Five Scholarship Myths that are Costing You Money
For some reason, the stereotype of the college student drowning in debt has become taken for granted as something we’ll all have to become one day. But it doesn’t have to be you. There are plenty of ways to penny-pinch throughout college, but really, the best way to stay afloat financially is through a scholarship. Most of us have a very narrow view of what scholarships are, and how they’re given out.
The most common perception is that they’re based on either academic success or financial need, two factors that a lot of potential students feel they don’t really have. But a scholarship can be much more than that, and there’s a good deal of surprising information about them that students absolutely should know, because ignoring your options could cost you free money that’s sitting on the table waiting to be claimed. How do we know it’s there? Have a look at this:
1) Here’s a shocking statistic for you: $15 million dollars in scholarships go unclaimed yearly
I’ve personally heard similar numbers mentioned in a few places before, and this one comes from a Yahoo interview conducted last year with Rob Henderson, the president of studentawards.com, an online scholarship resource. Why is this, though?
Contrary to popular belief, every scholarship doesn’t get handed out to someone by default. It’s entirely possible for no one to get a scholarship. And it’s not because no one suitable is found. Rather, it’s because no one applies.
You probably know about the scholarships your school offers (more on that below if you don’t), but there’s plenty of non-academic ones offered by private companies, and these are the ones that sometimes don’t get cashed. The simple reason? Not enough people look for them. Sites like studentawards.com and scholarshipscanada.com offer listings of everything that’s available. There’s another factor to what you’ll find too: They have rather unusual criteria.
2) They’re not always about grades or financial standing, and “I’m not smart enough, or poor enough” isn’t an excuse
The default conception of a scholarship is that it’s given for academic standing, or out of needing money (for the record, the finance-based ones are called a bursary.) Even if you don’t think you have some sort of special need or ability (which isn’t true, everyone has their “thing,”) that doesn’t mean there isn’t one for you. These scholarships talked about above frequently have nothing to do with either factor. In his interview, Henderson talks about some of the stranger scholarships he’s stumbled across, including one for being very tall, one for whomever had the worst prom night story, and another for students getting “D” grades. Be ready for some unusual applications to these unconventional criteria, though.
3) All I have to do is apply for a scholarship
This isn’t true, and can cost you the award if you’re unprepared. Every scholarship’s criteria is different, and while there are some that rely on a simple application, many of them require essays, or some other grand submission. Assume you’re going to have to work for each scholarship. Don’t assume you can sit down one afternoon and bang 10 applications out. Remember, you’ll likely be competing with a lot of other people, so you need to put time and effort into whatever application you have to do, otherwise you’ve got little chance of earning that free cash. Scholarships Canada offers some additional tips on writing a strong application, among other things.
4) It’s not worth applying to one from my school/My school doesn’t have that many
Despite the worthiness of going outside your school, don’t immediately discount your chosen academic institution. Centennial College has a broad and growing list of scholarships for every program, based on both academic and financial criteria.
5) I didn’t get a scholarship when I started school, therefore my attempts are over
While a lot of school-based scholarships are given upon entrance to your program, these third-party ones are frequently available in any year of your education. The important thing is not to give up because you didn’t earn any on your first try. It’s worth the saved money to dedicate a little time and effort to looking for them, and can even give you some life experience towards looking and applying for jobs. They’re solid skills to have.
By Anthony Geremia