Close this search box.

What Are Need-Based Scholarships?

Table of Contents

Applying for scholarships is often overwhelming. Before diving into the process, it’s important to identify what kinds of scholarships you may qualify for. More specifically, it’s important to determine your eligibility based on academic achievement or financial need.

If it’s the latter, then it’s time to start asking some important questions. How can FAFSA help, for instance? What does it take to qualify? And what are need-based scholarships, anyway? In this guide, we’ll walk you through this unique form of financial aid. We’ll also discuss specific eligibility requirements and how they differ from other available scholarships.


What is a Need-Based Scholarship?

need-based scholarships

Need-based scholarships provide exceptional financial opportunities for low-income students preparing for college. Awards are based on family income and are subject to change each academic year. While not entirely common, certain programs may consider other factors like academic performance or artistic achievements in addition to financial status.

Need-Based Scholarships Vs. Merit-Based Scholarships

Many schools offer scholarship opportunities to students based on test scores or athletic achievements. These kinds of awards are known as “merit-based scholarships.” In contrast, need-based scholarships are more concerned with financial abilities to cover the costs of tuition. Different scholarship programs may use different methods to determine financial needs. Contact your school’s financial aid office to be sure.

Eligibility Criteria

The first step is to determine your eligibility. Need-based scholarship applications may require a College Scholarship Service Profile. This application exists independent of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and can be obtained directly from your college of choice. Both forms help determine your family’s financial needs and what kind of aid you qualify for. Demographic information may also help influence your reward.

None of this applies to merit-based financial support. These scholarships are based on athletic achievement or academic excellence. That said, students awarded merit-based scholarships typically need to maintain a minimum GPA or performance. Academic attendance, recommendations, and essays may also influence your award.

Application Process

To apply for need-based financial aid, you must complete the FAFSA. After establishing how much aid you qualify for, you can contact your target schools to see if they have independent scholarship opportunities for additional financial assistance.

Most merit-based scholarships do not require you to complete the FAFSA, though some may. Additional application requirements include interviews, essays, and recommendations


Different scholarship programs receive funding from different sources, though there are some important distinctions between merit and need-based awards. Merit scholarships are often funded by the schools alone. Meanwhile, needs-based funds may come from any of the following entities:

  • Government
  • Foundations
  • Private Sponsors
  • Community and religious organizations

Examples of Need-Based Scholarships

There are dozens of need-based scholarships across the United States. In 2020, it was estimated that nearly $9 billion in need-based aid was awarded for the academic year. While private institutions may have their own programs, opportunities also exist at the federal or state level.

Pell Grant Scholarship

The Pell Grant Scholarship is perhaps the most widely distributed and well-known need-based scholarship offered by the federal government. High school students who display exceptional financial need are eligible to apply. Graduate students enrolled in courses do not qualify for the Pell Grant but may qualify for federal loans or the TEACH grant.

In 2021, nearly 7 million college students received money from the Pell Grant program, with the maximum amount of funding available falling just short of $7,000.

To apply, all undergraduate students must complete the FAFSA. From there, you can determine your expected family contribution (EFC), or the estimated amount your family will put towards your college tuition. You can calculate your final award by subtracting the cost of attendance (COA) from your EFC and looking at the difference.

ICOHS College Institutional Scholarship

ICOHS College offers different types of need-based scholarships for students attending our San Diego campus. Funds go towards tuition and are not distributed to students directly. Students must apply before their start date and meet with a financial advisor.

Awards apply to our Certificate Program in Massage Therapy, Associate’s Degree in Information Technology, and additional IT certification programs.

Isaac Ynhu Lee Memorial Arts Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded to college students who are pursuing a degree in art. The deadline to apply occurs in mid-April. Students may receive up to $12,000. To apply, high schoolers can write about a favorite piece of art they’ve created and what inspired its creation.

Ron Johnston Student-Athlete Scholarship

The Ron Johnston scholarship is awarded to high school athletes pursuing an undergraduate degree who have not already been recruited by a college team. This scholarship is $1,350 and maintains a deadline in early June. To apply, students must write about something or someone who has deeply inspired them in their journey.

The Gates Scholarship

The Gates Scholarship applies to high school seniors from minority backgrounds and low-income households. 300 students receive this scholarship each year.

It’s also one of the most generous scholarships available. The funds cover the remaining cost of attendance that is not covered by federal grants. The amount also excludes the student’s expected family contribution.

Philanthropic Education Organization for Continuing Education Grant

This program makes funds available to women who have demonstrated financial need and are already enrolled in an accredited certification or degree program. Recipients will receive a one-time gift of $3,000 deposited directly into their account.

The organization was established back in 1869. To date, they have donated millions of dollars in scholarships and grants to students in need.

Macy’s Emergency Scholarship Fund

The Macy’s Emergency Scholarship is targeted toward Puerto Rican students facing unexpected economic hardships due to a burglary, natural disaster, death, or eviction. Students must have previously enrolled in school and maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Awards may vary, though they generally do not exceed five hundred dollars. 96% of past recipients went on to successfully complete their program at their college or university.

Do States Offer Their Own Need-Based Scholarships?

need-based scholarships (1)

States have the ability to establish aid as well. Below, you’ll find a few examples along with their deadline and requirements.

Cal Grant

  • Eligibility: Demonstrated financial need, attending a California Community College (CCC)
  • Amount: Up to $12,00
  • Deadline: FAFSA and state application by September 2

Check out our complete guide to the CAL Grant. Learn more about eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Opportunity Scholarship in Idaho

  • Eligibility: Based on need and requires a 2.7 cumulative GPA or higher
  • Amount: Up to $3,500
  • Deadline: FAFSA and state application by March 1

The Alaska Education Grant

  • Eligibility: Demonstrated financial need, attending eligible institutions in Alaska
  • Amount: $500 – $4,000
  • Deadline: Completed FAFSA by June 30th

The Oregon Opportunity Grant

  • Eligibility: Low-income Oregon residents attending approved institutions
  • Amount: Up to $4,692
  • Deadline: Submit FAFSA by March 31st

Is it Possible to Lose Your Scholarship?

Typically, you must renew the scholarship process each year. That way, the program can assess your needs. Changes in financial status may complicate your eligibility. A failure to complete elements of the application process, like completing the FAFSA or obtaining a letter of recommendation, can also put your scholarship at risk. Students must also maintain behavioral standards and minimum academic performance.


What Are the 4 Types of Scholarships?

There are many different types of scholarships out there. Some of the most common categories include academic scholarships and merit scholarships, need-based scholarships, military scholarships, and legacy scholarships. Funding typically comes from the government, a foundation, private donors, or religious groups.

Why Are Need-Based Scholarships Important?

Need-based scholarships allow low-income high school students to enjoy opportunities they could not otherwise afford. These programs also contribute to a more diverse study body, allowing individuals from different backgrounds to interact on campus.

Does Harvard Offer Need-Based Scholarships?

Harvard’s financial aid is entirely need-based. Assistance is available for all four years, provided they receive updated information from your family each year. Foreign students receive the same access to funding as U.S. citizens.


Need-based scholarships are an important resource for high school students across the country. These programs allow individuals from low-income households to pursue an education they could not otherwise achieve. They can also massive influence future endeavors.

According to a recent study by the Georgetown University Center on Education, bachelor’s degree holders can make upwards of 75% more than those with just a high school diploma. If you’re interested in pursuing a certificate or degree program in the San Diego area, plan your visit to ICOHS College today.

We offer scholarships and title IV funding to help students cover the cost of tuition. Call us to speak to one of our representatives (858) 581-9460 or contact us via email for more information on financial assistance.

Students attending ICOHS College will have full access to our career counseling program. They’ll also receive lifetime job placement assistance after graduation.

ICOHS College is accredited by the ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education, To learn more about ICOHS College accreditations and licenses, visit our accreditation page.

Subscribe For More

More Blog Posts


A.S. Degree In Information Technology

Cyber Security Specialist

IT Network Specialist

Professional Massage Therapist

Holistic Health Practitioner

More IT Programs

ICOHS College logo

Take The First Step

Request information to start a new meaningful career path and schedule to observe a class!

Get Started Today

Terms & Conditions

By submitting this form, you are giving your express written consent for ICOHS College to contact you regarding our programs and services using email, telephone or text – including our use of automated technology for calls and periodic texts to any wireless number you provide. Message and data rates may apply. This consent is not required to purchase goods/services and you may always call us directly at 858-581-9460.