Private Scholarships: Exposing the Truth About Them


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In the early 1970s, the U.S. auto industry received warnings from economic experts: If they continued to focus on the wrong thing, Japanese car companies would soon put them out of business. The “Detroit Three” automakers — General Motors, Ford and Chrysler — were told that if they continued to produce oversized, inefficient American-style models, they would soon be surpassed by compact, fuel-efficient Japanese cars if the price of gasoline were to increase drastically.

U.S. auto executives laughed off these dire warnings and continued with business as usual. Over the course of the decade, the price of oil skyrocketed due to a changing atmosphere in the Middle East, and the American car companies crumbled. If you’ve ever seen Eminem’s movie “8 Mile” or an episode of “Hardcore Pawn,” you have an idea of how things turned out in the Motor City.

It’s easy to become fixated on details that are new, shiny and fun (like a ’72 Corvette) and ignore others that are counter to our belief system. Such is the case with how prospective college students and their families seek financial aid. For whatever reason, students and parents alike spend an inordinate amount of time seeking out private scholarships from employers, nonprofits and local organizations, and not enough time focusing on where the bulk of aid money actually comes from.

Surprising Numbers

During the 2014-15 academic year, roughly $184 billion in student aid was awarded to undergrads. According to the College Board’s Trends in Student Aid publication, the overwhelming majority of student aid comes from the federal government, representing 66 percent of all aid awarded. Institutional aid from colleges and universities represents 22 percent, and state governments give 5 percent of total aid. A mere 6 percent comes from employer and private scholarships, a number that doesn’t quite support all of the hype.

Unclaimed Money

Many people mistakenly believe that the majority of aid comes in the form of private scholarships, so they spend precious time scouring through scholarship websites, books and other sources looking for what amounts to only a fraction of the total aid awarded. Their hunt is fueled each year by hearing that millions of dollars in scholarships go unused. While there is some truth to that statement, the fact also remains that many of those scholarships are inaccessible because the qualifying requirements are so limiting. For example, there may be a scholarship at a regional university specifically aimed at a student from a particular county who has a high school GPA of 3.5 or higher and is majoring in interior design. If no incoming student meets these criteria, the scholarship may go unclaimed.

Effect on Financial Aid Packages

It’s important to note that since the federal government requires colleges to consider private scholarships when calculating financial aid, those outside scholarships can actually reduce your total aid package. Let’s say, for example, that a family’s expected family contribution is $17,000 and the cost of tuition is $30,000. In order to meet this cost, the college offers $13,000 in aid to assist the family. Now let’s say that the student wins a $3,000 scholarship from a local employer. In this instance, most schools would then reduce their respective financial aid offers by $3,000. Hopefully, these reductions target loan awards, rather than grant awards, although that isn’t always the case at every school. All in all, private scholarships have very little impact on the “bottom line” for students requiring need-based aid, since scholarships often lead to a reduction in their original financial aid award. For affluent students who do not require aid, however, scholarships will undoubtedly impact out-of-pocket costs by reducing the amount they owe.

By no means do we want to discourage you from applying for private scholarships; we just encourage you to avoid dedicating an excessive amount of time to these pursuits.

Dave Bergman, Ed.D., is a co-founder of College Transitions, a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. Learn more at collegetransitions.com.

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College Transitions

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About This Blog

College Transitions is a team of college planning experts committed to guiding families through the college admissions process. As counselors and published higher education researchers, we aim to bring perspective (and some sanity) to college planning, and we strive to provide students with the support they need to enroll and succeed at a college that is right for them. Learn more at collegetransitions.com

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Calendar

February 2017

Join park staff in collecting data for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Families celebrate Purim with bagels, fruit and Hamantaschen. Kids enjoy Purim-related activities,  music and more. Costumes encouraged.

Cost: $8/family, member; $12/family, nonmember

Where:
Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center
12804 Norwood Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Sponsor: Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center
Telephone: 919-676-6170
Contact Name: Jill Lokitz
Website »

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Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

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Learn how to creatively attach air plants to scrap wood. Combine reuse and living art and learn about how to care for air plants. All materials are provided, including plants. Register online....

Cost: $25

Where:
The Scrap Exchange
2050 Chapel Hill Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
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Sponsor: The Scrap Exchange
Telephone: 919-213-1278
Contact Name: Anna Graves
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Join a park naturalist on a one-mile hike around Yates Mill Pond and help to identify and count the birds that we see along the way. Learn how to identify backyard birds by sight, sound and other...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Enjoy the tale of a young mermaid with the dulcet voice who risks it all for love in a daring deal with a vengeful sea witch. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $30-$89

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Carolina Ballet
Telephone: 919-719-0900
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Discover birds along the trails and pond. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Join park staff in collecting data for the 20th annual Great Backyard Bird Count. We will look and listen for birds in a variety of habitats, and keep track of how many individuals of each species...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Pkwy.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

More information

Learn about the bald eagle and hike to the fishing pier to view eagles soaring high. All ages. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

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Ages 3-5 enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
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Website »

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Enjoy games, crafts and hikes. Take a picnic lunch. All ages. Dress for outdoor fun. Meet at the Longleaf Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
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Spend the afternoon learning all about birds. Go on a bird behavior scavenger hunt, play a migration game, and learn how to identify common species on the lake and at the feeder. Make suet. Ages...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Crabtree County Park
1400 Aviation Parkway
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Lake Crabtree County Park
Telephone: 919-460-3355
Contact Name: Carol Cunningham
Website »

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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Mr. Panda is making a surprise. What is it? The animals must wait and see. But waiting is boring. Mr. Panda shows that good things come to those who wait. Read the story about patience.

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Website »

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Babies enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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Toddlers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Babies enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Website »

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The library's Teen Leadership Corps hosts an opportunity for kids of all ages to come build something special with Lego and Duplo bricks, and play games to improve reading and math skills.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Listen to a story in English and Spanish and meet  animals.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Parent and child enjoy a craft, activity and guided walk along the greenway. Ages 2-6.  Register online. Choose course #199100.

Cost: $3

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson St.
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

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Preschoolers enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Website »

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Moms meet other moms for support and friendship. Drop-in program.

Cost: Free

Where:
Grow, The Family Boutique
2885 Jones Franklin Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Telephone: 919-803-3521
Contact Name: Heather Dickens
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Help park staff with citizen science projects. Take a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes. Ages 8-10 with adult; 11 years and older adult optional. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

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Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

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Chase away the winter blues with a hike through the winter garden. After the walk, warm up inside with a book and winter craft. Meet at the visitor center. Ages 3-12. Register online.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: (919) 513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

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Join others for an easy paced hike around the greenway. Ages 3 and younger; older siblings, strollers and leashed pets welcome. Register online. Choose course #199059.

Cost: Free

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Learn about wolves, coyotes and foxes. Take a hike to look for tracks and signs. Make casts of canid feet to take home. Ages 9-13. Register online. Choose course #199997.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Wilkerson Nature Preserve
11408 Raven Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-996-6764
Website »

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Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

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Show Less...

Kids can drive their futures at the fourth annual Marbles Future Me Kids Career Fair, which introduces children to real-life architects, bakers, dentists, engineers, news reporters,...

Cost: $5 ages 1 and older

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Ages 3-5 enjoy play-based activities in English and Spanish to prepare for kindergarten.

Cost: Free

Where:
Athens Drive Community Library
1420 Athens Dr.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 12-18 interested in learning about the sport can get into boats and learn how to row. Students and parents can also meet the club's rowers and coaches. Novice and experienced...

Cost: Free

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

More information

Families enjoy stories.

Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Ct.
Knightdale, NC  27545
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate the magic of storytelling on Disney Reads Day. Read popular Disney stories and take part in fun activities to inspire your imagination. Enjoy giveaways, including stickers, bookmarks and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Barnes & Noble
760 S.E Maynard Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Website »

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Celebrate Mardi Gras with a walking parade, children's activities and contests. All ages.

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Wake Forest
S. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Join park staff and search the park for snowflakes and ice crystals. Explore the unique shapes of snowflakes and view ice crystals under microscopes, then construct your own paper snowflake or ice...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Kids learn to code in a free workshop. Register online. Sign up for a summer camp during the event and save $100.

Cost: Free

Where:
theCoderSchool
201 Davis Grove Circle
Cary, NC  27519
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Website »

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Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show.

Cost: $70-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
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Website »

More information

Delivered is a community workshop centered on educating, empowering and encouraging women to plan and achieve their most optimal birth plan. The workshop will introduce attendees to the benefits of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Davis Family Chiropractic
7901 Strickland Rd.
Ste 104
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: Davis Family Chiropractic
Telephone: 919-615-2257
Contact Name: Dr. Alisha Davis
Website »

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Raleigh Little Theatre's troupe performs the story of Cher Ami, a pigeon who saved American soldiers during World War 1 by carrying a message for help. Ages 5 and older.

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Enjoy a fast-paced and accessible introduction to many influential black Americans who have shaped the nation over the last 150 years. Grades pre-K-5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Chapel Hill Public Library
100 Library Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC  27514
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a magical journey through China's divine culture. Classical dance, music and storytelling highlight this live show. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $70-$150

Where:
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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