, the Scholarship Office keeps all scholarship applications on hand for one year to review if additional funds become available.
Receiving your Scholarship Award
What should I do if a scholarship organization requests “enrollment verification” in order to release my award funds?
Fill out the Enrollment Verification Form and submit it to the Office of Admissions and Records, located on the ground floor of Main Hall, room 108.
How are scholarships paid?
Most scholarships, both institutional and private, are credited to your UCCS bill each semester. Some may be sent directly to you, but this is rare. UCCS must confirm you have been accepted and have enrolled in the appropriate number of course hours before payment will be made. If your scholarship arrives after your bill is already paid for the semester, or if the scholarship is more than your bill, a refund may be issued to you. In order to receive any refunds, if applicable, it is recommended that you set up direct deposit through the Bursar’s office to expedite the process.