College Scholarships: 5 Common Questions Answered

July 13, 2016

According to the College Board, in 2014-2015 a total of $123.8 billion in scholarships and grants was awarded to college students. The scholarship application process can be a bit overwhelming. Here are 5 things you need to know about scholarships to avoid common mistakes and to maximize your award!

The costs of higher education are rising in the United States. This year, the Class of 2016 graduated with an average of $35,000 in student loan debt. Students loans aren’t fun. Unfortunately, too many students are using high amounts of student debt to finance their higher education. Before accepting or applying for student loans, you should look to maximize your financial aid.

Scholarships and grants are a great way to fill the gap between the cost of attendance and your federal financial aid package. According to the College Board, about 37% of all scholarship and grant awards came from the federal government. The remaining balance was awarded by colleges, private organizations, individuals, and state and local governments.

Are you interested in applying and winning scholarship awards?

We thought you might be. So, we asked Nate Matherson from LendEDU to answer some common questions regarding college scholarships.

What is a merit based scholarships?

Merit based scholarships account for about 41% of all scholarship awards. Merit scholarships are usually awarded on the basis of academic, athletic, or artistic talent. The primary objective is to encourage talented students to apply and attend a particular college. In some cases, colleges will offer merit scholarships to encourage enrollment in an underrepresented major, or to underrepresented ethnicities.

In most cases, you will know the amount of your merit scholarship award immediately after being accepted. And in some cases, you may be required to meet certain academic performance requirements once accepted.

What is a private scholarship?

Private scholarships account for about 14% of all scholarship awards. I talk with too many students who forget to apply for private scholarship awards.

Unlike merit scholarships, private scholarships are usually awarded by an organization or individual. There are literally thousands of these scholarships available in the United States. Organizations and individuals often create scholarships to give back to the local community. And, most private scholarships are awarded to candidates that exemplify the characteristics or values of the organization or individual offering the award.

Far fewer people apply for private scholarships. Hence, it is actually a lot easier to win these. Less applicants means it will be easier for you to win the award.

Where should I look for private scholarships?

As I mentioned, there are literally thousands of private scholarships out there. Most private scholarships can be found online. Our generation has gotten pretty good at using Google. I tell high school and college students to put their Googling skills into use.

Are you a law student? Do you live in Arkansas? Do you wear glasses? 

I know that there is a scholarship for you. Think about your hobbies, skills, and passions. Then, search for scholarships that are related to your hobbies, skills, and passions.

Applying for scholarships does take time. You will need to commit yourself to a schedule. But after you’ve applied for a few scholarships you will find that you will be able to reuse essays and applications.

What is the craziest private scholarship that you’ve seen?

Do you want to be a mortician? Are corpses your calling? You could apply for this American Board of Funeral Service Education scholarship.

Should I ever pay to apply for a scholarship?

No no no. Stop right there.

You should never pay to apply for a scholarship. You should never pay to win a scholarship. All legitimate scholarships are free to apply and win. Unlike student loans, scholarships do not need to be paid back. If you are asked to pay to apply for a scholarship you are likely in contact with a scammer.

 

About The Author

AdmitSee Staff
AdmitSee Staff

​We remember our frustration with applying to college and the lack of information surrounding it. So we created AdmitSee to bring much-needed transparency to the application process! Read more about the team here.




Browse Successful Application Files

bwill
Williams ‘19


Accepted to Williams, Claremont (CMC), Amherst, Swarthmore, Pitzer, Northwestern, Tufts, WashU, Grinnell, Rice, Emory, LMU

Hi! I'm a Williams '19 transfer who's passionate about social justice, tech, and STEM. I'd love to share what I learned from navigating this hectic process twice!
lmelcher
Columbia ‘20


Accepted to Columbia, Brown, UPenn, Rice, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UVA, UC Davis, UCSD, UCSC, USC

Hey! I'm a John Jay Scholar at Columbia, and I'm from Los Angeles. I'm planning to major in Art History and do ballet and theater. Hope I can help!
niathuravil
Rutgers ‘20


Accepted to Rutgers, NYU, Fordham, UMass, Colorado, MSU, Illinois, Arizona, Washington

Your local political astronaut with a passion for the prolific things in life.
ssen2019
Rice ‘19


Accepted to Rice, Rochester, Case, Emory, Hamilton, Pitt, Union, Miami

Experience applying as daughter of first generation US immigrants. Aspiring physician interested in double majoring in Acting and Cognitive Science.

New Posts

Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
September 17, 2018

Drafted your personal statement and ready to get started on your supplemental essays? Here are the supplemental essay prompts for Dartmouth College.Dartmouth College requires two additional pieces of writing on top of the Common...

What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
September 14, 2018

For many families, the only way to afford a college education is for their student to receive some financial aid. An athletic scholarship is one way that can help lower the price. Here’s what...

Still Figuring Out What School to Apply To?
Still Figuring Out What School to Apply To?
September 12, 2018

The school year is already in full swing. What if you’re a senior who hasn’t yet decided on a final college list? Don’t panic. Let’s get started. If you’re a...

Freshman Year: My First Weeks at Cornell University
Freshman Year: My First Weeks at Cornell University
September 03, 2018

As many of your are settling into your first weeks at college, we thought we’d ask our College Admits how their first weeks at college were. Here’s a reflection from JerBear, a Cornell...

Load More Posts