There is great discussion among parents and students about whether or not college scholarship applications are worth it. Students complain about the time involved with seemingly little to show for it. Parents urge, and often nag, their students to apply. Other parents believe it’s simply a waste of time.
I happen to be one who believes scholarship applications are indeed worth the time and effort. My daughter attended an expensive private university based on the scholarships she won from outside sources and from the college or university itself. Those scholarships allowed her to attend a school that was financially out of reach.
The usual excuses
As with any task, there will be any number of excuses that prevent students from applying.
I don’t have the time.
Applying for scholarships definitely requires some time and effort. Time can always be found for those activities that are important. But if you are successful, it can pay better than any part-time job you will have during high school.
I can’t write college essays.
There are plenty of “no essay” scholarships available, many simply require that you enter or answer a short question. Yes, many scholarships do require essays, but many do not. If essays scare you, look for the scholarships without essay requirements.
I will never win.
Winning a scholarship is an odds game: The more you apply for, the more likely your chances of winning. It’s also a strategic game: finding the right scholarships tailored to your ability and interests with fewer applicants. It’s also a marketing game: how you market yourself on the scholarship application for a specific scholarship. And there are some whacky scholarships out there you would never expect.
The argument for scholarships
Here’s my sales pitch for why I think it well worth the time spent applying for scholarships:
It's a good hourly wage.
If you do the math it will help put this into perspective. Winning a $1,000 scholarship that requires two hours of effort is the equivalent of $500 per hour our your time. Will you find any part-time job that pays that well? Small scholarships add up quickly and often have fewer requirements.
Your family might not qualify for need-based aid.
Tuition bills can put a huge burden on any family. If your family doesn’t qualify for need-based aid, scholarships will go a long way toward meeting your EFC (Expected Family Contribution). They can also eliminate the need to dip into savings or retirement to fund college expenses.
It’s funding you won’t have to pay back.
Scholarship money is free money. You won’t have to pay it back after graduation; unlike those student loans you will take out if you don’t have scholarships or college savings.
An “invested” student will take college seriously.
Even if your parents are able to pay for the entire education, you will take your education more seriously if you have invested time and money to get to college.