Everything You Think You Know About College Scholarships Is Wrong

“Scholarship” is one of the most important words in a student’s life.

With the cost of college continuing to rise, everyone is asking: How am I going to afford school?

And scholarships seem like the key to getting a degree without getting buried in debt.

But, there’s just one problem. Most people simply don’t understand how scholarships work or how to maximize the aid they receive. Everything from where to find them to what you need to do to win them is probably very different than what you think.

Don’t worry though! This post will help you understand how scholarships really work–so you can score as many scholarship dollars as possible. Below are 5 common scholarship myths and misconceptions.

1. Most scholarships come directly from colleges, not from sweepstakes

One of the more common scholarship myths is that funding comes primarily from outside sources.When many people think of the word “scholarship”, they imagine filling out hundreds of applications for $500 and $1,000 contests, awarded to students for wacky things like being left-handed or having ancestors from Italy.

But, for all of the scholarships on all of the search sites, these types of awards make up just 13% of the total amount awarded each year.

About three times as many scholarship dollars (39% of all scholarships) come directly from colleges and universities. (The remaining amount comes from federal PELL scholarships and state grants.)

Best of all, most students don’t need to fill out separate applications or essays to be eligible for these scholarship dollars. They just need to apply and meet the requirements.

2. Colleges don’t just award scholarships to geniuses and star athletes

Another common misconception is that the only way to get a scholarship is to play a sport or be a straight-A student with perfect test scores.

In reality, yes, many colleges award scholarships based on students’ GPA and ACT/SAT scores. However, students can often qualify for big money by just maintaining a strong GPA in college.

3. You don’t need to be “poor” to receive need-based financial aid (you just need to know where to look)

Many people think that all middle-class families get passed over for need-based aid. “We make too much for financial aid, but not enough to afford college,” is a common story.

But there are many colleges in this country that offer generous need-based aid for families making even more than $100,000 per year. In fact, many “expensive” colleges even offer free tuition or full-ride scholarships to middle-class families.

One of the more common scholarship myths is that only students in financial need receive scholarships.

Don’t assume that because your family is middle class that your student won’t qualify for any financial assistance. The College Raptor match tool can help you find colleges that will offer you financial aid based on your family’s income.

4. Scholarships are a marketing tool for colleges

One thing that students and parents don’t understand is that for many colleges, scholarships are really used as a marketing tool. They use scholarships as a way to recruit more students.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It just means that students and families should be aware of how colleges approach the topic. And, don’t let the idea of “earning a scholarship” be the only reason you choose one particular college. Others may offer you an even better scholarship.

5. Your scholarship offer is not set in stone

Once you find a college that will offer you a scholarship, it’s easy to think that you’re forced to take it or leave it. But, guess what? That’s not always the case.

In many situations, a student can request a review or ask a college to match a scholarship offered by another college. It won’t always happen, but it can almost never hurt to ask!

Using College Raptor to compare estimated scholarships

mobile-cost-page-mockupCollege Raptor’s match tool helps students find colleges that are the best fit and that are most likely to offer them the best scholarships.

The way it works is simple. You fill out a quick profile. We find colleges that we think are the best matches for you and show you an estimate of your net price–what you’ll pay after scholarships are subtracted.

For almost all students, they discover that colleges they thought would be way too expensive may offer them huge scholarships and actually be affordable.

Check out the College Raptor match tool–it’s free!

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