10 Common Scholarship Myths

Believing one or more of the many prevailing scholarship myths can stop you from applying for free money that you can use to pay for college.

Scholarships are the most well-known form of financial aid, and for good reason: scholarships and grants make up about 57% of all aid awarded each year. But just because they’re well-known doesn’t mean they are always well-understood. Myths and misconceptions have sneaked their way into the conversations over the years and have muddled the truth about scholarships.

To clear the misconceptions, we’ve listed 10 of the most common scholarship myths floating around out there so you don’t miss out on any opportunities that you qualify for.

A woman is looking at her laptop with her hand is holding her face.

Flickr user Kennedy Library

Myth #1. Only students with good grades win scholarships

Fact: There are many different types of scholarships out there, and not all of them are academic-based. While it’s true that higher GPA and test scores can help a student qualify for more scholarships, there are still many opportunities available for students whose grades are average or less than stellar.

Many organizations offer scholarships based on a wide range of academic and non-academic criteria. You can find scholarships for skaters, equestrians, surfers, swimmers, and even some based on physical attributes. Whatever your skill, strength, or favorite pastime, you’re sure to find a scholarship that will reward you for it.

Myth #2. Only high school seniors can apply for scholarships

Fact: College is often at the forefront of many senior-student conversations. As such, many talk about seniors applying for scholarships—but the fact of the matter is, you can apply for scholarships every year you attend undergraduate (or graduate) school, AND even during your high school junior, sophomore, and freshman years.

While there are a lot of scholarships that focus on graduating seniors, there are awards out there for students of other grade levels. You’ve just got to put in the effort and time into searching for them. These scholarships for high school juniors bust this particular scholarship myth.

Your Student Loan, Your Way.

Variable rates from 4.98% - 12.79% APR


Myth #3. I should only apply to full-ride scholarships

Fact: Banking your entire college financial plan on a full-ride is not the smartest move. Full-rides are relatively rare and highly competitive. You have to be the best of the best to be a full-ride winner. That means putting in a lot of work over multiple years just to qualify and then spend a lot of time putting together an outstanding application.

So, what happens if, after putting in the time and effort, you don’t earn a full-ride? Do you have a backup plan ready to go? Have you been saving up, applying for aid, and comparing college costs? If not, you may want to start.

Consider these options:

Myth #4. I should only apply to scholarships that offer a lot of money

Fact: Like full-rides, scholarships that award a lot of money are highly competitive. It may sound a lot more appealing to apply for something that might give you $10,000 instead of just $1,000. But the fact is, these scholarships also attract some of the most competitive and accomplished students, making them that much more difficult to win.

This does not mean you should not apply for high-award scholarships. You definitely should. However, you should also add a few smaller-amount scholarships to your shortlist. Smaller awards are much more common and draw in less competition, which greatly increases your chances of winning some free money.

Pro-Tip: Use a FREE scholarship search database to match you with potential scholarships.

Myth #5. Scholarships are too competitive, I won’t win anything

Fact: This scholarship myth can keep a lot of deserving students from even looking for opportunities to apply to. The fact is, some well-known scholarships may be highly competitive but not all are. There are thousands of opportunities that are not nearly as competitive.

Scholarships that limit applications to students of a specific racial background, students interested in a specific major, or even local scholarships awarded within a single school system, make the applicant pool much smaller.

Also, federal and college-given scholarships are generally given out on a first-come, first-serve basis. Here, speed and attention are more important than direct competition or impressive accolades.

Myth #6: Only students who can write impressive essays stand a chance of winning scholarships

Fact: Judging scholarship essays is completely subjective. Scholarship judges are not necessarily focusing on how an essay was written. What’s more important to them is getting an insight into what you think about a specific subject. They will also take a close look at whether you have followed the guidelines provided and addressed the essay topic appropriately.

The best way to write a winning essay is to ditch the stringent academics and let your personality show through in your words.

Also check out these No-Essay scholarships

Myth #7: The amount of time you have to spend looking for scholarships is not worth it

Fact: Every second that you spend looking for scholarships is totally worth it. Considering there are so many different types of scholarship opportunities available, you never know what fantastic opportunity you may stumble upon during your search that you would never have known about otherwise.

During your search for scholarships, you will come across some unusual opportunities that you may qualify for.  For example, did you know that there are scholarships for students who love to collect things, dog lovers, and Minecraft players?

Here are some more unique scholarships that you can apply for. These are just some of many opportunities you’ll stumble across that make it worth the time spent looking for scholarships.

Myth #8: I can apply for a scholarship only once

Fact: There are no limits to the number of times you can apply for a scholarship. Organizations that offer scholarships reserve a certain amount of money to be awarded as scholarships to deserving students every year. Every scholarship opportunity has its own unique set of eligibility requirements.

As long as you meet the requirements, you may submit your application. The judges will assess each application on its own merit and award the scholarship to the most deserving applicant, regardless of any other factors.

However, if you win a particular scholarship, you may not be eligible to apply for the same one the following year. This restriction may vary from one opportunity to another so make sure to check before discounting it altogether.

Also, some scholarships offer one-time awards while others are recurring. The recurring awards often require winners to meet certain requirements to qualify for the award money during years 2, 3, and 4.

Myth #9: Only those who can demonstrate financial need are awarded scholarships

Fact: The majority of scholarships do not require applicants to demonstrate financial need. The only condition is that you meet the specified conditions, which may be as diverse as having a unique talent, pursuing a particular hobby or belonging to a certain race, religion, or culture.

There are a few need-based scholarships. They are awarded to students who are in financial need and require some monetary assistance to pay for college. Need-based scholarships are generally non-competitive and are most commonly awarded by the colleges themselves as well as the federal government. You must file the FAFSA to qualify for need-based scholarships offered by the federal government.

If you don’t meet the need-based criterion, there are still several other scholarships you can apply to so this scholarship-related myth does not hold true at all.

Myth #10: I should not waste my time applying to small local scholarships

Fact: Scholarships come in all sizes and while the bigger awards are more appealing, they are also much more competitive. You have to be at the top of your game to win some of the larger awards.

Smaller scholarships offered by local businesses are also competitive but they can be comparatively easier to win. These opportunities are typically restricted to students who belong to certain demographics or communities. This limits the applicant pool, increasing your chances of winning. Keep in mind, that if you win multiple smaller scholarships, all of those small awards can add up to a considerable amount.

Even the smallest scholarship is worth applying to. Every dollar that you win by way of a scholarship means you need to borrow that much less by way of student loans.

Scholarship money can go a long way in helping you graduate with minimum debt. Don’t let these scholarship myths and misconceptions keep you from applying to opportunities that you qualify for.

We hope that clearing up these myths about scholarships will encourage you to put some time and effort into exploring more opportunities. Winning more scholarship money can help you be better prepared to create a college payment plan while reducing the amount you borrow by way of student loans.

Use College Raptor’s Scholarship Tool to find billions of dollars in government, institutional, and private scholarships with wide-ranging criteria.


Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Citizens logo.
6.98%-15.04%* Variable
5.99%-14.00%* Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Sallie Mae logo.
6.37% - 16.70% Variable
4.50% - 15.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Credibe company logo.
4.98% - 16.85% Variable
4.07% - 16.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
6.07% - 11.31% Variable
4.39% - 10.39% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Ascent company logo.
6.24% - 15.85% Variable
4.29% - 15.76% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.54% - 11.08% Variable
3.95% - 8.01% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Earnest company logo.
5.62% - 18.26% Variable
4.11% - 15.90% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
4.98% - 12.79% Variable
8.42% - 13.01% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
College Raptor is not a loan lender and does not assume responsibility for suggesting a loan to a user who may not be eligible for it. Rates, terms, conditions, eligibility, approval, and other considerations are the decisions of the lenders and may vary depending on which lender or marketplace the user selects. We urge users to carefully consider and review all loan options and terms before committing to taking out a loan.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.