Ask Cappex: What's the Average Private Scholarship Worth?

In Paying for College on Apr 26, 2016

Our college expert Mark Kantrowitz answers your questions about college and financial aid.

Q: What is the average amount of outside scholarship money awarded to students? By this, I mean scholarships from corporations, businesses and individuals.

A: Based on the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), a total of $5.1 billion in private scholarships was awarded to 1.3 million college students in Bachelor’s degree programs in 2011-2012. That’s an average of just under $4,000 per student. About one in eight college students will win a private scholarship (12 percent).

For students in Associate’s degree and Certificate programs, the average scholarship is about $2,000, received by 4.5 percent of students. Just over half a million students in these programs received about $1 billion in private scholarships.

Very few students win a completely free ride. Less than 1 percent of undergraduate students receive enough gift aid, including college grants and private scholarships, to cover the full cost of attendance.

The most generous scholarships are awarded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the Intel Science Talent Search, the Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, the Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology, and the Gates Millennium Scholars Program. Each of these scholarship programs has a top prize of $100,000 or more.

Winning scholarships should be part of the plan for paying for college, but not the entire plan.

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