When I was accepted into my undergraduate degree I received a substantial yearly scholarship. I would not have been able to afford attending Quest without this scholarship because Quest is expensive, at least by Canadian standards (my understanding is that American students are always astounded by its affordability). This being said, the majority of my scholarship was not based on my need, but instead on my high-school grades and extra-curricular activities. It is perhaps for this reason that I first reacted negatively when the president of my university said that it would be his preference if we eliminated preformance based scholarships and made all rewards entirely need based. I, I thought to myself, deserved that money (and also kind of needed it). I’d worked hard for my marks and such. If you’ve paid any attention at all to how I usually structure these examinations you can probably guess that I’ve somewhat reconsidered my position.
What do grades represent? What are they supposed to tell us about a person? I’d say that they indicate some mix of intelligence, dedication, affluence, and parental pressure. Three of the four are probably pretty obvious, and I doubt that affluence is that difficult to figure out – generally the better your material condition (as a youth), the more time you’ll be able to dedicate to school while still having a life. I do not think that affluence and parental pressure are factors that are good factors on which to base the distribution of money. I think that dedication may be worth rewarding. I’m somewhat on the fence about intelligence.
What is the purpose of scholarships? My understanding is that they exist for one reason: to encourage/enable students to attend an institution. I think there are a mix of selfish and altruistic motives involved: good students are the the lifeblood of a school’s reputation, but also I think school administrations like to help students.
I think that scholarships are important, but I am currently inclined to agree with my university’s president. I think that in many ways grade based scholarships reward things that really shouldn’t be rewarded. I would need to do a whole nother post to examine the basis on which students should be admitted to universities, but I think the scholarships should be need based.
Let me know what you think,