Scholarships Can Expire: Here’s What You Need To Know

Do scholarships expire? Short answer: yes, but it's complicated

Flickr user Steve Snodgrass

Applying for scholarships is an important, must-do part of college prep, but it’s important to note what many students don’t ask: Do scholarships expire? The answer is yes, scholarships can expire. It’s not always obvious if they do, but here’s what you need to know about this reveal.

They Can Be “Use It or Lose It”

Scholarships can actually fall under a sort of “use it or lose it” clause. For example, if you win an award for your freshman year and you decide to take a year off instead, the scholarship may not be waiting for you when you do attend. Scholarships are usually not a physical check to you, but a check to the school towards your education.

Some awards also require you to be part time or full time when it comes to college enrollment, and skipping a year may make you ineligible to receive it. If you’re planning on taking a year off, talk to the hosts of the award first to see what will happen to it if you decide not to attend college after you graduate high school.

You May Meet Your Limit

Some scholarships also have a limit to how much they will give you. Each award is different. Some may only give you money one time, while others renew each year automatically. And even if they renew every year, it may stop renewing at the third or fourth year.

They may also base it off how much you won. If the total award amount is $8,000 and they gave you $2,000 a year, you won’t receive the $2,000 for your fifth year of college. This is also important to note in case your award is granted by semester rather than year.

Check the original wording of the scholarship to see how and when they will grant you the money. This will often tell you if there is a monetary or time limit on the award.

You May Need to Reapply

While some scholarships renew every year automatically, others may require you to reapply to win it again. Keep in mind that you will have to qualify. This could include meeting a minimum GPA, participating in extracurricular activities, or meeting any other requirements. They generally want to see that you’re upholding your end of the bargain and they will be clear about what they’re looking for.

Other scholarships may stop after one award, but do allow you to apply again. Always check these to see if you’re eligible to win a second, third, or even fourth time!

When applying (and potentially winning) scholarships, always make sure to read over the fine print. This will help you know what to expect over the next four years in regards to an expiration date and allow you to plan financially. And keep up the scholarship applications well into your college career. Many open up for sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They’re not just for freshmen!

Want to see what sort of aid you might get from schools around the country? Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover that, and your college cost estimates!

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