Linh Phan, Research Intern SBNC
Yes, going to college and pursuing a higher level of education is important in today’s world. This means that virtually every student graduating from high school is doing it. However, college in the United States is expensive, and the ratio of people that go to college to the people that can afford it, is vastly different. There is a trend in universities giving first-year commits more scholarship money as an incentive to actually go to the school. However, after the first year of college, a student would be shocked to see that the amount of money that they received in their second year doesn’t equate to the amount that they had before. In order to make up the difference, it would require the student to apply for more scholarships. The problem is the accessibility to those scholarships, and more specifically, the accessibility of knowledge as to how to apply and find available scholarships.
In the research that was done, a list of ten big universities in different regions of the United States (Southern and Midwest region) and Canada was compiled to compare the differences in how easy it would be to find information about scholarships for current students. In addition to that, how easy to apply for those scholarships and how many there are to specific majors/departments. Colleges in the southern region, like the University of Alabama, and Auburn University have a dedicated web page for researching scholarships for continuing students. They contain lists of scholarships that are specific to majors, and anyone can go through and read about where to apply and how to apply. The down side to this is that the list of scholarships is not that extensive, and one would have to be a student of that university to find out how many scholarships are offered to current undergrads, because there is a school portal login barrier. Other universities only provide a general scholarship information website, and if any student wishes to find out more about opportunities, they would have to contact their own department. Or they would just offer a brief statement like, “To renew the scholarship each year, students must maintain specific academic requirements which are detailed in the award letter” in the instance of the University of Georgia. The University of Florida is the only university out of ten in the southern region that not only offers a sole webpage for finding scholarships, but a refined search system that lets a student put in their year and major to see how many scholarships they would be eligible for. However, the University of Florida only offers about 1,300 scholarships to all current students. The trend seems to continue into big Midwest universities, with only one or two colleges having a dedicated website for their students to find all the information about scholarships in one place, like the University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Indiana University of Bloomington. Only Purdue University in West Lafayette and Ohio State University use ScholarshipUniverse, which is a hub for all types of scholarships for all students. ScholarshipUniverse uses a search engine like the one utilized at the University of Florida to cater the information to specific students, where they can find the amount of money being awarded and directly apply. While the majority of other colleges would just have some brief information about the general scholarships that are offered to all students, instead of tailoring the information to what year of students and what they are studying. In Canada, there is more information available about scholarships for international students than there is for current students. This is understandable, since it only costs about 8,000 Canadian dollars for a local student to attend university each year versus an international student.
The common problem with the accessibility of scholarships with most of these colleges, is that not enough information is available for anyone to just access it without going through hoops. If a prospective future student were to do some research into scholarships for continuing their studies at that college and see that there might be none, this might deter them from choosing that college. A good way to prevent this might be for colleges to do what the University of Florida does. Have a webpage dedicated just for the current or continuing undergraduates’ scholarships, with a refined search system and a list of available scholarships. This way, it enables anyone to just do some research and see what the university has to offer without calling the university or login to the school portal. Another thing that all universities can do is to send out a reminder to where to apply for more scholarships at the beginning of every semester, and not just have each individual department send out sporadic scholarships every now and then. If having a filtered search system is too complicated, universities can just utilize ScholarshipUniverse, and send out reminder emails about visiting the website to apply for upcoming scholarships.