Scholarship Myths and Misconceptions: Finding the Right Fit
Scott Hicks, ScienceWise.com Editor May 30, 2000
Finding scholarships can be time-consuming and nerve-wracking, but ultimately rewarding ó if you do your homework. Along the way, many myths and misconceptions can lead you in the wrong direction.
Becoming familiar with some of the most common scholarship-seeking myths can help you save time, reduce frustration, and focus your scholarship search.
Myth #1: Only athletes win big scholarships.
You donít have to be a basketball or football star to win a super scholarship. Being an athlete is just one way to garner a scholarship. Other factors (such as GPA, community service, and financial need) play a significant role as well. Finding a scholarship has as much to do with hard work and perseverance as anything else. You do have to do the research and fill out the forms, but you don't have to hit home runs.
Myth #2: My grades are too low for me to win a scholarship.
Grades are important, but don't worry if youíre not a straight-A student. Grades arenít the only criteria for awarding scholarships. Although your grade point average (GPA) will be taken into account, many scholarships use it mainly as a preliminary cut-off point. For example, many scholarships require a minimum GPA of 2.5.
Organizations look for talented students with a range of interests, such as writing, involvement in community service, and membership in local organizations.
For example, the Target All-Around Scholarship Program requires a 2.0 GPA and looks for applicants who are involved in community service. The Dr. Harry Britenstool Scholarship Fund is geared toward Boy Scout members. The annual Signet Classic Scholarship Essay Contest is based almost solely on the applicantís English essay.
Although most engineering and science scholarships require at least a 3.0 GPA, there are quite a few exceptions to this rule. The Richard E. Merwin Scholarship in electrical engineering and computer science, for example, is available to members of the
Computer Society Student Branch Chapter and requires a 2.5 GPA.
Myth #3: Since I have a high GPA, scholarships will come to me.
Just because your grades are high doesn't mean financial help will automatically fall into your lap. You should still consider and pursue a variety of financial aid options, including tuition tax credits, state and federal programs, loans, and grants.
Myth #4: My family income is too high for me to qualify for a scholarship.
Most private sources don't require financial need information. State and federal scholarship restrictions, which do require financial need statements, do not apply in the private sector.
Myth #5: Billions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed each year.
According to financial aid specialists, the number of unused scholarships is very low. This myth stems from two factors. First of all, most supposedly unused scholarships are corporate benefits that go to employees or their children and are included in the totals of unclaimed scholarships.
Secondly, online scholarship search engines that charge $24 to $200 propagate the myth, hoping that students will use their services to find some of those billions of "unused" dollars.
There is an abundance of scholarship resources available for free on the Internet and at the library. A free Science and Engineering Scholarship search is available through the Scholarship Resource Network on the ScienceWise.com Web site.
Myth #6: Scholarship competitions are always objective.
Like most contests, scholarship competitions are often subjective. Each scholarship is understandably biased. It's not that scholarship panels are unfair, itís just that they have specific qualifications for their candidates. Take a close look at each scholarship description to make sure that it matches your particular interests and strengths.
Myth #7: The more extracurricular activities I participate in, the better my chances are.
Quality, not quantity, is important when it comes to extracurricular activities. It is more advantageous to participate in one or two relevant activities than to acquire a long list that demonstrates little dedication to any one activity. Sticking to a couple of activities indicates that you are focused and passionate about your interests.
Myth #8: I should spend my time and energy on only one or two scholarship applications.
Don't focus all your energy and time on one or two scholarships. Although there are a lot of factors within your control, there are many factors beyond it. The more scholarships you apply for, the better your odds are of winning one. Thatís not to say that you should apply for hundreds of scholarships while sacrificing efficiency. Remember to be thorough when searching and applying for scholarships to find the correct ones to fit your needs.
Myth #9: University, corporate, and government scholarships are the only ones worth pursuing.
Avoid confining your search to universities and large corporations; there are plenty of private local scholarships out there as well. Civic, religious, and community organizations such as Elks clubs, Rotary clubs, the American Legion, and local churches are excellent sources. University Web sites often highlight local scholarships.
Myth #10: I'm too old to apply for a scholarship.
More than half of all students in the United States are over 25 years old. People are changing jobs in the middle of their careers and going back to school to finish undergraduate studies or earn graduate degrees. Some students leave school for the work world before graduating and decide to return a couple of years later.
There are a lot of scholarships available for students over 25 years old. Programs such as the Jeannettte Rankin Foundation offer scholarships for women 35 years or older. Many other colleges offer scholarships for senior citizens.
Scholarships have a variety of requirements and come from a variety of organizations. Your grades, interests, and financial status are important factors in securing a scholarship, but you don't have to be a superstar to find them.
Don't forget to research and apply for federal, state, and college assistance programs. Look for the college that best suits your academic and financial needs. Then, do your scholarship homework and apply for the ones that match your interests, strengths, and needs.