Scholarships have been around for a long time now and (as with anything that has a history) rumors circulate and make scholarships look bad. Believing these rumors may discourage you from applying to scholarships. As you already know, a scholarship award is free money. Let me repeat that, A SCHOLARSHIP AWARD IS FREE MONEY!
My point is that scholarships are a huge help when it comes to paying for tuition. Since scholarship scams do exist, it is important to always do your research before applying. Here I’ve categorized and debunked many of the common myths about scholarships. Additionally, you’ll find extra resources throughout to help you with your research and application process.
Truth: Applying for scholarships can be an exhaustive process, but it is definitely worth it. Again, a scholarship award allows you to receive free money, which means never having to pay it back. Scholarship organizations can make the application process competitive and a hassle, but that is only because you (as an applicant) are viewed as a potential investment. They are making sure that their money is being well spent on your future. If they gave away money willy-nilly, they might lose their funding and not have any money to give away in the future.
Truth: This may seem contradictory to the last myth, and in a way it is. The scholarships that have a lot competition are typically from larger organizations who can afford to give away more, have an easier application process, and/or a larger award amount. Just because the scholarship is only for a few hundred dollars, doesn’t mean that you should dismiss it. Many students want the high-dollar scholarship awards (understandably so). This means that you may actually be more like to win the smaller scholarships simply due to less competition. Other scholarships that may have less students applying for them are ones that require essays with a higher word count. If you need help with writing an essay, check out a post I wrote a while back, 100 Top Tools for Writing the Best Admissions or Scholarship Essay.
Truth: This is actually one of the oldest scholarship myths around. It stems from misinterpreting data that was presented in a study done in the late 1970’s. All genuine scholarship organizations want to give away their money (crazy, right?), hence why they have created their scholarships in the first place. The two main reasons why award money goes unclaimed are either A) the criteria to receive the award was too specific and no one qualified, or B) the student chose not claim it for one reason or another (i.e.: changed prospective major thereby disqualifying the award, changed universities and the award was specific to that school, insanity, etc.).
Truth: If you have a perfect GPA, then congratulations, that is no small feat! While you should definitely be proud of yourself for accomplishing this goal, it does not automatically guarantee that you will receive a full-ride scholarship. There are more high academic-achieving students than there are scholarships.
Truth: This myth is partially true, but it is not as bad as it sounds. After you submit your FAFSA, your award letter will list all the federal aid you are eligible to receive. Federal aid includes grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans. It is federal law that if your federal aid completely covers your cost of attendance, and should you receive additional scholarship money, your original FAFSA award package will be reduced. You will most likely see that your eligible loan amount gets reduced, leaving your federal scholarships and grants untouched. Some scholarship organizations will reduce your award amount rather than having your federal aid reduced. If you have any other questions about your FAFSA award letter or how your scholarship money will affect it, contact your school’s financial aid department or browse through these financial aid resources.
Truth: There are a scholarships that are targeted at athletes and honor students, but those are absolutely not the only scholarships in existence. You will find that there is a scholarship out there for everyone with a little bit of digging.
Truth: Again, yes, there are scholarships specifically for African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, those with a Latino or Hispanic heritage, and every other background you can think of. This only further proves that there are scholarships out there for everyone. Scholarships are based on more than race, merit, or athleticism. To give you an idea of what I mean, check out a post we wrote a while back (but have recently updated) of 100 Unique and Weird Scholarships Worth Applying For.
Truth: You probably know what I am going to say by now, but I’ll say it anyway – there are scholarships for everyone. Yes, need-based scholarships exist, but there are plenty of other scholarships to choose from too.
Truth: If you’re in high school, don’t wait until your senior year to begin your scholarship search. Yes, many scholarships do require that you to be in your senior year and possibly already accepted into a degree program. Nevertheless, there are plenty of scholarships available to kids as young as 13. Check with your parent or guardian’s employer because sometimes they will offer scholarships to those younger than high school-age.
Truth: This one is both similar and opposite to the last myth. Rather than being too young, this myth refers to the complaint of, “I’m too old for scholarships.” This is simply not true. In fact, there are graduate-level research and fellowship-related scholarships that can only be awarded to those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Many colleges and universities at the undergraduate (associate and bachelor degree) level have scholarships that incoming and current students of theirs can apply for at any age.
I hope that after reading this you are more likely to go out there and apply for scholarships. To help you get started, I have one more resource for you, 101 Best Databases For Finding A Scholarship Online.
Scott Hawksworth is YesCollege.com's founder and editor. He writes with a focus on the challenges faced by students entering higher education, with an eye to making our readers aware of the pitfalls and opportunities that await all would-be graduates. Scott has a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from The Ohio State University.