Here’s Why You Aren’t Getting Scholarship Offers

Many people I talk to say they can’t get college scholarships because their grades aren’t good enough, they haven’t participated in extracurricular activities or their family makes too much money. These are all excuses. I wholeheartedly agree that anyone, no matter their test scores, grades, year in school or income level, can earn scholarships to go towards paying for college.

Don’t think you have to pay for college fully out-of-pocket. Don’t believe student loans are the first and last option. Don’t hold yourself back from furthering your education because you’re convinced it’s not financially obtainable.

In this blog post, I’m going to discuss a few reasons why students aren’t getting scholarship offers and how they can change it.

YOUR NET IS TOO NARROW

A common scenario I see is students applying to schools where they primarily offer need-based financial aid and they only browse that college’s website for scholarship opportunities. If you or your parents make too much money in the eyes of the government, then the chances of you receiving a large amount of scholarship or grant money are slim to none.

Cast a wider net and apply to colleges that offer a large variety of scholarships (such as merit, athletic, arts, humanities, community service, etc). Search for smaller scholarships on websites such as National Debt Relief, Government Finance Officers Association and Abodo. On Pinterest, I have a scholarships board where there’s a collection of scholarships you can apply to every month. I update this daily so be sure to follow here.

Photography: Ashley Sinha
Photography: Ashley Sinha

YOUR APPLICATION ISN’T COMPLETE

This is said over and over again but it really is vital that you prepare to apply for scholarships early. Finding a perfect scholarship only to realize that you need two letters of recommendation, your official transcripts and a 500-word essay due in two days will stress you out beyond belief.

Once a new academic year or quarter starts, get these materials together. I asked four teachers to write recommendation letters for me, I wrote three essays (at different lengths and on different topics) and requested copies of my unofficial and official transcripts all by the end of September when I was in high school and college. When you wait until the last minute to get these things together, your scholarship application will probably be sloppily put together. An incomplete or hastily thrown together application significantly diminishes your chances of earning free money.

YOU AREN’T REALISTIC

There are several myths out there that you should apply to (expensive) private schools because they offer more scholarship money. In reality, private schools only offer slightly more scholarships than public schools and it’s usually nowhere near enough to meet the cost of tuition that can increase every year. You also may have heard that if you’ve played a varsity sport that recruiters will be knocking on your door to offer you scholarship money to play for their university team. Unfortunately, unless you are absolutely (consistently) a stellar athlete compared to all the other varsity athletes in your state, the chances of you getting a Division 1 full-ride scholarship just isn’t probably going to happen.

I’m not telling you that your dreams won’t come true but being realistic and practical will always work out in your favor in the end. Look at state and lesser-known (but accredited) colleges. Consider attending community college and applying for their dozens of scholarship opportunities like I did. Apply for 10-15 small scholarships instead of banking on getting a full-tuition scholarship.

Photography: Ashley Sinha
Photography: Ashley Sinha

Remember you can do this. The only person stifling your goal of earning money for a higher education is yourself. When there’s a will, there’s always a way.

Stay driven.

474 Comments

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    Unfortunately, in my experience, I have to completely disagree with you here. It may be easier for you to get a scholarship as a person of color, but white, middle-aged, men who make $90k a year with crippling debt that the government doesn’t take into consideration is next to impossible. If you are not a good writer, which I am not, that will also prohibit you from receiving scholarships. Most scholarships are geared toward, high aptitude, people of color, in a specific major, who play sports or who work in community service, living in specific areas or endowments of specific families.

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