What is a Non-Institutional Scholarship?

While an institutional scholarship is one that comes from a specific school, a non-institutional scholarship is one that comes from another source. If you use a scholarship search site, you’ll find hundreds and even thousands of organizations that offer programs for college students at all levels. Some offer financial assistance to those studying a specific subject, but you’ll also find unique scholarships like those for members of certain minority groups and even those who are left handed. When combined with your financial aid package, these scholarships can help you more easily afford college.

What is a Financial Aid Package?

A financial aid package is a package that includes all the financial aid awarded to you by a university, which is why some colleges call this a financial aid letter. Once you fill out and file the FAFSA and the college receives a copy, it will process your information and decide how much help you need and which types of aid are best for you. This will often include grants and loans from both the state and federal government, but it may include some institutional scholarships. Non-institutional funds can help you cover the remaining balance.

How Can You Find Scholarships?

Though you can use scholarship search sites, take the time to look for scholarships in your own city first. Start with any organizations that your parents are members of and their own employers. Many companies now offer scholarships for the students of full-time employees. You should check with fraternal organizations and charity groups too. Most fraternal organizations have at least one scholarship available every year that will go to the child of a current member. If you belong to any clubs in school, see if those clubs offer scholarships too.

Related resource: 50 Great Schools Where High School Students Can Get College Credit

How Can You Use the Scholarships?

The best thing about a non-institutional scholarship is that you can use the funds for almost anything. Very few organizations and companies will cut a check in the name of your school. Most will send you a check in your own name. You must agree to spend that money on expenses related to your education. Though some students use the funds for textbooks, room and board or even tuition, others use that money to cover transportation costs between home and school or for other items they need for college like a new computer.

Tips for Getting a Scholarship

Scholarships from organizations will often require that you write a short essay based on a given question or prompt. After writing that essay, have a counselor or teacher read over it and offer both editing help and some general feedback. U.S. News & World Report also suggests that you keep copies of anything you send to the organization. If your application gets lost in the mail, or the college loses any part of the application, you can easily send the school everything that it needs. Make sure that you follow all instructions too. Writing an essay with too many words can immediately disqualify you from the scholarship.

While the college you want to attend might offer a few scholarships, you might face a lot of competition from other students who come from similar backgrounds. Applying for a non-institutional scholarship from a charity organization or a large company can help you get the extra cash that you need without facing as much competition.