Financial Aid: Important Things to Know About Scholarships

Scholarships can be an important resource to help pay for your education at Penn State World Campus. There are common misconceptions about scholarships, as well as important requirements and deadlines you need to keep in mind, so we asked our World Campus Financial Aid team to share scholarship information students should know.

Scholarships Are Available from a Variety of Sources

World Campus students may be eligible for scholarships from the University, World Campus, their academic college or degree program, and other sources.

Learn about scholarship opportunities for World Campus students.

Common sources of scholarships outside of Penn State include employers, local businesses, professional associations, and nonprofit organizations. Resources for finding scholarships online include:

Important note: Use caution when submitting your personal information online and verify that you are using trusted websites. The Office of Student Aid does not condone any scholarship site that requires you to pay to submit an application.

The Difference Between Scholarships and Grants

Grants are typically based on financial need, and while some scholarships — including World Campus scholarships — may take financial need into consideration, there are usually additional eligibility requirements or other factors involved. Unlike loans, scholarships and grants do not need to be repaid.

Meeting and Maintaining Scholarship Eligibility

The eligibility requirements will vary for each scholarship. Some scholarships are only available to students in certain academic programs or who are located in specific geographic areas. Most Penn State and World Campus scholarships are only available to degree-seeking students who meet minimum grade-point average requirements. At this time, World Campus scholarships are only available to undergraduate students, but graduate students may be eligible for scholarships from the Graduate School. Scholarships that are renewed for multiple academic years typically require the student to maintain certain academic standards.

Completing the FAFSA Is Recommended — and May Be Required

Students sometimes feel they can skip the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if they don’t think they will qualify for need-based financial aid. But our financial aid team strongly advises all students who live in the United States to complete it every year. For one thing, you must complete a FAFSA to get federal student loans, which all students (except international students) are eligible to receive. Some scholarships also require applicants to have a completed FAFSA on file. Filling out the FAFSA isn’t as time-consuming as you may think, especially if you use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to quickly import some of your financial information. Using this tool also reduces the likelihood that your application will be selected for Federal Verification, a process that could require you to submit additional documentation.

Pay Attention to Deadlines and Application Requirements

Review the deadlines and required application materials for each scholarship program carefully. It’s a good idea to start the application process as early as possible, as some programs may require you to submit transcripts or other documents that may take time to obtain.

Keep in mind that many scholarships require current recipients to re-apply for subsequent years. If you are currently receiving any scholarships, be sure to check the requirements to see if you must re-apply to receive the scholarship again for the next academic year.

Important dates to remember: 

  • Deadline to apply for World Campus scholarships for the 2023–24 academic year: Friday, March 31
  • Recommended deadline to submit the FAFSA for the upcoming academic year: May 1

Scholarship Myths and Misconceptions

“I don’t have financial need, so I won’t qualify.” Many scholarships don’t consider financial need as a factor, and for those that do, students are often surprised to discover that they may qualify. It’s worth taking the time to apply for scholarships unless you are positive you don’t meet the eligibility criteria.

Applying for scholarships is too difficult or time-consuming. While it’s true that some scholarship programs have application processes that involve multiple steps that may take some time to complete, many others are relatively simple. Because scholarship applications often request the same basic information or have similar questions, it can be helpful to save your answers in a document you can keep handy when completing other applications, in case you can reuse the same information.

I’ve submitted the FAFSA, so that’s all I need to do. Completing the FAFSA may be the first and most important step to receiving federal aid, but most scholarship programs have specific applications and other documentation you must submit.

Other Recommended Resources 

Enrolling in eRefund — this video explains how to enroll in eRefund to receive any refunds to your student account as quickly as possible

Keys to Financial Aid — this infographic reviews academic eligibility requirements for federal financial aid