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Financial Aid & Scholarships Office

Scholarship Resources Office, University of Colorado Denver

UC Denver Scholarship Resource Office

The Scholarship Process

Scholarships have Three Basic Components

Scholarships usually have one, two or three of these components. The combination and/or strength of these components will determine how competitive you are for scholarships.

1. Merit

Merit consists of recent or current grades

  • Very High Merit is 3.75 and above
  • High Merit is 3.5
  • Merit is 3.0

Below 3.0 --there are very few scholarship opportunities and these almost always have a stronger component such as financial need, gender, or ethnicity as the main component.

2. Financial Need

There are two types of financial need in the scholarship process—FAFSA need and individual scholarship income assessment.

  • FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid is a government application. Financial Aid Offices are required to utilize this government formula for federal and state grant funds and student loans. The FAFSA has a formula which uses income and income taxes, number of people in the household and several other concrete measurements.  Some scholarships utilize this formula.
  • Individual Scholarship Income Assessment. Most scholarship applications will ask for an individual assessment of your budget. This is the place to discuss special issues that need to be explained in greater detail. If there is no place for it on the budget piece, attach a copy of the explanation to the application.  IF the application states no attachments are allowed you may want to devote some time to this in the essay, if the essay allows for it.

3. Miscellaneous Components

  • Community Service/Volunteer Work - ANYTHING you do for others - at an organization such as a school, church, youth organization or non- profit facility; helping a neighbor or relative who is a senior or disabled
  • Preferences - ethnic minority, first generation (neither parent has a four year degree), single parent and female are common
  • Outside Work - part time or full time employment

Scholarships are Broken into Three General Categories

1. Scholarships Internal to the University or College

These are scholarships offered by the college or university and are offered in general categories such as:

  • Merit
  • College or degree specific within a university
  • General college/university scholarships available to all students who meet requirements
  • Applications processes vary by college or university from one application for all, an application for each scholarship, or other various processes. Check with each school.

2. Local and Regional Scholarships

  • Local organizations - credit unions, churches; organizations in which parents or students are involved
  • Regional and state-wide organizations such as labor unions, associations and non-profit groups

3. National Scholarships

  • These are highly competitive scholarships at a national level and more difficult to receive.
  • Apply for these if you are competitive or after you are comfortable with the application process for the university and regional scholarships. 

A Strategy for Locating Scholarships

Begin Now

  • There is no good or bad time to apply as the process is ongoing.
  • If you miss a deadline add it to your list for next year.


Develop a separate calendar to log scholarship data. Include scholarship name, date due, a back up date of six weeks to allow time to get an application and complete it, requirements of scholarship (application, transcript, essay, references) and additional optional comments.

Entering Freshmen

Locate scholarships at each college or university you are seriously considering. Apply for any scholarships for which you are eligible by the deadlines. In most cases you will have to be accepted into the university before you can apply. There are also regional and national scholarships designated for entering freshmen students. You can receive these only the first time you are entering college.

Locate Scholarships

Begin with the college or university you are attending.  Locate all scholarships for your year group, major, ethnicity or gender and any other miscellaneous ones.

Develop an Ongoing List

  • Develop yourself
  • Internships
  • Volunteer work
  • Maintain or improve grades
  • Clubs or organizations

Good in high school – great. Build on it. Otherwise start over in college.



One or two faculty members or teachers who know your work


A supervisor who has worked with you in your work or volunteer time

Resume or Personal Profile

Give each referee either a resume or personal profile with all of your activities as each referee usually does not know all of your activities in detail


Be uniquely you.

Brainstorm about you. Write about your childhood, what you plan to do with your degree, you life dreams or aspirations, or a significant event for example.

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