Financial Aid/Scholarships

The financial aid process can be an overwhelming process for all.  Below are a few guidelines pertaining to the different types of aid and processes. We strongly advocate applying to a broad range of schools that interest you, regardless of their price tags or need-aware policies.  Need-based and merit-based financial aid can make all manner of schools affordable; we urge you to wait and see what they offer you.


Wondering how to pay for college?  Become more financially literate and find funding sources through the following video guides and resources at


Virtually all colleges offer need-based financial aid.  A typical need-based aid package might include grants (from the college and/or the government) that you need not pay back, loans (often government-issued and discounted in terms of interest charged and payment schedule), and a paid campus job (work-study).

When in doubt as to whether you will qualify for some kind of need-based aid, you may use a web-based financial aid calculator to see how colleges might regard your situation.  While individual schools perform this analysis in their own ways, this tool may indicate whether applying for aid would be worthwhile.  If your financial situation is complex, if special circumstances adversely affect your economic situation, or if a web-based calculator indicates you’re close to qualifying for need-based aid, you may qualify for more aid than the calculator suggests.  In general, if you think you might need financial aid, you should apply for it.  In any case, the calculator can help you shape your final list of colleges to ensure that it includes affordable options.  Financial aid calculators take little time to use and are available at various sites, such as,, and  These sites provide other useful financial information as well.

Even more helpful is the Net Price Calculator that each college is required to post on its web site.  These are customized to each college’s own cost structure and financial aid policies.  After completing any Net Price Calculator, it is prudent to call that college’s financial aid office to ask 1) if you did it correctly, and 2) how close an estimate you should assume it is.  Bear in mind that Net Price Calculators neither can be, nor are meant to be, exact calculations or guarantees of cost or aid.  They are merely estimators to give you some sense of your likely cost.  The financial package your child eventually receives may include aid that the calculator could not anticipate and the financial aid office could not promise prior to completion of the admissions process.  Whether or not you anticipate aid, always wait to see what a college actually offers.

In order to qualify for need-based financial aid, you (student and parents together) must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after October 1 of your senior year.  You’ll find it at (always be sure you have the .gov site for FAFSA).  If you want a preliminary estimate of the government’s calculation of your need, you can find a FAFSA estimator at the same site.

Depending on where you’re applying, you may also need to complete the CSS PROFILE required by many selective colleges.  The PROFILE is available at

Finally, some colleges may also require their own financial aid form.


The most important thing for you to know about merit-based aid is that If you wish to compete for merit-based scholarships (scholarships based on academic success, test scores, special talents, etc.), you will need to hustle to find them.  The process is highly individualized, and the sources of scholarships are many, so this will take some work.  Of course, Prairie will do all it can to assist in your efforts.  Here are some beginning tips:

The major sources of merit-based aid are:

  • Colleges and universities, especially private ones.  These are the richest sources of merit-based aid.  Be aware, however, that extremely selective colleges typically offer little or no merit-based awards.
  • Employers
  • Local organizations (e.g., Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, etc.)
  • Churches and other religious organizations (at the national level)
  • Other national organizations

Many nationwide scholarship search engines are available,

Check directly with your colleges to learn more about their scholarship opportunities (not all colleges notify students of scholarship opportunities), as well as with your employer and place of worship.  Watching the newspaper for local scholarships is wise, as is checking scholarship announcements at the public library.

We publish an array of independent scholarship opportunities in Google Drive and occasionally announce particular opportunities at Morning Meeting.  If you’re interested in scholarships for which we have not yet posted updated information in Google Drive, please take the initiative and contact the sponsor directly to ask if they’re still offering it.


A word about need-blind vs. need-aware policies at colleges:  College costs have risen to such a degree that most private colleges have had to become need-aware, meaning that when they’re evaluating students’ applications they are aware of whether any given student has applied for financial aid.  Fortunately, in most cases need does not affect admission decisions; colleges factor it in only in the final stages when they’re splitting hairs for the last few seats.  Generally speaking, colleges (especially private colleges) work hard to come as close as possible to meeting students’ demonstrated need, especially for strong candidates.

Need-blind colleges, on the other hand, make all admissions decisions with no awareness of whether a student has applied for financial aid.  (This does not necessarily apply to international, transfer, and wait-listed students.)  A small number of colleges have managed to remain need-blind and meet full demonstrated need.  Always inquire directly about financial aid policies at your colleges of interest.

Scholarship Opportunities

We’re pleased to post here scholarship opportunities sent to us.


The Amazon Future Engineer  scholarship program assists high school seniors who have completed an advanced placement computer science course and plan to continue their education at an accredited four-year college or university majoring in computer science, software engineering, computer engineering or other computer related field of study.  Winners of the award receive $10,000 at an accredited four-year college or university as well as a paid summer internship at Amazon after their freshman year of college.

The 2021 program will be accepting applications beginning in November 2020.

Click here to be notified when the application opens!

The ACM/CSTA Cutler-Bell Prize in High School Computing is designed to recognize talented high school students intending to continue their higher education in the areas of computer science or technology. The program seeks to promote and encourage the field of computer science and empower young and aspiring learners to pursue computing challenges outside of the traditional classroom environment.

The Award

Up to four winners will be selected annually and will receive:

  • a $10,000 scholarship (administered through the financial aid department at the university the student will attend)
  • an expense-paid trip to the CSTA Annual Conference in July (to receive the award)
  • recognition on CSTA and ACM’s websites

Eligibility Requirements

To apply for the Cutler-Bell prize, you must:

  • Live in the United States
  • Be a graduating high school senior at an accredited school
  • Plan to continue studying computer science
  • Create an original computational artifact (e.g., program)

Application & Review

Students must develop an original computational artifact that engages modern computing technology and computer science. See previous winners to learn about the types of projects selected.

The application includes:

  • Description of your project and development (two essays of <1,000 words each)
  • Project source code and executable file
  • Short video showing and describing the project (2-5 minutes)
  • Consent form (under 18over 18)

A group of educators will review all submissions and judge the project’s ingenuity, complexity, relevancy, originality, and the student’s desire to further computer science as a discipline.


Applications for 2020-21 Open Now!

The application is open until 18 January 2021. To apply for the award, please follow these steps:


  1. Go to the application website.
  2. Select “submit an application.”
  3. Create a Cvent account, using an email address you use.
  4. Follow application prompts, and fill out all required information, including the consent form.
  5. You will receive a confirmation message when submitted. If you have any questions regarding the process, please reach out to All applicants will receive notice of their application status by early March 2021.

High school seniors nationwide who demonstrate leadership, drive, integrity, and citizenship are invited to apply for the 2021 GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program. This program annually provides college-bound students with $10,000 renewable scholarships – up to $40,000 total per recipient – and supports them as they lead and serve in college and beyond.

Help put promising young leaders in the running for this prestigious award. Share this news with candidates who exemplify these characteristics inside and outside the classroom and encourage them to apply.

Additional information, eligibility requirements, and a link to the application are available online.

You may also follow us on Facebook and learn more about the Foundation’s other programs for students and educators.

Candidates who have questions about the application process may contact the program’s administrator, Scholarship America, at

Click here to apply online

Deadline: January 5th, 2021

Through the JRF application, more than 4,000 talented young minority high school students apply to become JRF Scholars and carry on the civic-minded legacy of the foundation’s namesake, Jackie Robinson.

The JRF Scholarship program addresses the financial needs of college students and provides extensive, hands-on mentoring and support services. Once chosen from a national, selective application process, JRF Scholars receive a generous four-year grant to attend the undergraduate school of their choice and enroll in JRF’s celebrated “42 Strategies for Success Curriculum.” This four-year program guides JRF Scholars to effectively navigate their college environments, explore career options, develop leadership skills, and embrace a commitment to service. The program also promotes the values and character traits embodied in the heroic life of Jackie Robinson, encouraging JRF Scholars to positively impact the lives of others.

To learn more about JRF, please visit their website at

Click here to apply online

Deadline: February 1st, 2021 at 4:00PM CST

The Panther Partners Lunch & Learn Series is a virtual lunch hour discussion about hot topics in admissions and across campus at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. This series, held on the second Tuesday of every month from October 2020 – April 2021, is hosted by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. We will feature current students and guests from across UWM’s campus resource and support services. Please join us for any of our upcoming fall Lunch and Learn programs:

November 10: Affordability and Scholarships at UWM
Did you know UWM now offers a renewable Chancellor’s Merit Scholarship to any student with a 3.4 GPA or higher starting in the Fall of 2021? Or that we now offer our $1,000 MAP grant to Minnesota students? We’ve made a few changes to our scholarship programs and introduced a new portal to students over the last year to make the scholarship search and application process at UWM easier to navigate!Join us via Zoom: Meeting ID: 833 1414 1334 Passcode: zrdax8

Legacy Awards provide $4,000 scholarships for children and grandchildren of dues-paying Elks members. The Elks National Foundation (ENF) offers a total of 350 awards nationally.
The Legacy Awards program begins on September 1st, 2020.

Click here to apply online

Deadline: February 5th, 2021