The world of scholarships can be confusing, complexing, and downright mysterious.
Just how are winners chosen? What awards are worth the time? Which are scams?
Well get ready to forget everything you’ve heard about scholarships, because we’re blowing the lid off some of the most common myths you’ve always wondered about.
1). Only students with a high GPA have a shot at winning
You might think every scholarship provider is looking for a student with a 4.0, but the truth is there are TONS of scholarships where your GPA isn’t the focus – some scholarships don’t even ask for it!
If you’re the type of student that cannot be summed up by a transcript, then merit-based scholarships are for you. These types of scholarships are often related to a student’s ability to excel at non-academic pursuits like art, sports, or volunteer work. Most of the time they require applicants to submit essays, videos, or portfolios showcasing their unique abilities, not their test-taking skills.
For a better understanding of how merit based scholarships work, make sure to check out this post from our archive.
2). “There are no scholarships I can apply for.”
Similar to point number one, this is a far too common attitude students have! Stop debating whether or not you’re eligible for scholarships, cause guess what – YOU TOTALLY ARE. It’s just a matter of looking for them.
While some scholarships do have specific entry requirements, you’d be shocked to discover just how many awards out there only require you to be a high school or college student. Sure, you may not be the best fit for every scholarship opportunity, but don’t cut yourself short without exploring your options.
3). Judges favor awarding scholarships to certain ethnicities
This is a touchy subject for many students, but here’s the real deal – unless a scholarship is specifically designated to support a certain demographic, race should not be considered a factor for applying. Most scholarship applications do not require you to disclose your ethnicity, so for the most part judges will have no idea what your (or other applicants’) race is.
If a scholarship does ask for your ethnicity it’s not for screening purposes – many organizations use this information to get a better sense of what communities they are serving or to share their insights for annual reports (many non-profits are required by the government to provide information on the demographics they are providing services for).
4). Sob stories work to a student’s advantage
In the college admissions world there are the “Three D’s of Personal Statements” that review boards come across far too often – death, divorce, and disease. Similar to the world of scholarships, trying to leverage a personal hardship to sway the judges is a frowned upon tactic.
If a scholarship requires you to share a hardship – or if you feel including it will give a more holistic perspective of yourself – discuss how you overcame whatever obstacle was in your path and what you took away from the experience. Harping on difficulties in your life will not win you sympathy points, but explaining how they have shaped you into a better person will speak volumes about your character.
5). “My counselor already had me apply for all scholarships.”
Most counselors are armed with a list of local and regional scholarships that students in the area can apply for – many of these scholarships can even be applied for with the same application. While it may seem like you’ve done your due diligence by giving these awards a shot, limiting your output to only those handful of scholarships is a missed opportunity.
Once you’ve tapped out all the options your counselor can provide, it’s time for you to start taking things into your own hands. Try going online for your scholarship search; for example, Zinch can match you with scholarships you already meet the eligibility requirements for.
6). Small awards aren’t worth the time
If you found $500 lying in the street you’d nab it in a second, right? Then start bringing that sentiment to any and all scholarships that cross your path.
$500 here, $200 there…it adds up! Stop thinking that smaller awards aren’t worth the effort – if you seriously believe you have a shot at winning then go for it! A $500 scholarship that took an hour to apply for is way better than a $0 scholarship that took you no time at all.
7). Online scholarships are scams
At first glance some online scholarships seem too good to be true, but there are ways to filter out the sketchy from the legitimate.
First, do a little bit of research on the provider. What’s the organization’s mission? Are they a non-profit (or not-for-profit)? Have they awarded scholarships in the past? For that last part, check to see if they’ve announced any previous recipients – any organization worth their salt would want to showcase their winners.
Another great way to identify legit scholarship providers is to see if they are accredited, a member of, or work with any nationally recognized scholarship organizations. Zinch for instance is a member of the National Scholarships Providers Association (NSPA), as well as an official Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) sponsor; both organizations require an in-depth review before being certified for approval as a partner.
If a provider doesn’t have an accreditation though don’t view that as a sign that they are untrustworthy – just do some research, try to find feedback from others, and trust your gut. We will callout one sure-fire sign of questionable a scholarship provider though, which is any kind of required payment that’s needed to apply (or receive awarded funds). You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship!