What Every Student Should Know About Scholarships and Tuition Discounting

By Kailey Walters on August 31, 2019

The inevitable truth about college is that it’s expensive. What with tuition, textbooks, housing, and so many other things, the expenses of attending college can quickly add up.

Thankfully, financial aid in the form of scholarships and tuition discounting exists. For those of you who are finding that college can be pretty expensive, different kinds of financial aid definitely ease the burden. But what do you need to know about scholarships and tuition discounting, and how can you use them to your advantage?

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What is tuition discounting?

This is a term that some of you may be unfamiliar with, but tuition discounting generally refers to grants and scholarships that colleges and universities give students. In some situations, it is put into practice when colleges and universities charge high tuition and then offer large “discounts” (aka merit aid) to their qualified candidates.

Why is tuition discounting put into practice?

Tuition discounting is most prevalent in small, private colleges and universities, and was originally put into practice to allow students to attend college without the price tag, or their families’ financial situation, preventing them from doing so. Having started out as need-based financial aid, tuition discounting now encompasses merit-based aid as well (such as merit scholarships).

As tuition discounting often makes a private college or university much more affordable, it helps these private schools attract and enroll more students over time. This potentially raises the question of why all schools don’t just make their tuition or sticker price more affordable in the first place — an act that would, in many situations, eliminate the need for tuition discounting. However, a school that offers tuition discounting actually appears more attractive to college applicants, based on surveys that found both parents and students prefer schools with high costs that offer large discounts instead of schools with a lower original cost. Why, you may ask? It’s because of an idea that has become ingrained in the minds of the general public: that the higher the price, the higher quality it must be. As a result, schools that have high sticker prices appear to be “better” in the eyes of college applicants and their parents, which leads to more applications, more scholarships being given out, and ultimately, more enrollment. Offering tuition discounts is a win for private colleges and universities, and receiving such discounts is seemingly a win for the students as well.

What are the disadvantages of tuition discounting?

On the flip side, tuition discounting can lead to some pretty negative consequences, both for schools and students. Some colleges and universities offer such large discounts to their students that it’s eating into their revenue, which is certainly not sustainable in the long run. What’s more, the high cost/high aid model can sometimes discourage low-income students from attending costly private institutions, mainly because some of these students and their families are unaware that financial aid is available.

How do you receive a tuition discount (e.g. a scholarship)?

There are a number of ways to receive a tuition discount.

One way is to qualify for a tuition waiver based on your family’s income level. If your family’s income falls below a certain threshold, you may be able to qualify for a tuition waiver.

Another option is to see whether the college and/or university you’re applying to offers legacy scholarships. If you have a family member who once graduated from that school, it might be worth looking into a possible legacy scholarship.

Another totally classic and viable way to receive aid is by actively applying for scholarships. With so many different kinds of scholarships out there, you have many options to choose from. For example, there are a number of academic scholarships that you can apply for, which are based on your academic performance, including your GPA as well as standardized test scores (such as the SAT and ACT). Other types of scholarship options out there may include athletic, community service, minority, creative, and other unique scholarships.

Where can you find them? Lucky for you, finding scholarships isn’t the hard part — there are so many places you can look. One option is to visit your career center and inquire about available scholarships.

Another option is to look to organizations in your community and find out if they’re offering scholarships for college students. Even if they’re not large companies or organizations, some local businesses in your neighborhood or community might have an annual scholarship that they give out.

If you want to search for scholarships from the comfort of your own computer, there are many websites at your disposal, such as Fastweb.com.

When it comes to applying for and receiving tuition discounts of any sort, it’s important to be informed about what it can do for you.

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