Internal vs. External Scholarships

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Here in the University Scholarship Office at UNC Charlotte, we often use words like “internal” and “external” when classifying scholarship opportunities. Before I started my job here, I had little knowledge of the differences and similarities between the two. Not only is the application process drastically different between these two groups, but the way in which the scholarship funds are established and awarded are distinct. While the terms internal and external scholarships apply to most universities, what we’ll be discussing today is specific to how UNC Charlotte views these two definitions of scholarship opportunities.


Internal scholarships are those offered directly through the university, and are provided by donors or departments that have distributed the funds. There are hundreds of internal scholarships at UNC Charlotte, and many that are specific to each academic department. Most internal scholarships are based on academic merit, incoming freshman test scores, and leadership qualities. That being said, many internal scholarships are specific to students who demonstrate financial need through their FAFSA, are from an underrepresented population, or are considered non-traditional students. Some internal scholarships require an essay about a given topic, and many require academic or community recommendations.

Almost all internal scholarships at UNC Charlotte are found in the NinerScholars Portal, which will automatically match you to available scholarships for which you may be eligible to apply. The one exception to the NinerScholars Portal is the Levine Scholars Program, which has its own portal and application process. Once you have created your profile in NinerScholars, you’ll be able to check the requirements for each internal scholarship that you are matched with. NinerScholars allows you to submit one application, and apply to all scholarships for which you are eligible using the same materials. Click here to learn more about the NinerScholars Portal in one of our previous blog posts.


External scholarships are started by various companies, individuals, or organizations, and are sent to our office for review. After we thoroughly assess the opportunity, we will post it on our website for all UNC Charlotte students to access. External scholarship opportunities typically range from $750 - $5,000. While our database size fluctuates throughout the year, there are more than 50 external scholarship opportunities available on average on our website under the “Resources” tab.

External scholarships do not have the same types of guarantees that internal scholarships do, and may be more subjective in their selection process. There may be thousands of applicants for high-profile opportunities, and you will never know exactly who is judging your submission. External scholarships often don’t judge by merit either, and may use terms like “creativity” or “boldness” as their qualifying criteria. This can make it difficult for the student to know exactly where to focus their efforts during the application process. If you’d like to learn more about external scholarships, click here.

Use All of Your Resources

A good scholarship opportunity is a good scholarship opportunity, no matter if it considered internal or external. With the rising cost of college tuition, books, and other fees, it is important to secure scholarship funding without much consideration for the source of those funds. The key is that internal scholarships are naturally more “official” as they are managed directly by the university, whereas external scholarships are managed by the organization that has established the fund. Either way, our office is here to help you find the best scholarships opportunities that fit your skills and academics. Always feel free to contact us to learn more about internal and external scholarship opportunities at UNC Charlotte. 


The original blog was written by Taylor J. Valley, a Graduate Assistant in the University Scholarship Office at UNC Charlotte, and a student in the Master of Public Administration program. It was edited by Lauren Kueider, a Graduate Assistant in the University Scholarship Office, and a student in the Master of Health Administration and Health Informatics program.