Common Mistakes Students Make While Searching for Scholarships

Don't make these mistakes while searching for scholarships

Flickr user Erik Levin

Scholarships and grants are the ideal way to pay for college. Scholarships are gift-aid, so you don’t need to pay them back after graduating. Awarded for multiple reasons, there’s a scholarship out there for everyone. Do you have great grades? What about pursuing a certain academic interest? Super involved in your community? Are you part of a certain ethnic or religious group? What about writing creative essays? The list is pretty much endless. With tons of amazing opportunities out there and available, you want to increase your odds of earning those awards as much as possible, right? Well, try avoiding these common mistakes while searching for scholarships.

Only looking for private scholarships

Did you know that the two biggest providers of scholarships and grants are actually the federal government and the individual colleges themselves? Yep! Private sources make up a relatively small portion of available scholarship funds. So, make sure you look for scholarship opportunities offered by the schools you’re interested in, as well as filing the FAFSA. Speaking of the FAFSA…

Not filing the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form used by the federal government to determine a student’s financial need. Through the FAFSA, the student can qualify for a number of federal aid programs. The FAFSA is also used by a multitude of other aid providers, however, including private scholarship sponsors. So do yourself a favor; file the FAFSA. It’s free, and it gives you free aid. Not only that, you’re opening yourself up to even more scholarships.

Only looking for BIG scholarships

Scholarship amounts with a bunch of zeroes attached are definitely enticing. So what’s the problem? Scholarships with big rewards also means big competition. Planning on applying to a small handful of big scholarships. Then, tuition and cost of college is covered, right? Well, many other students also have the same idea. If you’re all competing for a big scholarship, there’s less of a chance of you winning.

Instead, don’t look over the scholarships that have smaller awards attached. There are an abundance of smaller scholarships out there, and they don’t draw as much attention/competition, so your odds of earning them are higher.

Starting the search senior year

There are scholarships out there for just about every type of student—including juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen in high school. Keep in mind, you can never start your search too early. In fact, the earlier you start, the more scholarships you can earn, and the less panicked you’ll feel when college draws near. Your wallet will thank you for your forethought.

Ignoring requirements

What if a scholarship has 5 eligibility requirements and you meet 4 of them? It’s tempting to apply. After all, 4 out of 5 isn’t half bad, right? Wrong. If you do not meet all of the eligibility requirements explicitly stated by the scholarship do not bother applying. You’ll only be wasting your time, and theirs. Instead, spend that extra time searching for scholarships you do qualify for.

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