Scholarship myths: let’s debunk them!

By Reilly Grealis

College Planning Advisor
College Planning Advisor Reilly (from our Upper Arlington Campus) has the scoop on scholarships!

The holidays are quickly approaching, which means it’s the perfect time to start searching for institutional and outside scholarship opportunities! 

Searching for scholarships can be time-consuming and tedious when you don’t know what to look for. It can also feel discouraging when you’ve been told harmful myths about applying for scholarships. 

Don’t let scholarship myths deter you from funding your education! Let’s debunk some of the  most common misconceptions about scholarships: 

Myths vs. Facts

  1. Myth: “Only low-income students get scholarships.” 

Fact: There are thousands of scholarships available that are not necessarily need-based with different eligibility factors to consider (many are based on merit aka GPA/SAT/ACT).

  1. Myth: “I only need to search for scholarships as an incoming freshman.” 

Fact: Not all scholarships are renewable; you can be eligible for more departmental scholarships as an upperclassman. So keep your eyes out and keep applying, even after your freshman year!

  1. Myth: “Only student-athletes get scholarships.” 

Fact: Students are more likely to win scholarships based on merit rather than being an athlete. Athletic scholarships typically don’t even cover half the cost of attendance at a university unless the athlete is D1 and depending on the sport. 

  1. Myth: “Only minority students get scholarships.” 

Fact: This myth has been debunked for years. A statistic from finaid.com states that about 71.5% of white students receive scholarships while minorities receive about 28.5%. There are many factors considered for various scholarships. Sure, there are some scholarships set aside for minorities, but there are other eligibility requirements to meet as well. 

Read more on the statistics here.

  1. Myth: “All scholarships are based off of merit (GPA/ACT) scores.” 

Fact: There are thousands of scholarships out there and some don’t consider scores a factor. 

  1. Myth: “I don’t need to file the FAFSA.” 

Fact: Many schools require you to fill out the FAFSA even if you aren’t eligible for financial aid. Some schools require submission of the FAFSA before they run you for scholarships. The FAFSA is the red tape for many institutions so fill it out every year you’re in school!

  1. Myth: “Community colleges don’t offer scholarships.” 

Fact: They do offer scholarship opportunities at most community colleges and you can still apply to outside scholarships. 

  1. Myth: “Scholarships websites are the best places to look for scholarships” 

Fact: The most important place to search for scholarships is through the colleges/universities you applied to! Why? Institutional aid is where the majority of the money students receive for school originates. Your likelihood of receiving a scholarship through the institution is higher than obtaining one through a random search engine. 

As you can see, there are many important factors to consider before applying to scholarships. Due to the fact there are literally thousands of available scholarships, another important factor to consider is which scholarships do you apply for? Here’s a list of red flags to keep in mind as you’re searching!

Red Flags 

  1. Be wary if the scholarship asks for super personal information. Some examples of personal information that you should not give: your social security number, a bank account number, IRS info, credit card information, etc.
  2. No scholarship should charge a fee to apply. This is different from applying for schools because you often have to pay an application fee. This is not the case for scholarships!
  3. If the scholarship doesn’t have contact information or isn’t attached to any schools, foundations, donors, phone numbers, etc –  it’s probably not legit!
  4. The description contains spelling errors – definitely not legit! 
  5. If you realize the scholarship is offering you money that you never applied for. It’s good to keep a list of the scholarships you’re applying to so you can avoid this!

In the end, applying for scholarships is crucial to funding your education. This is literally the one time in your life where people are giving you free money, so take it! Here are some of the most important factors to consider. 

  1. Institutional aid is where students will see the most amount of money. It’s important to start researching for scholarships through the university FIRST before moving onto outside scholarships. This is why we spend so many hours researching schools and their giving histories to find the options for each student!
  2. Another awesome way to look for scholarships is connecting with people in your community. Talk with your guidance counselor, coach, pastor, mentors, boss, etc to see if they know of any local scholarship opportunities. This is beneficial because there are often less students competing for these scholarships. 
  3. You must apply for scholarships yearly! Always look for scholarships, especially within your department once you get to school.
  4. The best time to start searching for scholarships is typically the fall. The best way to manage your time is to try to apply through winter break when you don’t have schoolwork to worry about but pay attention to deadlines!
  5. This is very important – you must file the FAFSA yearly. 

Hopefully some of these tips and tricks will help you to fund your education and find those scholarships!

Happy Scholarship Hunting!

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