There are many widespread myths about college scholarships. Maybe you’ve heard some, or maybe you’ve heard them all.
The problem is that these misconceptions can mislead students and reduce the chances of winning scholarship opportunities.
The worst part is that scholarship myths disproportionately hurt students who need financial aid the most. However, these myths don’t just negatively impact students with financial need, they have the ability to sabotage the education and career plans of all students.
Scholarships are accessible to more students than what is commonly believed.
And here is the most important thing: scholarships can be a game changer for a student’s career, their financial well-being, and their or their family’s bank account.
Without exaggeration, scholarships have the ability to transform lives and careers. Besides using scholarship money to pay for college costs, having a track record of winning scholarships makes you more competitive for any future opportunities you wish to pursue.
Please know that most students can win a scholarship. Don’t let these myths hold you back.
Why Common Scholarship Myths are so … Common!
Winning scholarships is possible for most students, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Conducting a scholarship search takes time. Scholarship applications take time. And of course, there’s uncertainty about whether you’ll even win.
And here’s the thing that many don’t understand about applying for scholarships: a failing average can actually be a tremendous victory. Let’s clarify what this means.
Let’s say you win three scholarships every year. How does that sound? Amazing! Right?
Well, the average student can expect to win about 20 to 40 percent of the scholarships they apply for. That means for those three scholarship wins, you may have received seven rejections. It also means that you were only successful 30 percent of the time. You see, three scholarships sounds great, but 30 percent success sounds deeply discouraging.
So, here’s the truth. The world of scholarships can be exhilarating when you win. But, it can be discouraging when you don’t.
This is why myths about scholarships are so prevalent. There are likely many scholarships you can apply for and won’t win. But, winning every scholarship you apply for isn’t the point. Winning scholarships, period. That’s that point. This is something that many don’t understand.
Unfortunately, the lack of understanding and myths about scholarships prevent some people from ever applying. Let’s look at those myths.
Myth 1: Only Students with Perfect Grades Can Win Scholarship Money
Many people believe that scholarships are only awarded to students with A+ grades and high test scores. While merit-based scholarships consider your GPA, not all scholarships do. There are many types of scholarships that are based on other criteria. For example, there are scholarships based on certain hobbies, academic major, ancestry, ethnicity, race, gender, service in the military, and much more.
Myth 2: Scholarships are Only for High School Seniors
There are thousands of scholarships for all levels of study. This includes prizes for undergraduates, graduate students, and mature or non-traditional students returning to higher learning after a break.
Myth 3: You Must Fill Out the FAFSA and Qualify for Federal Financial Aid to Win a College Scholarship
Certainly, there are many scholarships available that require a student to complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and qualify for need-based financial aid. However, these are largely eligibility requirements for need-based federal or state-level scholarships. If you don’t qualify for financial need scholarships and federal loans, simply turn your attention to other prizes where this isn’t a requirement.
Myth 4: Only Underrepresented Students Can Earn Scholarships for College
There are scholarships available for students of all backgrounds. Search for scholarships in any community that you’re a part of, whether you’re from an underrepresented community or not. Many charities, religious organizations, local institutions, and others invest in students for all kinds of reasons. Focus on scholarships that fit your profile and you’ll likely find options that you qualify for.
Myth 5: It’s Not the Right Time of Year to Apply for Scholarships
Various scholarships have deadlines throughout the year. The application process tends to occur in October to April for government scholarships and grants. Private scholarships pop up throughout the entire calendar year, too, so you can search and apply for scholarships any time.
Myth 6: Only Students with Amazing Extracurricular Activities Get Money
Community service and leadership is not a requirement for all scholarships. Many scholarships are awarded for writing an essay on an important topic, pursuing a particular career goal, having a certain hobby, and many other things. If extracurriculars aren’t your strong suit, search for other types of scholarships.
Myth 7: Only High-Value Scholarships that Cover Full Tuition are Worth Pursuing
Scholarships offering a full ride for college or university are extremely competitive and winning one is rare. However, smaller scholarships can offer a good sum of money, too. The great thing about smaller scholarships is that they tend to be less competitive. This increases your chances of winning money for college. In the long term, winning several scholarships can make you a better candidate for larger prizes in the future. It can also help distinguish your profile in competitive job markets after you graduate.
Myth 8: One Scholarship, One Payment
It can seem like a lot of work to apply for scholarships that don’t have a huge financial reward. However, some scholarships renew automatically as long as you continue to meet eligibility criteria. This means that you can receive a scholarship for multiple years and you don’t have to reapply each year. Of course, always read the fine print to know if a scholarship is renewable.
Myth 9: Finding Scholarships and Writing an Essay Takes Too Much Time
It’s true, finding and applying for scholarships takes time. However, with a plan and the right strategies, it can absolutely be worth it. Think about how many hours you’d have to work at a part-time job to earn $1,000. Now, what may happen if you invest those hours applying for as many scholarships as possible?
Scholarship applications should be viewed as a wise investment. You can win money to help pay for college now, but you may also be able to graduate with fewer student loans. After graduation, you’ll feel less pressure to pay back money and you’ll have a great profile to help you advance your career. Now that’s long-term thinking worth considering!
Busting Myths About Scholarships & Getting Empowered
The bottom line is this: the right scholarship is out there for you to win. With the right knowledge and strategies, you absolutely have the ability to win money for college.
Scholarships can change your financial life, as well as the quality of your student and professional profile. For these reasons alone, scholarships should be an important part of any student’s higher learning plan.
Myths are powerful because they tow the line between real and imaginary. Make your scholarship dreams real. You can make it happen. Find and apply for scholarships today.
Christopher Grafos, Ph.D., is the founder and chief scholarship mentor at BridgesEDU Scholarships.
He’s a first-generation university graduate whose life was transformed by education and winning scholarships.
Scholarships help students financially, but they also help advance a student’s career. It’s his life’s work to champion this message and share the secrets to finding and winning scholarships.
Read more about Christopher’s journey here.