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  • Allison Grandits

Scholarship Inflation Part 2: Unclaimed Awards

Academic Building with the text "Unclaimed Awards"

In Scholarship Inflation Part 1, I tackled the media's tendency to exaggerate scholarship success stories, often spotlighting students who seemingly secure millions of dollars in awards. Today, I shift my focus to outside scholarships.

The common belief that scholarships abound, waiting for eager students to claim them, paints a picture of untapped financial resources. However, the reality is more nuanced. While an estimated $100 million in scholarships remains unclaimed annually, it's not due to lack of interest but rather the stringent criteria attached to many scholarships.

These purportedly "unclaimed" scholarships often feature highly specific eligibility requirements, making them inaccessible to most applicants. From scholarships tailored to unique traits to those tied to obscure fields of study, the sheer specificity of these awards limits widespread eligibility.

In this installment, we'll debunk the myths surrounding unclaimed scholarships, offering clarity and guidance for navigating the scholarship landscape. Join us as we dissect the truth and provide practical tips for uncovering genuine opportunities. Whether you're a parent seeking to support your child's educational journey or a student eager to maximize your scholarship potential, we're here to empower you with the knowledge needed to navigate effectively.

It's common to encounter "no-essay" scholarships, promising easy money for minimal effort. However, these often result in spam rather than genuine opportunities. Valuable scholarships typically require work, attracting a smaller applicant pool. To streamline your search, limit the number of scholarship sources and explore reputable platforms like JLV College Counseling's Blog, which highlights relevant opportunities without inundating you with emails.

Let's dive into the most recent post to see how nuanced some of these scholarships are. For the April 20 post, there are 86 options. 33 had some geographic requirement, 30 had some identity qualifier (race/ethnicity, LGBTQ+, first gen, gender, etc.), 26 required students to study something specific, 16 were for students involved in a specific organization or involved in a particular activity, 5 were for military-affiliated students, 5 were for current college students, 3 were for students who had parents working for a specific company or field, and 2 explicitly stated that they considered financial need. Many had multiple requirements, including:

  • Adults with Autism Scholarship is open to Delaware resident students with autism spectrum disorder who have completed high school or earned a GED and possess the capacity to complete a post-secondary program. Applicant must have been accepted into a post-secondary program.

  • AISES Aristocrat Scholarship is open to Native American undergraduate and graduate students who are studying in a field related to casino gaming (software development, technology, supply chain, etc.)

  • Birmingham Member Chapter Scholarship is open to current AIST members or the children (natural, step, adopted, or ward) or spouse of a member in good standing, of the AIST Birmingham Member Chapter (Mississippi and Alabama). Student must be accepted in an eligible, full-time course of studying in the field of engineering with a demonstrated interest towards a career in the iron and steel industry.

  • Outdoor Communicators of KS Scholarship  is open to graduating high school seniors enrolled in a Kansas high school who plan to attend a college in Kansas and study wildlife or nature-based curriculum or outdoors journalism. University students enrolled in a wildlife or nature-based curriculum, or pursuing outdoors journalism are also eligible.

  • TELACU Education Foundation Scholarships is open to first-generation college students who come from a low-income household and have at least a 2.5 GPA. Applicant must be a permanent resident within the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, or San Bernardino (California). Priority will be given to students majoring in the fields of Business and STEM.

  • Women's Another Chance Scholarship is open to single mothers over the age of 24 who are committed to the pursuit of post-high school education and/or training. Applicants must live in the Missouri counties of Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, St. Louis or the City of St. Louis and the Illinois counties of Madison, Monroe or St. Clair. Students must attend a school within a 50-mile radius of the city limits of St. Louis.

Out of the 83 scholarships listed on the page, just over 20 were open to any graduating high school senior planning to go to a four-year college in the fall. Most required students to write an essay, complete a free training, film a video, or answer a questionnaire, and a few were the dreaded sweepstakes scholarships. Most of these awards were for $500-2000, and were only awarded one time.

As you can see, this process takes a lot of effort, which is the number 1 reason why, when people ask if I search for scholarships for them, my answer is no. But if you want to go it on your own, here are my tips:

  • Start local: check with your credit union, your parents' workplaces, your utility companies, and your high school counseling office. Every spring, when I was a school counselor, we would have a few local organizations come in with applications, and they had to award scholarships to our students from our school. Sometimes, we only had one or two students apply, so the odds were good!

  • Seek out your identities: looking for "scholarships for high school seniors" literally brought up 591 million results on Google, but "Scholarships for crocheters" brought up 13,200 results. Think of all the things that make you who you are.

  • Create a system: Create a spreadsheet or document to track scholarship opportunities, deadlines, and requirements. This system will serve as your roadmap, keeping you organized and on track throughout the application process.

  • Consistency is key: Set aside weekly dedicated time to research and apply for opportunities. Whether it's an hour every evening or a few hours on the weekend, establishing a consistent schedule will ensure that you make steady progress toward your goal.

  • Be aware of scholarship displacement: Some colleges may reduce your financial aid award if you receive outside scholarships, potentially limiting the net benefit of winning scholarships. If your future college participates in this practice, your $1000 one-time award could reduced your renewable 4-year award.

With research, patience, and a concerted effort, you may be able to find a few third-party scholarships to help you pay for some of your college costs. I recommend building out a well-balanced, affordable college list first instead of banking on the one-off awards to fully fund your college journey.

Do you have questions about admissions? Want to get a jump start on your college planning? Contact Allison or visit Grand Fit Educational Consulting for more information.

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