Editorial note: We earn commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Panels do not influence editors’ opinions or ratings.
Scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for school without spending any of your own money. Scholarships provide free money that does not have to be repaid, making it an attractive option for college funding.
There are an estimated 1.7 million private scholarships, and each award has its own eligibility and criteria. Despite the variety of opportunities, there are a lot of common misconceptions that prevent students from applying. Keep in mind that these scholarship myths are busted.
1. You must directly have a name or be a sports star to qualify
Some scholarships require you to have a certain minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) to be eligible for the scholarship, but most do not expect you to have perfect grades. Likewise, while some scholarships may be awarded for athletic achievement, there are tens of thousands of awards that have no regard to your sport at all.
It is possible to find scholarships based on your interests, career path, special needs, and more. Think about your strengths, passions, and other specific factors, then look for awards that focus on those characteristics.
2. You only need to worry about scholarships as a high school student
When you get into college, you’ll want to get as much free money as possible. This means that you will need to take the time to search for and apply for scholarships – but that does not mean that scholarships are only for high school seniors.
You can start your scholarship search in your junior year of high school. And it doesn’t stop after high school. You must continue to apply for awards each year you are in college. There are scholarships aimed at undergraduates, graduate students, and even those pursuing professional degrees, such as MBAs.
3. Only low-income students can get financial aid
Scholarships are traditionally need-based, while scholarships tend to be merit-based. Regardless, free money is not limited to those who come from low-income families.
While it’s true that some forms of financial assistance—particularly programs offered by the federal government—focus more on family income, many awards don’t even ask about your financial situation. It’s not always about need, but rather, who’s ahead. If you never place an order, you will never give yourself a chance to win.
4. The full scholarship will cover my tuition fees
It is every student’s dream: to apply for and win a great scholarship, which will give you a complete journey. While this may be true of a select few, it is not the case for most students.
The vast majority of the time, you will need to count on several scholarships to significantly reduce your college costs. If scholarships alone do not cover your needs, you may need to obtain other forms of assistance, such as grants or student loans.
5. Scholarships are very competitive – you will never win one
There will be a certain level of competition in everything you do, but it is better to apply and be rejected than to not apply at all. What if I win? Completing the scholarship application actually gives you an advantage, and you may be among the small group that becomes eligible to win.
Also remember that some trophies have levels. Even if you don’t win first place, you can still win a smaller runner-up prize.
6. Small scholarships are not worth applying for
It is true that searching for and applying for scholarships can take a long time. Why not focus on the big prizes to double your efforts?
Consider your strategy. You may have a better chance of winning two smaller scholarships with fewer applicants than one huge scholarship with thousands of applicants. If everyone applies for one $20,000 award and you apply for four $5,000 scholarships, you can win some of that while the others might win nothing at all.
7. Billions of dollars in scholarship money go annually
Many students may hear this “basic law” and wonder why they should bother applying for scholarships if they don’t actually give money to the winner. However, the idea of not using billions of dollars in scholarship money every year is not accurate.
It is true that some scholarships do not receive attention, but this depends on many factors. Sometimes awards are not marketed to the right audience or they do not have an easy-to-use application process. Other times, the award has strict requirements or a narrow stature that potential applicants cannot meet. Regardless of the reason why the award does not get a winner, the truth is that it does not happen in most cases.
8. You need to write an essay to be eligible
Many scholarships want to get to know you, your life and your abilities. That’s why articles are set; Sharing personal stories or responding to a specific prompt gives judges insight into how you think. It is one of the ways in which you are evaluated among competitors, but it is not the only way.
Some scholarships do not require an essay and are solely dependent on factors such as your GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, or financial needs. If you feel that an article prevents you from applying, look for scholarships that do not have this requirement.
Alternatively, you can often reuse your application materials. Collect every personal essay you wrote in high school or for your college applications, and see if any of them can be reused in scholarship applications.
9. Scholarships do not affect your federal financial aid
Your tuition earnings can affect what you receive as need-based financial aid, depending on the award you receive.
Your school calculates your need-based financial aid based on the cost of attendance minus your expected family contribution (EFC). If you get a lot of scholarship money, your school will likely recalculate your financial aid package. This means that your school may reduce the amount you receive in federal student loans or grants because some of your costs are already covered by special scholarships.
Sometimes, scholarship money goes directly to your school, but this is not always the case. Contact the grant organization to find out how the funds will be disbursed.
Also keep in mind that your school may send you the remaining money, but you may be in trouble to pay taxes on the remaining amount. Talk to the financial aid office to find out how you can use the remaining money for other educational expenses, such as books, transportation, housing, and any other needs that arise throughout the year.
Find the Best Private Student Loans for 2021