There are a lot of myths about winning scholarships. These myths can hurt students and their families in the end, by causing some students to underestimate their eligibility for scholarships and discouraging them from applying altogether.
On the other side, some myths cause students and parents to overestimate their eligibility for scholarships. This can cause them to overlook other important forms of financial aid and unique ways to save to cover college costs.
Top 10 Scholarship Myths
- Only Straight-A Students Win Scholarships
Students with the best grades are not the only ones winning scholarships! Yes, students with better grades have better odds of winning but average students win scholarships too.
Not all scholarships are based on academic performance. In fact, less than 10 percent of private scholarships are based on grades. Each scholarship provider is looking for students that match their criteria and this looks different across the board.
One scholarship provider may be looking for artistic talents—like music, writing, video production, etc. The possibilities are endless; there are a lot of fun and weird scholarships out there that do not require a high GPA.
If you’re not a student with a high GPA, consider volunteering or community service and participating in extracurricular activities—both in high school and college. Scholarship committees and judges like to see awards going to students that are making a positive impact on themselves and the greater good.
- Most Scholarships are Just for Minority Students
Minority status is typically determined by gender, race, and sexual orientation. Caucasian students win more than their fair share of scholarships, not minority students. According to CollegeStats.org, minorities receive only 28 percent of all higher education scholarships.
This is probably not due to intentional discrimination, but rather the scholarship criteria itself. For instance, minority students are less likely to be involved in—or have opportunities—in equestrian sports, polo and women in STEM programs. And, while the gap is shifting, fewer minority students are majoring in STEM fields.
It’s our goal to make it easier for all students to find scholarships that fit them. Minority and first-generation college students should have easy access to scholarship opportunities!
Here are just a few scholarship lists focused on minority students working on their college degrees:
Scholarships for Asian Students
Scholarships for Black Students
Scholarships for Hispanic Students
Scholarships for Native American Students
Scholarships for LGBTQ Students
Scholarships for Women
- My Child Will Win a Full Ride with Scholarships
Very few students win a full ride to college via scholarships.
It’s a big deal to be the top student in your school, however there are more than 85,000 high school valedictorians and salutatorians each year. Even the most talented students have a lot of scholarship competition!
Parents and students often overestimate their eligibility for merit scholarships and underestimate their eligibility for need-based aid.
Students should always apply for both types of aid, by:
Apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid(FAFSA) to earn financial aid from the federal and state governments and most colleges. According to EducationData.org, “85% of first-time, full-time students attending four-year colleges receive federal aid,” and nearly a fourth of all federal grants are Pell Grants.
Applying for scholarships. Scholarships are part of the plan to pay for college, not the entire plan. Most students will have to rely on student loans, student employment and need-based grants—including scholarships—to pay for college.
- I'm Not an Athlete, So I Won't Win Any Money
The belief that only athletes win scholarships is rubbish. Students are much more likely to win private scholarships than athletic scholarships. EducationData.org states that each year there are more than $24 billion in scholarships available to college students. This equates to about 5 million scholarship opportunities.
“Fewer than 2% of high school student-athletes are offered athletic scholarships,” and many of these scholarships are not full rides, according to Next College Student Athlete (NCSA).
- You Have to be Poor to Win Scholarships
Middle-income students are more likely to win private scholarships than low-income or upper-income students. Most private scholarships are not based on financial need.
- Only High School Seniors Can Apply for Scholarships
Students can apply for scholarships at every grade level—elementary, middle, high school, college, and graduate students. In fact, the Doodle for Google is a popular scholarship that is available for kindergartners through high school seniors.
There are award deadlines every month of the year. Deadlines peak in the fall and spring semesters; a student that waits to begin applying for scholarships in the spring will miss about half of the scholarship deadlines!
- Private High School Students Win More Scholarships
Students from private high schools do win more scholarships and merit-based grants than students from public high schools. The reason for this is primarily because private-school staff are more often aware of opportunities and usually work more closely with students and their parents to promote applying for scholarships. However, the award totals are not enough to compensate for the cost of private school tuition or the cost of college.
Many public-school teachers and counselors have larger classrooms and student bodies to work with, leaving them less time to focus on student scholarship application submissions. Fastweb for Educators offers a free program and tools for time-crunched public high school teachers and counselors.
- Billions in Scholarships Went Unclaimed Last Year
The unclaimed scholarship myth is based on a 1976-77 academic year study by the National Institute of Work and Learning (NIWL). NIWL estimated that $7 billion was potentially available from employers in the form of employer tuition assistance, but only $300 to $400 million was being used each year.
This myth can also be linked to the National College Attainment Network’s report that $3.75 billion in Pell Grants were not claimed by students from the class of 2021. This total is related to the FAFSA, as students must complete this to receive federal and state financial aid. This number is not related to private scholarships.
- Colleges Reduce Need-Based Aid When You Win Scholarships. Why Bother?
Colleges do cut need-based aid when a student is over awarded, but many will use the private scholarship to reduce the student's debt and work burden, saving the student some money.
When a student receives their total financial aid package it includes private and merit scholarships, institutional grants, work-study program options, Pell Grants, and federal loans. If this total award package exceeds the student's financial need, the student is considered over awarded.
Federal regulations and college policies require the colleges to adjust the over awarded student's need-based financial aid package when it exceeds financial need. This is called displacement.
Although the colleges must reduce the student's need-based financial aid package, they do have some flexibility in how the financial aid package is calculated. Students and parents can also appeal their financial aid award letter. Most colleges will try to ensure that the students still get some financial benefit from winning a scholarship.
- Searching and Applying for Scholarships is Too Much Work
It takes work to win scholarships. However, the amount of work is minimal compared to the possible scholarship payouts. If students don’t use a scholarship database to help them find the most relevant scholarship to apply for, they will be wasting a lot of time.
Fastweb is updated daily with awards, and students can create a Fastweb profile that matches them to the right scholarships—the scholarships they should apply for. This saves a lot of time and eliminates most of the work.
Once a student submits their first few scholarship applications, they reduce the amount of work for other scholarships they apply for in the future. Students can often reuse and adapt previous application essays. It’s also recommended to create a scholarship folder to organize important documents that you’ll need to submit for future scholarship applications.
Apply for every scholarship for which you are eligible to increase your chances of winning a scholarship. Set a weekly, or even monthly scholarship application goal and stick to it. If you are short on time or need a break, try applying for Featured Scholarships. These take less than five minutes to apply for!