The hard part is over. You’ve completed your applications, heard back from colleges, and you’re finally thinking of what’s next. 

But then the reality of college starts to sink in—including the reality of its price tag. While you may be certain about your college choice, you likely still have looming questions about the best ways to pay for college.

Tuition costs add up, but don’t despair! Institutional aid, or the package provided by the college and/or the federal government, is just one financial source for your education. If you’re worried about covering these upcoming costs, you should think about outside scholarships. Securing external scholarships can close the gap in your aid package (or it can help you cover book costs and those pesky “miscellaneous fees” at least).

Do External Scholarships Make a Difference?

For many students and families, financing is the most important factor of the college choice process. In truth, sometimes your financial aid package is not what you were expecting. However, that does not mean you cannot come up with ways to find more funding.

In fact, external scholarships make a real difference when you stack them on top of each other. Most schools accept external scholarships toward your tuition bills. Or you can contribute awards to your personal spending fund. Keep in mind, however, that if you receive an external award, you may also see a reduction in the amount of loans included in your financial package at some schools.

COVID-19 Funding

The pandemic has made finances even tighter for many families. Thankfully, you can find services to help if COVID-19 has impacted your family.

More high schools and states are offering free virtual FAFSA services to replace previously in-person events. Take advantage of these services to make sure you maximize your financial aid package award.

Recent laws passed into effect require colleges to spend a certain dollar amount toward student funding and aid. NYU, for example, is required to award $12.8 million of the funds to students directly. Review how different colleges distribute these awards to see what funding might apply to you. Connect with your school’s financial aid office to learn if you are eligible for these extra funds.

In addition, there are COVID-19 scholarships available depending on your state and college. What you can earn may surprise you!

How Do I Get Started?

There are a variety of resources for external scholarships. is my personal favorite. It matches you with awards you’re likely to receive based on your profile. If you are a current NYU student, you get a free membership.

Make a document tracking deadlines, prompts, and award amounts. You might be surprised at the overlap among the different scholarships. Work smart, plan ahead, and strategize to maximize how many awards you can receive. Prioritize deadlines and compare requirements. Some scholarships may ask for a recommendation letter. Others might ask for a brief essay. Some might ask for both. Keep track of  requirements and deadlines to make sure you aren’t missing out!

And external scholarships aren’t just for incoming first-year students. There are scholarships for studying away or for research opportunities when you are an enrolled student. So start planning ahead! It’s never too early to think about these opportunities.

Use these resources to gather more funds and make that impending college price tag a bit less intimidating. And remember: your college’s financial aid office is always the best resource for guidance and support.



David Querusio is an Assistant Director with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at NYU. He especially loves sharing stories of how NYU students think outside of the box to define their own academic paths. When he’s not on the road meeting with students or in grad class at NYU Steinhardt, he can be found searching the city for the best cup of coffee.