When it comes to scholarships, there are plenty of myths floating around. Whether it concerns someone’s odds of winning or the availability of scholarships, the rumor mill will steadily crank out misinformation for all to hear.
There is one predominant myth batted about in schools that has been around since I was in grade school. The myth concerns the actual amount of scholarships that go unclaimed every year. Typically, the companies selling "scholarship search" services are the same ones promoting this myth.
Often, the results these companies deliver are not as good as the ones students would produce if they take the time to look themselves. The key to unveiling this myth lies in knowing the difference between the types of scholarships that are available. Like my uncle once told me, there is a little bit of truth in every myth.
According to Daniel J. Cassidy’s "The Scholarship Book: The Complete Guide to Private-Sector Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Loans for the Undergraduate," more than $2 billion will be awarded this year to students in the U.S. This money is awarded by organizations ranging from businesses to colleges to civic groups.
A majority of these scholarships are typically labeled "public." Public scholarships are ones that don’t require any type of prior membership in order to qualify. For example, the Target All-Around Scholarships are open to any students wishing to apply who have a commitment to community service. No prior memberships, such as employment at Target, are required to apply.
While there is a load of cash available through these public scholarships, you can be assured that every red cent eventually gets awarded to students. Scholarships such as these will always receive more applications than they have actual awards. Because of this fact, the competition between applicants tends to be very tough
The fact is, while there is some money that goes unclaimed each year, it is usually money that is not from public scholarships, but rather "private" awards. Private awards are those that are based on group affiliations.
For example, Wal-Mart’s Higher REACH Scholarships are open to company employees only. While millions are employed by Wal-Mart, it requires a prior affiliation to qualify. Odds are, while there are prior affiliation requirements, much of that money may be awarded as well. If you are lucky enough to have a private affiliation that would qualify you for such a scholarship, the key is to make sure you know about it.
A good first step would be to search sites like WiredScholar.com, BrokeScholar.com, and FastWeb.com. They perform searches based on what you want to do, as well as your affiliations. Even more important is the fact that they also help you search based on those minute criteria that could qualify you for those few scholarships that may go partially unclaimed, or have fewer applicants.
Look carefully at every interest you have and every business you come across. The world of scholarships is a very competitive environment. Most of the time, you will have to play a zero-sum game, where there are winners and losers. However, by looking for those scholarships that may have fewer applicants, you increase your chances of being that winner.
Jose Vazquez, a marketing major at Western Illinois University, has been awarded 27 scholarships, amassing more than $100,000 in aid to date. He is the author of the book "Free Cash For College: The Everyday Students Guide To Financial Aid," which can be found at www.vazquezmedia.com.
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