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 free 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 free 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.
Need a student loan?Here are our top student loan lenders of 2019!
|1 Important Disclosures for Ascent.
Before taking out private student loans, you should explore and compare all financial aid alternatives, including grants, scholarships, and federal student loans and consider your future monthly payments and income. Applying with a cosigner may improve your chance of getting approved and could help you qualify for a lower interest rate. Ascent Student Loans may be funded by Richland State Bank (RSB). Ascent Student Loan products are subject to credit qualification, completion of a loan application, verification of application information and certification of loan amount by a participating school. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions, and certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. Ascent is a federally registered trademark of Turnstile Capital Management (TCM) and may be used by RSB under limited license. Richland State Bank is a federally registered service mark of Richland State Bank.
* Application times vary depending on the applicants ability to supply the necessary information for submission.
2 Important Disclosures for CollegeAve.
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.
Information advertised valid as of 2/1/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 Important Disclosures for Discover.
* 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.
4 = Sallie Mae Disclaimer: Click here for important information. Terms, conditions and limitations apply.
5 Important Disclosures for SunTrust.
Before applying for a private student loan, SunTrust recommends comparing all financial aid alternatives including grants, scholarships, and both federal and private student loans. To view and compare the available features of SunTrust private student loans, visit https://www.suntrust.com/loans/student-loans/private.
Certain restrictions and limitations may apply. SunTrust Bank reserves the right to change or discontinue this loan program without notice. Availability of all loan programs is subject to approval under the SunTrust credit policy and other criteria and may not be available in certain jurisdictions.
SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. ©2019 SunTrust Banks, Inc. SUNTRUST, the SunTrust logo and Custom Choice Loan are trademarks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All rights reserved.
6 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Additional terms and conditions apply. For more details see LendKey
7 Important Disclosures for CommonBond.
A government loan is made according to rules set by the U.S. Department of Education. Government loans have fixed interest rates, meaning that the interest rate on a government loan will never go up or down.
Government loans also permit borrowers in financial trouble to use certain options, such as income-based repayment, which may help some borrowers. Depending on the type of loan that you have, the government may discharge your loan if you die or become permanently disabled.
Depending on what type of government loan that you have, you may be eligible for loan forgiveness in exchange for performing certain types of public service. If you are an active-duty service member and you obtained your government loan before you were called to active duty, you are entitled to interest rate and repayment benefits for your loan.
A private student loan is not a government loan and is not regulated by the Department of Education. A private student loan is instead regulated like other consumer loans under both state and federal law and by the terms of the promissory note with your lender.
If your private student loan has a fixed interest rate, then that rate will never go up or down. If your private student loan has a variable interest rate, then that rate will vary depending on an index rate disclosed in your application. If the interest rate on the new private student loan is less than the interest rate on your government loans, your payments will be less if you refinance.
If you don’t pay a private student loan as agreed, the lender can refer your loan to a collection agency or sue you for the unpaid amount.
Remember also that like government loans, most private loans cannot be discharged if you file bankruptcy unless you can demonstrate that repayment of the loan would cause you an undue hardship. In most bankruptcy courts, proving undue hardship is very difficult for most borrowers.
8 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.
Citizens Bank Disclosures
|4.23% – 13.23%1||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.20% – 11.44%2||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.84% – 13.49%3||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.50% – 10.11%*,4||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|4.25% – 13.25%5||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|5.85% – 6.99%6||Undergraduate and Graduate|
|3.95% – 9.81%7||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|
|4.45% – 12.42%8||Undergraduate, Graduate, and Parents|