The Excelsior Scholarship is the first of its kind. In 2017, the State of New York made history with the scholarship by starting the country’s first statewide tuition-free college program. 

But what do you have to do to win the Excelsior Scholarship? That’s what we’re going to look at in this post! 

And to make sure you have all of the information you need, we’re also going to look at: 

  • How the Excelsior Scholarship Program works, including the scholarship award amount and what it covers
  • The list of Excelsior Scholarship eligible schools 
  • The eligibility requirements for the Excelsior Scholarship 
  • How to apply for the Excelsior Scholarship 
  • The application timeline 
  • How the COVID-19 Pandemic May Affect the Excelsior Scholarship

One last note before we jump in: If you’d like to win more than the Excelsior Scholarship maximum ($5,500), Scholly Search is the #1 scholarship app in the world and will instantly match you with hundreds-of-thousands of dollars scholarships based on your interests, accomplishments, and traits. Give it a try today with a 100% free trial!

What is the Excelsior Scholarship Program?

The Excelsior Scholarship is a scholarship for New York residents who attend an undergraduate degree program at one of the CUNY or SUNY colleges. As a recipient of the Excelsior Scholarship, you can receive up to $5,500 per year of full-time study. 

Notice that we said “up to $5,500”. Not everyone receives that exact amount. That’s because the Excelsior Scholarship is a “last dollar” scholarship. This means the exact amount of the scholarship is based on how much you need to cover the remaining costs of attendance after receiving other forms of federal financial aid (e.g. Pell grants, scholarships, etc). 

It’s also important to keep in mind that the Excelsior Scholarship only covers the cost of tuition. So, you’ll still need to pay out of pocket or find additional sources of funding for things like books, room and board, daily living expenses, etc.

Another thing to know right away is that to accept an Excelsior Scholarship, you’ll need to sign an agreement stating that you will live and work in the state of New York after graduating for the same number of years you receive the scholarship. 

If you decide to break this agreement, the scholarship becomes a 10-year zero-interest loan that you’ll need to pay back. 

Excelsior Scholarship Program School List 

As you may know, the CUNY and SUNY public college system includes a lot of schools. That’s good news because it means you have a lot of options for where you could use the Excelsior Scholarship!

Here’s a list of all of the schools that currently participate in the Excelsior Scholarship Program: 

CUNY Colleges

SUNY Colleges 

Eligibility for Excelsior Scholarship Program 

With so many options for where you can study, the Excelsior Scholarship sounds like a great opportunity, right? Let’s check to make sure you’re eligible to apply! 

According to the latest application requirements, to be eligible for an Excelsior Scholarship, you must fit the following criteria: 

  • New York resident for at least one year before applying 
  • U.S high school graduate
  • A family income of $125,000 or less
  • Pursuing an undergraduate degree at a SUNY or CUNY college, including community colleges and the statutory colleges at Cornell University and Alfred University
  • Sign a contract agreeing to reside in New York State (NYS) for the length of time the award was received, and, if employed during such time, be employed in NYS
  • Enrolled in at least 12 credits per term and complete at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward your degree program through continuous study with no break in enrollment except for certain reasons that can be documented
  • If you attended college prior to the 2020-21 academic year, you need to have earned at least 30 credits each year (successively), applicable toward your degree program prior to applying
  • In a non-default status on a student loan made under any NYS or federal education loan program or on the repayment of any NYS award
  • In compliance with the terms of the service condition(s) imposed by an NYS award that you have previously received

How to Apply for the Excelsior Scholarship 

As long as you fit the eligibility requirements we just mentioned, applying for the Excelsior Scholarship is relatively simple. 

You just need to submit:

Excelsior Scholarship Application Timeline 

The timeline for the Excelsior Scholarship is also pretty simple. 

October – March: Submit the FAFSA and TAP

March – April: The Excelsior Scholarship Program application opens 

July – August: The application closes  

Once you’re approved to receive the Excelsior Scholarship, the award amount will be included in your next financial aid package. 

And that’s it! What’s also great is that you won’t need to reapply for the scholarship if you need it for multiple years. 

How the COVID-19 Pandemic May Affect the Excelsior Scholarship 

The Excelsior Scholarship Program is funded by the state of New York, which is why the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into question what the future of the scholarship could look like. 

The New York Post recently reported that, according to Division of Budget spokesman Freeman Klopott, the State is contending with a devastating revenue loss, amounting to $61 billion over four years, and in the absence of multi-year federal funding for New York State, awards may have to be reduced.”

So is the Excelsior Scholarship being offered or will it be cancelled? The Higher Education Services Corporation website, which is where you find the Excelsior Scholarship application, currently tells students: 

“Please note that the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced state revenues and the processing of new applications is pending on Federal assistance, which has been delayed since April. Excelsior Scholarship awards may have to be reduced and/or prioritized for current recipients as provided for under the program,” a notice on the state’s Higher Education Services Corporation website tells students.

And according to the financial aid office at SUNY Buffalo State College, tuition is frozen at $3,235/semester for Excelsior-eligible students until 2021-22. However, it’s still unclear if the same rule applies to other colleges under the Excelsior Scholarship Program.

Where to Find More Scholarships 

The Excelsior Scholarship is just one of many amazing scholarship opportunities you can win to help pay for college. And since it only covers the cost of tuition, you may still be on the lookout for some more scholarships.

So, be sure to check out Scholly Search, our awesome scholarship database that can help you find all of the scholarships you’re qualified for! You can also check out the rest of our blog where we share tips and strategies on how you can find ways to pay for college and win other scholarships like the Coca-Cola Scholarship.

Good luck!