In theory, a scholarship is open to any student who could demonstrate the required abilities. In practice, scholarships went to the people who knew about them, who knew how to apply.

In today’s world, most college applications including the request for financial aid is a process completed online.

Back in 2014, 94% of applications took place online. By now, the number has to be closer to 100%.

What happens if you don’t have access to a computer?

Moving applications online may streamline the process and make dealing with application information much easier for the colleges and universities. For the student who does not have online access or whose time online is limited to school and library hours, the new streamlined process is just another hurdle.

The answer came from a surprising source

Recognizing there is a barrier was a start. The next step was for a group of more than 90 universities and colleges to create the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success. Heavy hitters including Harvard, Princeton and Penn State along with the other universities are working to help students better use the computer time they do have.

The second initiative was to make better use of the cell phone. Writing an essay on a cell phone is impossible, but at least the establishments could make connections with students and then pull them into the paper system where necessary.

The search for scholarships

Finding the scholarships available is simply easier online. Because of the way internet searches work, students are much more likely to come across financial support from offbeat places. For example, one of the big credit report companies offers a small grant to students writing on how technology and content changed their life. In their parent’s generation, such obscure grants would never have been stumbled upon.

Matching the student to the grant

When a student creates a personal profile online, complex software algorithms can match the student to the grants where they may have a better chance of success rather than looking the other way around.

The point comes back to success rates, and it is rather like the service offered by companies offering to find users the “right” credit card. If you’re pre-qualified you are more likely to get in. The same principle applies to grant applications.

Order of magnitude

If that sounds unrealistic or unnecessarily complex, bear in mind there are over four million scholarships out there and the collective funds are in the billions of dollars. Researching all of those would be simply impossible.

Finding financial assistance is almost a full-time job

There is so much information out there and there are so many possibilities students almost need to apply as much time to finding financial aid as they do their school work.

What the internet has succeeded in doing is making more people aware of the range of resources existing out there and, to a great extent, it has levelled the field for the students who apply.