What Is Non-need Based Aid?

Non-need based aid, also known as merit-based aid, is money awarded to a prospective college student for excellence in academics or a talent in a special field such as athletics, arts, or music. Unlike need based aid, non-need based is most often given to students by private companies, individuals, or the college or university itself.

This aid helps supplement any need-based aid packages, or it pays for expected family contributions when you don’t have the cash on hand. In rare instances, non-need based aid may pay for your entire college tuition.

What’s the Difference Between Need Based Aid and Non-need Based Aid?

Before going over the finer details of non-need based aid, it’s important to make the distinction between this type of aid and need-based aid. Non-need based aid is a type of financial aid that’s received due to a specific talent, most often as a scholarship.

Examples might include a football scholarship, guitar performance scholarship, or an art scholarship for painting. These types of scholarships are typically given in higher dollar amounts from the school, but private organizations will also give these types of awards. In addition, the financial status of the student is completely ignored.

Need-based aid is the exact opposite of non-need based aid, as it doesn’t take the talents or skills of the applicant into its decision-making process. Instead, it bases eligibility for the aid entirely on the income and assets of a student and his or her family, or just the assets and income of a student, depending on whether the student applies as a dependent or independent.

Common Misconceptions About Aid

One of the biggest fallacies with non-need based aid is that it’s only available for professional-caliber athletes and straight-A students. However, it’s estimated that one in four students gets some form of their financial aid from non-need based scholarships, thanks to roughly $22 billion in available scholarships.

While high-GPA students are more likely to receive merit-based scholarships, it doesn’t meant that others shouldn’t apply. Around 44 percent of non-need based aid went to students that had lower than a 3.5 out of 4.0 in high school.

It’s also worth noting that the chance for non-need based aid goes up exponentially for private universities over state universities. Private colleges have more freedom to do what they please with their funds, opening the door for financial aid opportunuties.

If you’re a student with a specific talent or unconventional background, it’s worth looking into what non-need based aid that you might qualify for. For example, scholarships are non-need based aid that comes in all different forms. 

How to Get Aid

Non-need based aid encompasses all of a student’s talents, regardless of whether they are in a classroom or not. For this reason, don’t be shy or bashful when it comes to listing talents on your college application or any private scholarship applications. There are thousands of strange scholarships that could highlight one of your hidden or not-so-hidden talents.

You also shouldn’t be afraid to nickel and dime your way along the non-need based aid trail. The idea is that the higher the dollar value, the more competition for the scholarship. However, 10 $1,500 scholarships are just as good as one $15,000 scholarship, and you won’t have nearly the same level of competition and applicants.

Whether you come from a wealthy family or you have exemplary grades, a non-need based scholarship can help offset the costs of tuition and living expenses. It’s an excellent way to pay for college and keep your student debt to a minimum.