You’ve filled out the FAFSA, narrowed down your choice colleges, and crunched some numbers to determine how much tuition you can realistically afford before borrowing any student loans.
There’s one financial thing left to consider: Should you be applying for scholarships for college?
You might hesitate or write them off for all sorts of reasons. “My grades aren’t good enough. I’m not financially needy enough. I’m not an athlete. Scholarships just aren’t worth applying to if they’re not for a full-ride award.”
These types of thoughts are all myths that can hold you back from submitting scholarship applications. Here are six common myths about scholarships that could keep you from earning money for school.
Myth #1: Scholarship applications are only for 4.0 GPA students and football stars.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be the class valedictorian, have a sterling 4.0 GPA, or be a football champ to receive a scholarship.
While being a straight-A student can definitely maximize your chances of receiving financial aid, there are plenty of opportunities to earn a scholarship if you’re a B- or C-student (some scholarships for college have no GPA requirement at all).
If your grades aren’t the greatest, remember that they’re only letters and numbers when it comes to receiving an award. Many schools look at other factors beyond academic achievements, like you’re involvement with a special interest or hobby, volunteer work, or your intended major.
Scholarships are also available through several non-academic sources, like your job, local organizations or affiliations, and even online.
Myth #2: Scholarships for college are only for high-school seniors.
This myth may owe its ubiquity to the idea that everyone tends to apply for financial aid during their senior year of high school. But the fact is, any student looking to attend a postsecondary school can apply for scholarship aid at any grade level — nobody is too young or old.
Though some scholarships do have age requirements, many do not. You could be a freshman, sophomore, or junior. You could be in your 20s, 30s, and beyond. An academically zealous elementary-schooler can apply for a scholarship and still qualify if they’re college-bound.
(No joke on that last one; young students can win college scholarships on everything from artistic talent, volunteer work, duck calling, bowling, or for making the meanest peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.)
Myth #3: The scholarship pool is too crowded, so there’s no point in applying.
If you don’t try, you’ll never know if you’d have won a scholarship or not. The most readily available or recognizable scholarships are the ones that tend to receive the most applications, making them the most coveted and competitive of the bunch.
You should still apply to the big awards, but to increase your chances of winning, look into smaller alternative awards and apply to them as well. This may mean putting in some extra work (like writing multiple essays or completing a lengthier scholarship application), but it may pay off in the end.
Myth #4: A scholarship could affect my ability to receive financial aid.
Technically, this myth has a bit of truth in it. Yes, scholarships can affect your financial aid — but not in the way you might think. Winning a scholarship doesn’t exclude you from receiving financial aid or prohibit you from sending out your FAFSA. Rather, it’s a trade-off.
The federal government requires your college or university to reduce the amount of financial aid they may give you if your scholarship (or grant money, or comparable award) exceeds $300 of your calculated need.
But in this case, it’s still up to your individual school to decide which type of financial aid they will reduce if you’ve got a scholarship award in your life.
This means your school’s financial aid offer or your student loan amount may be reduced. But that’s a good thing since it means less money borrowed that you need to repay (with interest), versus scholarship dollars.
Myth #5: You earn a full-ride scholarship or nothing at all.
You know how the class valedictorian or budding concert pianist always seems to get a full-ride scholarship to some prestigious medical school or music institute? This myth assumes that the big-ticket scholarships for college are the only ones worth pursuing.
In fact, one’s chances of a full-ride are often very slim, no matter how qualified you are; only 20,000 students receive a full-ride scholarship annually.
If you think you can qualify, you should apply for the larger scholarship awards to see how you fare. But don’t pass up on smaller awards. They may go overlooked because of their small amounts, increasing your odds of winning.
A few $50 scholarships here, a couple of hundred-dollar awards there, and it could make a sizable influence on your tuition costs — and less money to borrow in student loans.
Myth #6: Private high school students win more scholarships.
While it’s true that students graduating from private high schools earn slightly more in merit-based scholarships than their public-school peers, it’s not enough to offset the costs of tuition and associated college costs, especially if the graduate is headed to a private college.
(The average in-state public college tuition is $20,090. The private school equivalent in 2016-17? $45,370.)
The point here is that going to public school shouldn’t dissuade you from applying to one or more scholarships. Strategize your application efforts as you would when applying to schools.
Which awards are you most qualified for? What are your strengths and standout areas? And how much aid are you seeking to offset the costs of school and student loans?
Seek out scholarship alternatives
Cover your bases. Seek out other funding alternatives in the event you don’t receive any scholarship money:
- Tuition tax credits can help reimburse expenses you’ve paid for tuition, course fees, or student loan interest.
- School-based financial aid, like work-study programs or grants offered directly through your college, can also cover your associated costs.
- Federal- and state-based aid is also available. They’re often awarded on academic or financial merit, or are meant for students working in a certain field, like teaching, public service, or the military.
Most scholarships for college have varying deadlines, so there’s no set timeframe to apply. Narrow down the opportunities you want to pursue and follow the individual scholarship application processes to apply on time.
The sooner you apply, the better, since knowing how much you’ve won in scholarship money can determine how much you’ll need in student loans.
Ready to start your scholarship search? Learn where to find them here.
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|1.04% – 11.98%1||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|1.13% – 11.23%*,2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|3.84% – 9.40%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.05% – 11.44%4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.22% – 11.66%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|2.76% – 7.14%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|1.24% – 11.99%7||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|* The Sallie Mae partner referenced is not the creditor for these loans and is compensated by Sallie Mae for the referral of Smart Option Student Loan customers. |
1 Important Disclosures for College Ave.
College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
Rates shown are for the College Ave Undergraduate Loan product and include autopay discount. The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as a valid bank account is designated for required monthly payments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
Information advertised valid as of 4/22/2021. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Lowest advertised rates require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.
2 Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
3 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
Offered terms are subject to change and state law restriction. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900), NMLS Consumer Access. If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. If you choose to complete an application, we will conduct a hard credit pull, which may affect your credit score. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 0.15% effective Jan 1, 2021 and may increase after consummation.
4 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
UNDERGRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.23% to 11.26% annual percentage rate (“APR”) (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.66% APR (with autopay). GRADUATE LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.13% to 11.37% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.12% to 11.73% APR (with autopay). MBA AND LAW SCHOOL LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.30% to 11.52% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.29% to 11.89% APR (with autopay). PARENT LOANS: Fixed rates from 4.60% to 10.76% APR (with autopay), variable rates from 1.22% to 11.16% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, the variable interest rate is derived from the one-month LIBOR rate plus a margin and your APR may increase after origination if the LIBOR increases. Changes in the one-month LIBOR rate may cause your monthly payment to increase or decrease. Interest rates for variable rate loans are capped at 13.95%, unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law. Lowest rates are reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. If approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your creditworthiness, the repayment option you select, the term and amount of the loan and other factors, and will be within the ranges of rates listed above. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. Information current as of 4/1/2021. Enrolling in autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi. SoFi Lending Corp., licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Financing Law License No. 6054612. NMLS #1121636 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org)..
6 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.76% – 7.14% (2.76% – 7.14% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 3.01% – 7.50% (3.01% – 7.50% APR).
Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.19% – 6.73% (2.19% – 6.73% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 2.89% – 7.09% (2.89%-7.09% APR).
Business/Law Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 9.54% (1.36% – 8.82% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.13% – 9.84% (4.13% – 9.12% APR).
Medical/Dental Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 1.36% – 8.34% (1.36% – 8.04% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.03% – 8.64% (4.03% – 8.34% APR).
Parent Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.10% – 7.41% (2.10%-7.41% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.69% – 7.83% (4.69% – 7.83% APR).
Bar Study Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 4.45% – 9.60% (4.45% – 9.53% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 7.39% – 12.94% (7.38% – 12.81% APR).
Medical Residency Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 3.55% – 7.05% (3.55% – 6.77% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% – 10.49% (6.97% – 10.07% APR).
Variable Rate Disclosure: Variable Rates are based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of March 1, 2021, the one-month LIBOR rate is 0.11%. Variable interest rates will fluctuate over the term of the loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms, level of degree and presence of a co-signer. The maximum variable rate is the greater of 21.00% or Prime Rate plus 9.00%.
Fixed Rate Disclosure: Fixed rate ranges are based on applicable terms, level of degree, and presence of a co-signer.
Lowest Rate Disclosure: Lowest rates require a 5-year repayment term, immediate repayment, a graduate degree (where applicable), and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Rates are subject to additional terms and conditions, and are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
Federal Loan vs. Private Loan Benefits: Some federal student loans include unique benefits that the borrower may not receive with a private student loan, some of which we do not offer. Borrowers should carefully review federal benefits, especially if they work in public service, are in the military, are considering possible loan forgiveness options, are currently on or considering income based repayment options or are concerned about a steady source of future income and would want to lower their payments at some time in the future. When the borrower refinances, they waive any current and potential future benefits of their federal loans. For more information about federal student loan benefits and federal loan consolidation, visit http://studentaid.ed.gov/. We also have several resources available to help the borrower make a decision on our website including Should I Refinance My Student Loans? and our FAQs. Should I Refinance My Student Loans? includes a comparison of federal and private student loan benefits that we encourage the borrower to review.
Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or eligible non-citizen with a creditworthy U.S. citizen or permanent resident co-signer. For applicants who have not attained the age of majority in their state of residence, a co-signer is required. Citizens Bank reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. Citizens Bank private student loans are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application/Promissory Note, verification of application information, and if applicable, self-certification form, school certification of the loan amount, and student’s enrollment at a Citizens Bank participating school.
Loyalty Discount Disclosure: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower or their co-signer (if applicable) has a qualifying account in existence with us at the time the borrower and their co-signer (if applicable) have submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, or other student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, our checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, and VT and some products may have an associated cost. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate disclosed in the Loan Approval Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
Automatic Payment Discount Disclosure: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7 Important Disclosures for Discover.
Lowest APRs shown for Discover Student Loans are available for the most creditworthy applicants for undergraduate loans, and include an interest-only repayment discount and a 0.25% interest rate reduction while enrolled in automatic payments.