Editorial Note: We earn a commission on partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect the opinions or ratings of our editors.
Scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for your education without spending your own money. Scholarships offer free money that does not have to be repaid, making it an attractive choice for funding college.
There are approximately 1.7 million private scholarships, and each award has its own eligibility and standards. Despite the wide variety of opportunities, there are many common misconceptions that prevent students from applying. Consider these myths about shattered stock exchanges.
1. You must have an Ace or be a Star Athlete to qualify.
Some scholarships require you to have a certain minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) to be eligible for the award, but most don’t expect you to have perfect grades. Likewise, while some scholarships may be awarded for athletic achievement, there are tens of thousands of awards that do not reflect your athleticism at all.
It is possible to find scholarships based on your interests, career path, specific needs and much more. Think about your strengths, passions, and other determining factors, then look for rewards that focus on those characteristics.
2. You only have to worry about scholarships as a high school student
By entering college, you’ll want to get as much free money as possible. This means that you will need to spend some time researching and applying for scholarships, but that does not mean that scholarships are only for high school students.
You can start your scholarship search in your first year of high school. And it doesn’t stop after high school; you should continue to apply for awards every year that you are in college. There are scholarships aimed at undergraduates, graduate students, and even those pursuing professional studies, such as an MBA.
3. Only low income students can get financial aid
Grants are traditionally need-based, while scholarships tend to be merit-based. Either way, free money isn’t just limited to those who come from low-income households.
While it is true that some forms of financial assistance, especially programs offered by the federal government, are geared more towards household income, many scholarships do not even ask questions about your financial situation. It doesn’t always come down to the need, but rather to the person applying. If you never apply, you will never give yourself a chance to win.
4. A scholarship will cover all my tuition fees
It is every student’s dream: you apply and win a major scholarship that will allow you to take a full tour. While this may be true for the privileged few, it is not for most students.
The vast majority of the time, you will have to rely on multiple scholarships to significantly reduce the costs of college education. If scholarships alone do not cover your needs, you may need to get other forms of help, such as scholarships or student loans.
5. Scholarships are too competitive, you will never win one
There’s going to be some level of competition in anything you do, but it’s better to apply and face rejection than to never apply at all. What if you win? Completing a scholarship application already gives you an advantage, and you could be part of the small group that becomes eligible to win.
Also, keep in mind that some rewards have levels. Even if you don’t win first place, you could still win a smaller second prize.
6. Small scholarships are not worth applying
It is true that finding and applying for scholarships can be time consuming. Why not focus on the jackpots to maximize your effort?
Consider your strategy. You might have a better chance of winning a few smaller scholarships with fewer applicants than a massive scholarship with thousands of applicants. If everyone is applying for a $ 20,000 scholarship and you apply for four $ 5,000 scholarships, you might win some of it while others might not win anything at all.
7. Billions of dollars in scholarships are not awarded every year
Many students may hear this “statistic” and wonder why they should bother applying for scholarships if they don’t actually award the money to a winner. However, the idea that billions of dollars in scholarships go unused each year is not accurate.
It is true that some scholarships are not awarded, but it depends on a multitude of factors. Sometimes the rewards don’t market to the right customers or they don’t have a user-friendly application process. Other times the award has strict requirements or a narrow niche that potential applicants cannot meet. Regardless of why a prize doesn’t get a winner, the reality is it doesn’t happen in most cases.
8. You must write an essay to be eligible
Many scholarships want to know more about you, your life and your abilities. This is why the essays are awarded; sharing personal stories or responding to a specific prompt gives the judges insight into your thinking. It is one way of being evaluated among the competition, but it is not the only one.
Some scholarships do not require an essay and are based solely on factors such as your GPA, test scores, extracurricular activities, or financial need. If you feel like an essay is preventing you from applying, look for scholarships that don’t have this requirement.
Alternatively, you can often reuse your application materials. Gather every personal essay you wrote in high school or for your college applications, and see if any of them can be reused for scholarship applications.
9. Scholarships do not affect your federal financial aid
Your scholarship earnings could impact what you receive as need-based financial aid, depending on the reward you receive.
Your school calculates your need-based financial aid based on your tuition fees minus your expected family contribution (CEF). If you get a lot of scholarships, your school will likely recalculate your financial aid. This means that your school may reduce the amount you receive in federal loans or scholarships because some of your costs are already covered by private scholarships.
Sometimes the scholarship money goes straight to your school, but this is not always the case. Contact the scholarship organization to see how the funds are disbursed.
Also, keep in mind that your school may send you leftover funds, but you may have to pay taxes on the remaining amount. Speak to the financial aid office to see how you can use the remaining funds for other educational expenses, such as books, transportation, shelter, and any other needs that arise throughout the year.
Find the best private student loans of 2021