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Scholarship Myths and Facts

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Are you thinking about applying for a college scholarships but not sure that you have what it takes to make the grade? Perhaps that’s because you have heard one too many myths about scholarships. This post will set the record straight!

Myth: I can’t win a scholarship unless I have a straight-A average.

Fact: Sure, some scholarships are interested in candidates with high GPAs. But just as many set a minimum GPA of 2.5 or 3.0 (C+ to B-) and as long as you meet that minimum, you are free to “wow” the scholarship committee with all your other great abilities. There are even some scholarships that are explicitly looking for below average students. (The $10,000 David Letterman scholarship at Ball State for average students with creative minds — much like the late night genius himself — comes to mind!)

Myth: I can’t win a scholarship because I don’t play a sport.

Fact: Yes, there are significant scholarships awarded every year to athletes. But the vast majority of those awards come directly from the university’s athletic fund. Private scholarships, funded by philanthropies, businesses, non-profit organizations and individuals, are interested in candidates with a wide range of abilities and skills — from athletes (although typically those who compete in lesser-known sports such as cycling) to musicians to public activists to community leaders. The list goes on and on. Some scholarships are just looking for a great essay on a particular topic, and whether you can catch a football or shoot a free-throw will certainly never come into question!

Myth: I don’t qualify for scholarships because my parents earn too much money.

Fact: It is true that a number of scholarships are looking for qualified candidates who can also demonstrate financial need. But just as many — if not more — scholarships never even ask about your family’s financial situation (these are typically known as merit-based scholarships). If you are meet the committee’s qualifications, your tax returns will never come into play. Also keep in mind that “financial need” can be rather broadly defined when it comes to scholarships as opposed to, let’s say, federal grants. While a select number of scholarships are only interested in assisting low-income families (typically those earning less than $50,000 per year), many committees consider the threshold of “financial need” to be twice that — if not more.  In other words, solidly upper middle class families may still qualify for need-based scholarships. Read the fineprint!

Myth: There are billions of dollars in scholarships that go unclaimed every year.

Fact: This is one of the most pervasive scholarship myths out there. And do you know who most often cites it? Scholarship scam artists looking to charge you a rich finder’s fee to locate these unclaimed scholarships. The truth, according to Marvin Carmichael, past Chairman of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), is that if an organization does not award all its scholarship money one year, it is because of weird timing issues or highly restrictive eligibility requirements. The qualifications of any truly unclaimed scholarship are probably so highly specialized (eg, only students of a particular religious faith from a particular city with a particular last name need apply) that your odds of qualifying are nil.

Do you want to learn more scholarship facts? Come visit Financial Aid Finder’s scholarship section to discover what scholarship committees are looking for, how to write a winning scholarship essay, and where to find reputable college scholarship search engines.

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