Are Those Students Really Turning Down $10,000 for College?
It’s the beginning of the year and many families are making decisions about what college to choose. It is also the time when paying for college becomes a reality.
I recently spoke to a good friend of mine who was frustrated because she works in a large school division and she was concerned that there were not enough applicants for a very lucrative local scholarship.
In her area business owners in the community pool their resources each year and offer a $10,000 scholarship to be awarded to a local student. There is no GPA requirement for this award, the requirements just specify that the student show academic merit and demonstrate need. It also specifies that the student be involved in some type of community service and be a U.S. Citizen.
Can you guess how many students had applied by the deadline? Out of the 12,000 high school seniors enrolled in that school system, the scholarship committee had received 14 applications. For $10,000 scholarship! This blew my mind, so much so, that I had to research this myself. I was sure that my friend had left out some important details. Surely students were not prepared to leave $10,000 on the table. I searched and the opportunity was properly advertised in the school system’s database and on individual school websites.
The question remains: why don’t students apply for scholarships? Here are a few reasons:
- The first reason that students don’t apply for enough scholarship money is that they don’t know how -Some students are totally unplugged from the college preparation process, this includes knowing where and how to find and apply for scholarship money.
This is particularly true for first generation college students. Unfortunately,many of them miss out on money that they may qualify for simply because they are “out of the loop”. It is imperative that we as mentors, advisers and counselors push these students to seek private financial assistance and clearly articulate the message that completing the FAFSA isn’t enough.
I recognize that it can be extremely difficult to ensure that students are fully taking advantage of the resources that are available to them. However, I believe that we as educators have a duty to direct students to all possible opportunities
- The second reason that students don’t apply for enough scholarship money is that they don’t think that they qualify for available awards.
Students will often tell advisers that their GPA or test scores aren’t high enough to pursue scholarships. Not true! Many organizations award scholarships based on a number of criteria independent of grades or test scores.
- Thirdly, students sometimes skip the scholarship search because they think that they already have enough money for college.
This group includes students who are fortunate enough to have parents that were able to save enough money to fully fund their college education and others who have scored sizable university scholarships. These students have the mistaken notion that they don’t need to seek outside sources of money. The fact is that incidental costs like travel and school fees can cause a tremendous strain for families who fail to plan for these hidden expenses. Outside scholarship money can help to fill in the gaps.
- The last reason that students don’t apply for enough scholarship money is that they are unwilling to do the work that it takes to apply for the awards.
On numerous occasions, I have seen many scholarships go to the candidates who simply bothered to write the requisite essay. I know that senior year in particular is very busy for high school students but, we as counselors and advisers must stress the importance of carving out time to apply for private scholarships. Believe it or not, I have heard of some students who are “turned off” if a contest is only awarding $300 or $500. If an essay takes 2 hours to write, I often advise, a $500 scholarship will earn the winner $250 per hour! When put in those terms, two hours seems like reasonable investment of time.
In the end, the bottom line is that if only 5% of the students in the senior class applied for the scholarship, readers would have had over 500 to choose from. Instead, committee members had to make their selection based on 21 applicants.