Here are some facts about college scholarships in America.

There are approximately 1.7 million private scholarships in the country. This doesn’t include government sponsored scholarship opportunities and federal aid.

The total estimated value of these scholarships is over $7 billion.

In 2020, 58% of families used college scholarships to help pay for college costs.

These scholarship statistics show that there are a lot of scholarship opportunities out there for students. However, your chance at winning a scholarship is difficult to quantify. This is because there are many different types of scholarships and many different types of students. Often, your odds of winning a scholarship depend on you finding the right fit for your particular profile.

Let’s get into the details that can help you search for scholarships and increase your odds of actually winning.

Different Chances for Different Types of Scholarships

Your chances of winning scholarships depend on the types of scholarships you apply for. Knowing these important details increases your chances of finding the right scholarship program for you.

There are hundreds of thousands of scholarships available to students, but not all scholarships are created equal. Some scholarships will require you to be a member of a certain ethnicity or religion, while others focus on academic performance. Some scholarships have very specific eligibility requirements and deadlines, while others only require you to enter a few details and click apply. And some scholarships are offered by large corporations with millions of dollars in funding, while others are offered by small businesses or individuals who are looking for ways to help students.

The best way to find out which type of scholarship is right for you is to research each one individually—which means doing more than just Googling “scholarships.” You should read about each scholarship so that you know the requirements and how much money is being offered. Taking the time to learn about each scholarship will help you narrow them down so that you can determine which ones are most likely to accept your application. This research will also help you determine how much time it will take to apply for the scholarship.

Here are some specific kinds of scholarships and what they tend to look for. You should also note that there are scholarships awarded for certain levels of study: high school seniors, undergraduates, and graduate students.

Grades and Merit Scholarships

To be a merit scholarship recipient, you must have strong grades, test scores, and potentially, a track record of high impact in community service.

Of the three requirements listed above, grades are the most important factor in determining whether or not you will be awarded a merit scholarship. In most cases, you need to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for any scholarship money. It’s worth emphasizing that a 3.0 GPA is the minimum to qualify, though the expectation may be higher for competitive scholarships. If you don’t have that kind of grade point average, you’ll want to focus on improving it before applying for merit scholarships.

Extracurriculars

Your chances of winning a college scholarship may also depend on your extracurricular activities.

That’s right—the more you do, the better your odds of winning.

You don’t have to be an athlete or a musician, but if you are, great! But if you’re not, that’s cool too because there are so many other ways to get involved, make an impact, and build a strong scholarship application.

Here are some examples of extracurricular activities that could help you win a scholarship:

  • Student government (school-wide or at your school)
  • Community service (volunteering at a local shelter or soup kitchen)
  • Blogging
  • Art
  • Writing
  • And much more…

Financial Need

For many scholarship competitions, your odds of winning the prize depends on your financial need. If you’re struggling financially, then your odds are much higher.

Your first step for these prizes is to conduct a scholarship search. Your second step is to understand what kind of financial need the scholarship provider is looking for. Some scholarship applications are only open to students who have demonstrated their ability to work hard through extracurricular activities and volunteer work. Others consider financial need only, where a student’s past performance and/or future potential are not considered. And still others look at both factors equally.

If you qualify for aid under the federal Pell Grant program, you may be eligible for scholarships that cover 100% of tuition and fees, which would eliminate your need to take out loans or pay anything out-of-pocket. But if you don’t qualify for Pell Grants, then there’s a good chance that the scholarships you find will only cover a portion of tuition and fees—meaning you’ll have to come up with some money yourself. It’s a good idea to fill out a FAFSA to get a sense of where you stand in relation to federal student aid.

Takeaway

The chances of winning a scholarship range substantially, depending on the person, their situation, and scholarships available. There are many students with great grades that have never won a scholarship. It all comes down to your approach (in both your scholarship search and application). You have to do your research and apply for as many scholarships as you can. Finding scholarship funds can be daunting, but you can start by doing a search in a scholarship directory, like the BridgesEDU Scholarship Finder, to get some experience. You might not win every single scholarship; however your time and effort will be worth it even if you only win a single prize.