Lost Your Scholarship? Here’s Why — and How To Make Up for It

 February 26, 2021
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After searching for financial aid, writing your essay and tracking down recommendation letters, winning a scholarship could feel like the end of your work.

Unfortunately, it’s not a permanent prize, as lost scholarships are all too common among students fighting for every dollar of financial aid.

To keep your scholarships and grants safe, let’s review the following information:

5 reasons for a lost scholarship

Here are five ways you might be at risk of a lost scholarship, plus how to make up for it:

1. Your one-time award isn’t renewable
2. You fail to maintain the scholarship’s eligibility criteria
3. Your Expected Family Contribution increases
4. You apply scholarship money toward ineligible expenses
5. You underperform or suffer an injury (for athletic scholarships)

1. Your one-time award isn’t renewable

Most scholarships awarded by private companies, foundations and other organizations are one-time awards: They offer only enough funding for your next semester or perhaps your next year of school.

And although some of these scholarships come with long-term benefits, the financial aspect of them is finite. Your lost scholarship could simply be an expired one.

If this could be the case for any of your current awards, follow up with the scholarship providers to ask about your eligibility for future awards. You might be able to reapply to avoid a lost scholarship in this scenario.

2. You fail to maintain the scholarship’s eligibility criteria

Regardless of whether your lost scholarship is renewable or not, you often have to maintain the eligibility standards you met as an applicant.

Say you scored a scholarship for women returning to school. Dropping below half-time enrollment, whether to care for family or simply take a break, could put the award in jeopardy.

Depending on the rules of your lost scholarship, you could also lose funding if you:

  • Switch schools, as some scholarships and grants from your state require you to attend a certain type of school (or even a specific university)
  • Fail to reapply or recertify your eligibility before a deadline
  • Aren’t able to maintain your grades, as a certain grade point average is sometimes required
  • Change majors, or fail to enroll in a specific major area of study
  • Drop below full-time or half-time enrollment (or enter academic probation)
  • Don’t fulfill a service requirement tied to the scholarship

3. Your Expected Family Contribution increases

Need-based scholarships often rely on the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), as listed on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), to verify your level of financial need. When your EFC rises, your level of need falls — and, boom, you could have a lost scholarship on your hands.

This might come as a surprise on your next financial aid award letter: It’s possible that the grant you were awarded as a freshman, for example, is replaced by a federal loan as you enter your sophomore year. This turn of events could happen to you if your EFC jumps.

Why might your EFC change?

  • Income increases. Perhaps a parent experienced a financial windfall that boosts their earnings.
  • Size decreases. Maybe your older sibling left school, lessening your parents’ overall college costs.

Fortunately, there are ways to pay for college if your EFC seems unaffordable and results in a lost scholarship. You might start by negotiating your financial aid package.

4. You apply scholarship money toward ineligible expenses

When receiving a scholarship check made out to you — or a tuition refund from your school — those funds come with responsibility. You could decide whether to apply the money toward tuition, room and board or something else.

But it’s ultimately up to the scholarship provider to set the ground rules and monitor whether you follow them. It may be unlikely that your donor tracks whether you spend your scholarship on new or used textbooks — or to book a vacation. Still, violating the rules of the award could potentially result in a permanent loss of a scholarship.

5. You underperform or suffer an injury (for athletic scholarships)

Scoring a sports scholarship is no easy feat — holding on to one could be just as tricky.

After all, scholarships for athletics are often non-renewable. Your coach could decide to let your scholarship lapse if you:

  • Can’t compete due to injury
  • Aren’t performing at a satisfactory level
  • Don’t live up to other conditions, such as maintaining high marks in the classroom
Also check out:
Which Sport Is Easiest to Get a Scholarship For?

How to replace a lost scholarship or federal financial aid

Federal financial aid in particular comes with certain conditions. Being convicted of a drug offense, defaulting on your student loans or failing to show academic progress — these are just some of the ways you could lose access to grants awarded by the government.

But no matter what sources of gift aid you might have to yield — whether they’re lost scholarships or grants — there are actionable steps you can take to replace them. These include:

  • Contacting the scholarship organizer. If you forfeited financial aid or lost a scholarship because your grades dropped, try explaining your way out of disqualification. Maybe you have extenuating circumstances, for example, and could find an empathetic set of ears. Consider sharing any proof or evidence you can use to retrieve that lost scholarship.
  • Visiting your school’s financial aid office. Detailing the situation to your campus representative might also lead you to a solution, particularly if your lost scholarship was awarded by the school. Your aid office might have an appeals process. Otherwise, they should be able to direct you to other opportunities.
  • Applying for more gift aid. If you were able to win a scholarship or grant in the first place, you should be able to secure another. While applying, pay closer attention to eligibility and compliance requirements that could prove troublesome to reach or maintain. In addition, consider sources of scholarships you might have missed the first time around.
  • Reviewing federal and private student loan options. Hopefully, you won’t have to replace a lost scholarship with a loan that must be repaid. But that’s why student loans exist — as a last resort to help you afford your cost of attendance and stay on track for your degree. Before signing anything, compare your federal and private borrowing options.

Winning always comes with the risk of losing, even in the world of private scholarships and public grants for college. To ensure you never suffer a lost scholarship, keep your award requirements top of mind.

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