You’ve probably heard someone point out that more than half of all scholarship dollars available to students go unclaimed every year. Well…this stat isn’t technically true. Like other scholarship myths, it’s based on misinterpretation of study data from several decades ago. However, even if the original quote is a misunderstanding…it still rings true.
Billions of dollars in scholarships, grants, and other student aid are open to students like you every year. One of the main reasons so many scholarships go unclaimed is that students simply don’t know they’re out there. Or, more often, rumors and misunderstandings keep students like you from applying.
Today, we’re going to debunk some of the most common scholarship myths. We’ve already knocked out one, but let’s look at six other big misconceptions about the process:
Myth #1: Hunting for Scholarships Isn’t Worth it
Let’s start with the most ridiculous one of all. Considering how much money is available and the life-changing impact those funds can have, the idea that hunting for scholarships is a waste of time is complete nonsense. Just imagine that you spend 20 hours looking and end up with a $5,000 grant or scholarship as a result. That’s the equivalent of getting paid $250 an hour! Are you really going to turn down that kind of return on investment?
Myth #2: You Need to Be an Honor Student
There are plenty of opportunities available for students with less-than-perfect academic records. In Florida, for example, the Bright Futures Scholarship Program is available to any student in the state who has at least a 3.0 GPA and acceptable SAT or ACT scores, and who completes 75 hours of community service. This program may not cover all your expenses, but it will cover a large portion of your tuition.
Myth #3: A Perfect GPA Means You Get a Full-Ride to College
Wrong. Just as an imperfect record won’t immediately disqualify you, 4.0+ GPA doesn’t mean your tuition is automatically covered. While there are plenty of full-ride scholarships out there, fewer than 1% of all students will land one. If you want to get your entire college experience covered, your best bet is to apply for as many awards as you can.
Myth #4: Some Awards Will Disqualify You for Others
It’s true that you may not be allowed to accept more financial aid than your estimated cost of attendance. However, this is handled on a case-by-case basis depending on the institution and the award in question, and certain awards may or may not help, but it’s very rare that it will hurt.
Myth #5: Awards are Only Open to Low-Income or Minority Students
There are many awards intended to help students from traditionally-disadvantaged backgrounds. However, it’s not the majority; in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported in 2011 than white students receive 76% of institutional scholarships and are 40% more likely to win a private scholarship award. As for income, it’s true that federal grants are specifically intended for low-income students. However, most private scholarships do not account for family income in the awards process.
Myth #6: You Should Wait Until Senior Year to Apply
Absolutely not! In fact, the earlier you start your scholarship hunt, the better. There are some awards that are specifically intended for high school seniors, but they will mention that as a condition before the application process. Otherwise, you can apply in your junior year or even earlier. The organization providing the award will wait to disburse the funds until you’re enrolled in a college.