10 Interesting Scholarship Facts & Stats

  • Scholarships are free money* that the federal government, colleges and organizations of all sizes offer students to help pay for college.
  • Scholarships may be awarded for academic accomplishments, athletic achievements, community service, ethnicity, or a number of other reasons.
  • Some scholarships are one-time only while others are recurring.

Scholarships are a great way to help cover some (or in some cases if you are lucky, ALL) of your college expenses! We’ve put together a few important scholarship facts that will help you understand how they work and how you can maximize the aid you receive.

1. Scholarships = Free Money

Yes, that’s right: scholarship money = free money*. Any award money you win is yours to keep. Scholarships are a type of gift aid. You don’t have to return the money or pay any interest on it. And, there’s no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply to or the amount of award money you can win. The more awards you win, generally the less you’ll need to borrow by way of student loans (money you DO have to pay back).

You do have to spend some time looking for the right opportunities and putting together strong applications. But, the time and effort you put in are worth it when you consider the potential rewards – free money for tuition and less student loan debt.

Search for scholarships.

2. You don’t have to be a scholar or an athlete to win scholarships

Students may not bother to apply for scholarships because they think these opportunities exist only for scholars and athletes. According to a recent Sallie Mae report 45% of families think that scholarships are only for exceptional students. While many scholarships are based on academics, test scores, and athletic achievements, there are many other awards that don’t.

You can find scholarships based on

  • Ethnicity
  • community service
  • Intended major
  • Religious affiliation
  • Special interests
  • State of residence via state grants, and more.

Other opportunities may be awarded to first-generation students and students with specific disabilities. Of course, we couldn’t skip over those interesting unique scholarships that are awarded to students for reasons such as being left-handed, creating a wool garment, duck-calling skills, creating a prom dress out of Duct Tape, and more.

3. There are even scholarships that have no requirements at all

Most scholarships will have some minimum eligibility criteria, whether it is minimum GPA, belonging to a certain demographic or demonstration of a specific skill. But not all scholarships have requirements. Some organizations such as Citzens offer a no essay, no contest sweepstakes!

All you need to do to be considered is complete a quick form and hit submit, and you’re entered for a chance to win a Grand Prize of $15,000 to use towards school expenses. No purchase necessary! How easy is that?

4. Scholarships are available for every academic level

Students typically start looking for scholarships at the same time as they start researching colleges. In doing you could potentially lose out on many opportunities to get free money during your high school years. You don’t have to wait until it’s time to enroll in college to apply for scholarships.

There are scholarships available for students at all academic levels, including elementary, middle, and high school students, undergrads, grad students, and transfer students. There are even study-abroad scholarships.

Starting your scholarship search early and winning awards during the early school years can help save a significant amount in fees. These savings can be used to cover your college costs, which can help lower your overall student loan debt.

5. Smaller awards are less competitive and easier to win

Scholarship awards can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. It’s tempting to apply to only large-award scholarships. After all, it’s time-consuming writing essays, gathering the necessary documentation, and putting together a strong application. Why waste that time on small awards, right? Wrong.

Larger scholarships tend to be more competitive because they attract a larger applicant pool. The more students applying for these awards can make them more competitive, lowering your chance of winning.

Smaller scholarships on the other hand tend to be less competitive, especially if they are local opportunities. First, fewer students are eligible for local scholarships. Second, many students think these smaller awards are not worth their time and don’t bother to apply. The smaller applicant pool makes smaller scholarships less competitive and easier to win.

Besides, all those small amounts can add up to a nice sum over time. Winning some money for college is better than none.

6. A scholarship may be one-time or recurring

Some organizations offer one-time awards. You can win that same award every year but you will have to submit a fresh application every time.

Other organizations offer recurring awards. For these, you submit just one application. If you win that scholarship, you will receive the award money every year. Recurring scholarships usually have certain requirements that you need to meet to maintain your eligibility. In most cases, you will need to maintain a certain GPA.

There could be other stipulations too. For example, you could lose your scholarship eligibility if you switch from full-time to part-time study, change majors, transfer schools, or break the law. Make sure to read the rules carefully if you win a recurring award.

7. A full scholarship may not mean what you may think it does

A full scholarship does not necessarily mean that you will have zero college costs. Sure, it does take care of the biggest expense of all, but you’ll likely still have some out of pocket costs.

A full scholarship typically covers the full cost of your college tuition. That means you won’t pay anything toward tuition but that’s not the only expense you’ll have while in college. You also have to pay for room and board, textbooks, school supplies, transportation, groceries, and other miscellaneous expenses. You may have to cover some of these costs yourself.

8. Not all scholarships are listed on the internet

A lot of bigger scholarships are listed on the internet but some smaller awards aren’t. Local businesses that offer awards to students within their community generally won’t list their opportunities online. Instead, they may advertise it on the local newspapers, school notice boards, and community notice boards.

Make sure to check out these resources as they could lead to some great scholarships with very little competition. High school counselors are another great resource for identifying scholarships that are not listed online.

Many organizations also set up scholarship programs for their employees’ children, which is definitely worth looking into.

9. Scholarships can impact other aid

We said earlier that there’s no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply to or the amount of award money you can win. While that’s true, the amount of money you get through scholarships can affect your overall federal financial aid package. Federal financial aid includes grants, scholarships, work-study, and student loans. The total amount of financial aid you receive cannot exceed your college’s cost of attendance by more than a certain amount.

You are required to report all the awards you win to your school’s financial aid office. If you win a substantial amount in scholarships, it could reduce your demonstrated financial need, and accordingly, your school may lower the amount of your offer.

This does not mean you should stop applying to scholarships, but definitely make sure you are in contact with your financial aid office so you fully understand what you are getting.

10. Your scholarship offer is not set in stone

Once you find a college offering you a scholarship, you may assume 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!

10 Interesting scholarship statistics

So, how much are students receiving in scholarships on average every year? We checked the latest data and here’s what we found:

  1. It’s estimated though that over $2 billion in federal student grants go unclaimed each year.
  2. The total scholarship money that the Department of Education awards every year to students is estimated to be about $46 billion.
  3. First-time undergraduates receive about $14,890 in government grants and scholarships every year. On average, students enrolled in a private 4-year college receive about $8,005 more than students enrolled in a public 4-year college.
  4. Almost 84% of first-year undergrad students receive some form of financial aid.
  5. As a funding source, scholarships and grants account for about 25% of financing college on average.
  6. In 2023, 61% of families used scholarships to help cover college costs. This is consistent with the 60% of families that did the same in 2022. The average dollar amount that families received from scholarships in 2023 increased by an average of $1,1781, which is a 29% increase over one year.
  7. The most common sources of scholarships continue to be colleges and universities. Of the students who used scholarships to pay for college, 65% reported receiving at least one award from their school with the average amount of $8,005. 37% received state scholarships averaging about $1,968 and 10% received awards from non-profits and private organizations.
  8. Around $3 billion in Pell Grants are unclaimed each year as a result of students NOT filing FAFSA.

Click here for more interesting scholarship and grant facts and stats.

Using College Raptor to compare estimated scholarships.

College Raptor’s college match tool helps students find colleges that are a good fit and that are most likely to offer them the highest amount in grants and scholarships.

The way it works is simple. You fill out a quick profile. We find college matches based on your preferences. Then, we show you an estimate of your net price–what you’ll pay after scholarships and grants are applied.

Start now to discover colleges. Find out which ones may be too expensive and other possibilities which may provide huge scholarships making your tuition more affordable.

*While a scholarship does not have to be repaid, there may be other obligations associated with the scholarship

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