Determining how to pay for college can be overwhelming when looking at the cost of attending, which includes not only tuition, but books, room and board, and fees. It’s important to know, however, that there are a lot of scholarships and grants available that students should explore before making a decision. Many are specific to an institution – scholarships that are given by an alumnus, for example, others are federal and state grants that are automatically awarded to students meeting state or federal eligibility for financial need.

How do you find out if you are eligible for State and Federal need-based scholarships?

You start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will determine how much you will be expected to pay for your education based on your or your parents’ income and savings. After that is determined, most colleges will try to make up the difference between what you and your family can pay and the cost of attending. They will do this with a package that consists of grants and institutional scholarships (that do not have to be repaid), Work-Study (where a student will work in a campus job to help pay for his or her expenses), and low-interest loans.


Federal Pell Grants of up to $6,495. Nearly half of students attending North Carolina’s private, non-profit colleges and universities are eligible for Pell Grants.

North Carolina Need Based Grant – North Carolina residents are also eligible to receive the of up to $7,640 depending on financial need.

Institutional Aid – Approximately $800 million in scholarships and grants are awarded each year by North Carolina’s private, non-profit colleges and universities.



Academic and Athletic Scholarships – Many colleges offer scholarships for strong academic standing. This could be for overall GPA, or for strength in a specific subject, such as the sciences or music. Athletic scholarships are often offered in multiple sports, not just the most popular sports.

Named Scholarships – Private colleges are fortunate to have scholarships that have been established by alumni. On most colleges’ websites, you can search for scholarships offered by that institution. The criteria for scholarships are determined by the donor as is the amount of the award. Check with the Financial Aid office at the college you wish to attend to apply for these awards.

Many civic organizations, religious denominations, and even individual churches offer scholarships to their members. Be sure to check with any with which you or your parents are affiliated. These scholarships may be competitive.

Some companies and businesses offer scholarships to children of their employees.


Looking for more financial aid opportunities? Click here to check the criteria for additional scholarships offered by NCICU, then apply at your college’s financial aid office.

In addition to individual college websites, the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC) is a great resource for exploring scholarships and learning more about financial aid and student loans.

Scholarships and Grants for College Students