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Major impact: Academic programs affect scholarship eligibility

Illinois State University Scholarship recipient, Laura Beckman

Illinois State University scholarship recipient Laura Beckman.

It’s perfectly normal and acceptable not to know your academic major as an incoming student or even after you’ve been at Illinois State for a year or two. In fact, nearly a third of incoming freshmen are admitted to Illinois State without a specific major in mind.

Many students have trouble choosing between programs and fear missing out on exciting opportunities in other areas if they settle on a particular major. Still, there are some advantages to declaring your major early. Scholarship opportunities are one of the biggest benefits.

Academic departments

At Illinois State University, academic departments account for a large portion of the scholarships students receive. In addition to scholarship dollars, most departments also have some tuition waivers available which are similar to scholarships, but can only be applied to your tuition charges. The number and amount of scholarships and tuition waivers available depends on the department and/or college. Application processes and deadlines also vary between academic areas.

To find your department’s scholarship opportunities or to start searching for a major, visit IllinoisState.edu/Majors. If you are already in a major, your academic advisor may also be able to help you find information about scholarships offered by your department.

Future employers/professional organizations

The companies that hope to hire you someday are another great source of scholarship dollars. Major corporations like State Farm and Caterpillar and even some smaller businesses and nonprofit organizations fund a number of different scholarship opportunities because they want recipients to remember them when it comes time to find a job after college. Similarly, many hospitals offer scholarships for students in nursing or other health-related fields.

Professional organizations also put money into scholarship programs to give back to those entering their field and to encourage more students to join them. A great example is the Government Finance Officers Association, which is accepting applications now for a few scholarships aimed at students majoring in fields such as business, finance, political science, or economics, and intend to work in government or nonprofit management someday. To apply, visit their website at www.gfoa.org and look for “Student Opportunities.”

State and federal programs

The state and federal governments use scholarship and grant programs to encourage students to go into high-demand fields. The state of Illinois offers some scholarships for students in health fields who intend to work in rural areas. A number of state and federal programs are also available for students in education majors. Again, most of these are geared toward students in specific programs in which there is a shortage of qualified teachers in the field.

Have you found any scholarship opportunities based on your major? Share them with other students in the comments below!