There are many different ways to fund a college education, and each has its pros and cons. College scholarships are one of the best ways, and can offer a significant return on your time investment - especially if you're focusing on colleges with the largest scholarships!
Even a few hours spent applying for various scholarships can pay off with hundreds or thousands of dollars towards your tuition and other college expenses.
But which colleges offer the largest scholarship amounts, and is that the best measurement to use? I'll explore these questions in more detail throughout this article.
What Are College Scholarships And How Do They Work?
A college scholarship is a form of financial aid awarded to a student for the purpose of post-secondary schooling. Scholarships are often awarded based on academic achievement, but can also be need-based.
There are two main types of college scholarships. The first are those offered by individual organizations. These scholarships can be used for any college, university or institution of higher learning. There are many different websites where you can search for these types of scholarships.
Other scholarships come directly from the colleges and universities. In many cases, colleges have a set tuition cost but then offset that cost with scholarships. This scholarship money can be quite significant depending on the university.
Scholarships can be need-based, merit-based, a combination of both or awarded on any number of different factors. Your odds of landing college-awarded scholarships may play a factor in deciding which college you should attend.
Using The Common Data Set (CDS)
A school's website and financial aid department are excellent resources for understanding total tuition and other costs, and finding available scholarships. Another resource is the Common Data Set (CDS) Initiative.
The Common Data Set is a document containing a variety of standard questions about about attending college, including financial information. It's a collaborative effort between several different data providers throughout the higher education community to standardize the information that is available to students and others who are researching universities.
What Is Included In The Common Data Set?
There are hundreds of questions included in the CDS, but for the purposes of finding the colleges with the largest scholarships and most financial aid offered, here are a few examples of financial information that is included in the Common Data Set:
- The total amount of award aid to students
- The number of students who received need-based and non-need-based financial aid
- The percentage of students who took out student loans
- The number of students whose financial needs were completely met by financial aid offers
You can find the complete CDS questionnaire on the Common Data Set website.
Ohio State University
Texas Christian University (TCU)
# of full-time undergraduate students
# of full-time undergraduate students awarded financial aid
Average financial aid package of students who were awarded aid
# of students awarded non-need-based financial aid
Average non-need-based scholarship and grant aid
As you can see, there is plenty of information available, even from this very small sample.
6 Schools With The Largest Scholarships
There are a couple of different ways to determine the colleges with the largest scholarships. Do you count colleges with high tuition and other ancillary costs that also offer a large amount of scholarship aid? Or is the largest scholarship the one which covers the highest percentage of overall cost? And what about tuition-free schools?
The six colleges listed below all offer large amounts of scholarship and other financial aid (information based on CDS responses from the 2021-22 academic year):
Colleges with a high percentage of students receiving non-need-based aid:
- Utah Tech University — 96%
- Westminster College (PA) — 80%
- Webb Institute (NY) — 74%
Colleges with a large average amount of financial aid given:
- Columbia University (NY) — $55,521
- Yale University — $52,894
- Williams College — $51,890
But remember, colleges like Columbia top our list of the most expensive colleges as well. So just because you're getting a lot of financial aid, you still might be paying an extremely high price.
The Bottom Line
There are many ways to pay for college, and scholarships can be a great way to offset the costs of higher education. Like grants, scholarships typically do not have to be repaid, making them a better option than student loans which, of course, must be repaid. And while it can be challenging to find the colleges with the largest scholarships, the Common Data Set questionnaire is a good place to start.
The CDS questionnaire shows, for each respondent school or university, the number of students, the number of students that received a variety of different forms of aid, and the average aid received. By comparing the information for the schools you're considering, you can get an idea of how much you are likely to receive in scholarship aid.
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared toward anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.