When applying to colleges, it is important to pursue all possible avenues that could give you or your family a financial break. The costs of college tuition have been rising steadily over the past decade or so. The average cost of an in-state public school over four years, which is widely considered (rightfully) to be one of the more financially prudent college options, has risen to over $24,000, not taking financial aid or other breaks into account. In an environment such as this, it is completely sensible—if not necessary—to explore scholarship opportunities.
Explore your options first.
It is important to remember that scholarship hunting is not an entirely different realm than the original application process. When it comes to the latter, others actively encourage students to be idealistic and apply to their dream institutions. But, supplement those “reach schools” with so-called “safety schools,” i.e., colleges that the student feels they will definitely be accepted to. Scholarship hunting is not that different. Explore your options, apply to those that fit you best. However, also remember that scholarships should not be seen as an all or nothing process.
Full-ride scholarships are very competitive.
You should keep in mind that true, all-encompassing full ride scholarships are hard to receive. Only about 20,000 students nationwide are attending school on full ride scholarships. Even NCAA athletes, who ostensibly have distinct advantages in receiving full rides, are susceptible to these statistics. 2% of high school athletes receive full rides. That means that even students who have the ability to actively earn money for their school are often passed over. Don’t confuse the small amount of full ride scholarships for selfishness on the part of colleges, however; it is simply a very rare and prestigious award that goes to only a few students.
Don’t have an “all or nothing” mentality.
Although students are constantly encouraged to “go for it all,” this should not mean having an “all or nothing” mentality. Even if you end up with a partial scholarship from a private college, you are in the upper echelon of college students. These scholarships range from paying for a single semester or year to covering a nondescript amount of tuition money. Let’s not forget the many qualifiers in between too. It is also vital to keep in mind that when it comes to most scholarships, your decision to accept one will not impact your chances of getting another, as long as the rules of the scholarship make that clear.
Just remember that it’s not a great idea, financially or practically, for students to only apply for full ride scholarships. There are so many partial scholarships available. Think of it this way: if you were at a raffle with three tickets, would you throw out two of them because they might not win you the top prize? Not many sensible people would. Don’t bind yourself into the mentality that it is only worth it to receive a full ride scholarship. Partial scholarships, which are given to many more students, can buoy your financial situation significantly. Even if they don’t pay for everything, it is significantly better than applying to just one full ride scholarship, not receiving it, and ending up empty-handed.
Want financial aid help? Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover potential financial aid from colleges around the country, and read up on scholarships and other financial aid articles on our blog!