5 Ways You Could Lose Your Scholarship — And How to Make Up For It

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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.

Here are five ways your previously-secured scholarships might be at risk, plus how to make up for a lost award:

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)
Also: How to replace a lost scholarship or federal financial aid

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.

Although some of these scholarships come with long-term benefits, the financial aspect of them is finite. You’d “lose” a scholarship simply because it expires.

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.

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

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

Say you score a scholarship for women returning to school. Dropping below half-time enrollment could put the award in jeopardy.

Depending on the rules of your award, 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 a specific university
  • Fail to reapply or recertify your eligibility before a deadline
  • Aren’t able to maintain a given grade point average or fail to enroll in a specific major area of study
  • Don’t stay enrolled full-time (or if you 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, to verify your level of financial need. When your EFC rises, your level of need falls — and, boom, you could lose your eligibility for a scholarship, and the scholarship itself.

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 jump because your family’s…

  • Income increases: Perhaps mom or dad experiences a financial windfall that boosts their earnings.
  • Size decreases: Maybe your older sibling leaves school, lessening your parents’ overall college costs.

Fortunately, there are ways to pay for college if your EFC seems unaffordable. 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 up to the scholarship provider to set the ground rules and monitor whether you follow them. It’s unlikely your donor will track whether you spend your scholarship on books — or to book a vacation — but violating the rules of the award could potentially result in losing it.

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

 

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, there are actionable steps you can take to replace them. These include:

  • Contacting the scholarship organizer: If you forfeited financial aid 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.
  • Visiting your school’s financial aid office: Detailing the situation to your campus representative might also lead you to a solution. They might not be able to help you recover your lost scholarship, but 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 may be able to secure another. While applying, pay closer attention to eligibility and compliance requirements that could prove troublesome to reach or maintain. Also, 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 lost gift aid 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. Although it’s generally advisable to rely on federal aid first, you could be in the minority that is served best by private lenders.

Winning always comes with the risk of losing, even in the world of private scholarships and public grants for college. To ensure aid is never taken away from you, keep your award requirements top of mind.

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Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

Advertiser Disclosure

Student Loan Hero Advertiser Disclosure

Our team at Student Loan Hero works hard to find and recommend products and services that we believe are of high quality. We sometimes earn a sales commission or advertising fee when recommending various products and services to you. Similar to when you are being sold any product or service, be sure to read the fine print to help you understand what you are buying. Be sure to consult with a licensed professional if you have any concerns. Student Loan Hero is not a lender or investment advisor. We are not involved in the loan approval or investment process, nor do we make credit or investment related decisions. The rates and terms listed on our website are estimates and are subject to change at any time.

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