How to Get a Scholarship to Ivy League Colleges

by Courtney Anderson

Years of studying, completing long college applications and writing long essays can provide the ultimate payoff--admission to an Ivy League college. A degree from any one of these highly selective institutions will undoubtedly enhance the prospect of future success, but the excitement of acceptance can be quickly overshadowed by the fear of being saddled with thousands of dollars of debt upon graduation. If you are troubled by the idea of financing an Ivy League education, then you must learn how you can receive a scholarship from these colleges. The cost of attending an Ivy League college is high. Tuition, room and board for the 2009-10 academic year ranges from $36,915, the cost of Dartmouth, to $49,986, the cost of the University of Pennsylvania (see reference 1 and reference 2). A common misconception about Ivy League colleges is that they exclude prospective students based on wealth, creating an environment composed solely of privileged individuals. However, the Ivies strive for socioeconomic diversity as shown by the policy of providing financial aid only to those who have demonstrated need.

Visit your college's financial aid website and complete all financial aid paperwork required so that the college can assess what you and your family can afford to pay. One document that most Ivy League colleges require is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You must provide untaxed income records, W-2 forms, bank statements and your parents' federal income tax returns in order to complete the FAFSA. After you submit this application, you will receive a student aid report that details what, if any, federal assistance you can receive (see reference 3).

Provide your college with anything that affects your family's ability to pay that is not reflected on the required paperwork. If you have siblings, especially enrolled in college, the financial aid office will acknowledge the burden of paying multiple tuitions and may reduce your family's contribution. It is important to list any special situations, such as medical bills or threatened job security, which may decrease your family's expected contribution.

Appeal any financial aid decisions if you feel the decision is not consistent with your financial situation by writing to the college's financial aid office. If you decide to appeal, be very specific about factors that you believe were not adequately considered, and be patient in receiving the subsequent decision.

Review the financial aid award your college gives you. In the past, this scholarship amount included low-interest-rate loans. Ivy League schools are now trending toward replacing these loans with grants that do not have to be repaid. Princeton eliminated loans from financial aid awards in 2001, and Dartmouth followed suit in 2008.

Use outside scholarships to cover all or any portion of your family's expected contribution. Visit scholarships.com, finaid.org, fastweb.com and freescholarshipguide.com to locate scholarships based on merit, need, special talents and affiliations. Go beyond these large databases and seek out scholarships from smaller organizations that may be available in your community. There are also non-profit organizations that connect low-income students with Ivy League colleges. QuestBridge is a program that forms partnerships with a number of elite universities, including Columbia, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Yale. Through the organization's National College Match Program, high school seniors can apply to receive admission, as well as a full four-year scholarship to any of QuestBridge's partner colleges.

About the Author

Courtney Anderson is an associate at a large Chicago law firm. She has a bachelor's degree in finance and general management from the University of Pittsburgh and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. Anderson sits on the associate board of a charter school, has traveled extensively and enjoys reading and writing about the arts, education, politics and culture.