Each year, a new crop of scholarship hunters venture into the world of college financial aid seeking their fortunes. Some are well-armed and have formulated a plan to navigate the scholarship jungle safely; they have reasonable expectations and understand that it will take a great deal of work if they want to succeed. Others, however, are not so savvy. They have devoured every piece of advice found online and may even believe a good portion of the scholarship myths that still litter the Internet. These ‘newbies’ are usually the ones who can be found on forums early each spring complaining about how they are not eligible for scholarships, either because of their skin color, grades or their parent’s income. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel for these misguided students, but they really should get their facts straight before launching into a tirade on Twitter or Facebook. Here are five of the most common complaints or misguided comments I have seen recently, and the facts that dispel each of them.
1. ‘Not worried about college. My grades will guarantee a full-ride!’
FACT: Approximately 20,000 students each year, or roughly 0.3 percent, will receive a full-ride scholarship that will cover all their costs. Regardless if students are the star of their football team or the valedictorian, they should never bank on a full-ride scholarship to cover their college expenses. In most cases, students will need to use a combination of federal aid (grants and loans), institutional awards, private scholarships and cash to help cover all their costs.
2. ‘Average white male. Guess I won’t be getting any scholarships.’
FACT: Caucasian students are 40 percent more likely to win private scholarships than minority students. Some organizations use the myth that minorities receive the majority of scholarships to justify the creation of scholarship programs for white males. For example, the Former Majority Association for Equality (FMAFE) offers a scholarship specifically for the average, white male, which perpetuates the myth that white students are at a disadvantage when it comes to winning scholarships. It is simply not true.
3. ‘I wish I was poor so I could win some scholarships!’
FACT: Students with a family income between $50,000 and $100, 000 (middle-income) are more likely to win scholarships than those who make less than $50,000. Not every scholarship program is based on need (income), so students should never assume that their family income will prevent them from winning scholarships.
4. ‘Someone please tell me where to find the unclaimed scholarships. I need the money.’
FACT: Providers do not create scholarships with the intention of not disbursing the funds. The myth about millions in unclaimed scholarship money has been around for over 30 years. It started with a 1976-77 academic year study by the National Institute of Work and Learning. The study estimated that a total of $7 billion was potentially available from employer tuition assistance programs, but that only about $300 million to $400 million was being used. There are some programs, like the Zolp Scholarship offered at Loyola University, which have such unusual requirements that an eligible applicant may not be available every year, but these programs are small and open to a very limited number of students.
5. ‘Can’t wait for senior year when I can apply for scholarships!’
FACT: Students who wait until senior year are already behind the ball. Many scholarship programs are open to students in elementary, middle and high school (and college!). For example, Jif® hosts a $25,000 scholarship contest each year for students between the ages of 6 and 12, and Kohl’s provides scholarships ($1,000 to $10,000 each) to students in elementary through high school. Students should start their scholarship search early, if they want more chances to win.
It really is sad to see so many students assuming that they are ineligible for scholarships based on some silly myth or rumor that they have seen on the Internet. I’m sure some of them are just looking for an excuse not to apply, but I hate to think there are people who would willingly give up their chances to win free money for college. To me, it’s a no-brainer; I’d much rather put in the time and take my chances than graduate with a pile of student loan debt.
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