what are the odds of winning a scholarship

What Are Your Scholarship Odds?

by Suzanne Shafer, Parent Editor

When you look at your scholarship odds, is applying worth it?

Most students hope for some sort of scholarship for college. Few are able to pay for the entire four years. Parents dream of getting that letter in the mail that says, “Congratulations, you have won a full ride for four years.” It happens, but it’s not the norm. The students who receive scholarships work hard and spend time searching and applying.

What are the scholarship odds?

Not everyone is going to win a scholarship. According to the 2007-08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), about 1 in 10 students enrolled full-time at 4-year colleges used scholarships to pay for their education, and the average amount was about $2,800. That sounds depressing and might cause you to think why bother; but keep reading to the bottom of the article for some hope and encouragement.

Athletic Scholarships

You will hear parents brag that their student is an athlete so they aren’t worried about scholarships; their student will get a full ride athletic scholarship.

Statistics rarely lie. And unfortunately, the numbers show that the recruiting game is a tough process to go through. There are more than seven million high school athletes, but there are college roster spots for just two percent of them. Getting to the NCAA Division I level is even tougher. Just one percent of those seven million student-athletes get a full ride to a Division I program. The recruiting process takes work, and earning an athletic scholarship is far from easy. It’s better to focus your time on academics, where your chances for a merit based scholarship are greater.

Here’s an infographic to demonstrate the point: Athletic Scholarship Statistics.

Here’s a chart that lists which athletic scholarships are available, how many, and the award amount: Scholarship Stats

It’s not all bad

Each year rumors and speculations arise around the topic of scholarships. You will hear statements like: there’s no way I will qualify so why bother applying; there are millions of applicants so I won’t win one; if you aren’t an A student you shouldn’t even bother. All of these, of course, are not true.

Scholarship Experts talks about myth vs fact: Scholarship Facts you won’t believe

What are my chances?

The best answer I can give you is your chances are ZERO if you don’t apply. Do the work, follow the rules and apply for the right scholarships by using a matching search engine. Think outside the box and apply for scholarships with the fewest applicants (like local ones), thus increasing your chances.

The simple adage applies with scholarship searches: no pain, no gain. It may take you time and require you to push your limits, but the reward is worth it.

What Are Your Scholarship Odds? by Suzanne Shafer, Parent Editor When you look at your scholarship odds, is applying worth it? Most students hope for some sort of scholarship for college.

Scholarships: 10 Tips to Boost Your Odds of Winning

If you’re the parent of a soon-to-be college student, you’re probably in complete sticker shock. The cost of college has skyrocketed over the last decade and the harsh reality is, it continues to rise.

In fact, according to data released by College Board, the cost per year for tuition, fees, room, and board hovers around $20k for an in-state four-year public university, $35k for an out-of-state four-year public university and $45k for a private four-year university.

And, with student debt hitting an all-time high at $1.45 trillion spread out among 44 million borrowers, the idea of paying for college can be downright terrifying.

While many people believe that college will pay for itself later in higher salaries, there’s no reason why your child shouldn’t strive to secure a slice of the billions of dollars worth of scholarships that are up for grabs every year. And, according to the National Scholarship Providers Association, there is no better time to apply than now.

Look at it this way. Would you rather spend hours applying for scholarships or years paying off student debt? Take it from someone who spent literally hundreds (and hundreds) of hours researching creative ways to lower the cost of college and ended up shaving more than $100k off the cost of my kids’ education, scholarships can make a big dent in the cost of college once you establish a strategy.

Quite often applying for scholarships boils down to a numbers game – the more scholarships you apply for, the better chance you have of winning. Although, with a little inside advice, your child might be able to improve their chances of scoring scholarships to help them offset the burden of college expenses.

Here are 10 insider tips that no one tells you about scoring scholarships:

1. Before You Begin Applying for Scholarships, Complete the FAFSA

According to the U.S. Department of Education, many people are under the impression that they shouldn’t complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) because they earn too much money. The reality is there isn’t an income cut-off to qualify for federal student aid. Because several factors are taken into consideration aside from family income, it doesn’t matter if you have low income or high income, you may still qualify for some type of financial aid including low-interest loans. Plus, in many cases, completion of the FAFSA opens the door for merit-based scholarships.

2. Some Colleges Won’t Even Consider a Candidate for Any Scholarships if they Haven’t Submitted the FAFSA

Here’s the real kicker that most people don’t realize. If you want your child to be considered for an institutional scholarship at their college of choice, complete the FAFSA. Some colleges won’t even consider a candidate for any scholarships if they haven’t submitted the FAFSA. Also, some colleges also award aid based on priority deadlines, so it’s especially important to complete the FAFSA as early as possible. If you have questions about a specific college, take the time to contact the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid and ask them what their requirements are.

3. Start Applying for Scholarships Long Before You Enter College

Most people are under the assumption that you have the ability to apply for scholarships during your freshman year of college and after that, the window of opportunity closes. The truth is, there’s a vast array of both institutional and outside scholarships just waiting to be applied to well before and after the perceived window of opportunity. Some outside scholarships are open to kids as young as 13 years of age while others are available to grad students who need to supplement the cost of their higher education. Rule of thumb: as soon as your child becomes a teenager begin looking for scholarship opportunities and continue to look for and apply for scholarships the entire time they are in college. With enough diligence and tenacity, it’s possible to fund a large percentage of your child’s education through scholarships.

4. The Best Time to Apply for Scholarships is in the Fall (But, Keep Your Eyes Open Year Round)

The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) has designated November as National Scholarship Month. Many colleges have a college scholarship portal that opens in the fall shortly after classes begin offering a variety of scholarships that are available and national scholarship organizations often kick-off their scholarships in the fall with varying deadlines depending on the scholarship. Although the best time to apply for scholarships is in the fall, there are plenty of scholarships available throughout the year that you can apply to as well. Local private scholarships tend to have deadlines in the spring, but this can also vary.

5. The Trick to Finding Outside Scholarships

Aside from institutional scholarships (scholarships awarded directly from a particular university), there are endless outside scholarship opportunities just waiting to be won. Outside scholarships are scholarships awarded to a student by a third party, including national and private organizations, communities, agencies, religious organizations, non-profits, high schools or even private individuals. National scholarship organizations such as, Capex, Unigo,, Scholly, and are a great place to start, although one thing to keep in mind is that scholarships through these organizations can be extremely competitive and, in turn, more difficult to win unless you submit a stellar application. To improve your chances of winning, keep your eyes open for local scholarship opportunities. Rotary Clubs, the YMCA, Jaycees, Junior League, National Honors Society, local libraries, your child’s high school, and possibly even churches may all offer scholarships to local students.

Another great way to find scholarships is to search for scholarships that specifically match your child’s heritage, accomplishments, interests, talents, and experiences. If your child is a huge nature enthusiast, for instance, search for hiking, outdoor or camping scholarships. If your child is of Lebanese descent, look for scholarships directed toward students whose families are Lebanese. Additionally, if your child has disabilities, conduct research to find scholarships dedicated to kids who are disabled. If you focus on your child’s strengths, abilities, and unique characteristics, you’ll essentially narrow your scholarship search and improve your child’s chances of winning.

Lastly, don’t overlook social media. Nearly every college has a Facebook page and most have a page authored by their Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid. By following their Facebook page, you’ll be able to keep up with the latest information and available scholarships. There are also plenty of “closed” Facebook groups that you can request to join that provide insight into available scholarships. Conduct a search on Facebook to determine which groups are of interest to you. Once accepted into the group, ask questions to familiarize yourself with potential opportunities, get to know some of the other parents and students in the group and share insight to broaden your scope of available scholarship opportunities.

6. Write a Stand-Out Scholarship Essay

Writing a winning essay, whether it’s for a college application or a scholarship, is about writing with passion. Encourage your child to write about a topic that’s near and dear to them. Depending on the specific essay prompt in the scholarship application, (if it requires an essay), your child should strive to write about something personal. Perhaps an event in life that transformed him/her, a challenge that made him/her a better person, how they reached out to help the less fortunate or how they overcame an obstacle in their life. They can also write about something that taught them about the importance of perseverance, tolerance or compassion. Rather than having your child write a “unique” essay, encourage them to write an essay that is “uniquely theirs.”

Remember, to the scholarship committee, your child’s application and essay are simply “words on a page,” which is why it’s so important to stand out. For more insight and tips on writing a winning essay visit:

12 Questions Your Child Should Ask Themselves When Writing Their College Essay

7. The Strategy You Need to Remember

One of the absolute best ways to improve your chances of winning a scholarship is by applying for less competitive scholarships. Look for scholarships that are new or have specific requirements that don’t apply to the masses. When your child begins applying for scholarships they’ll find that most people apply for scholarships that pay out the big bucks – $20k, $30k or even full-tuition. Although these scholarships sound intriguing and can be won if you submit a stand-out application, you’ll increase your chances of winning considerably if you focus on less competitive scholarships. Here’s the strategy you need to remember:

Less Money = Less Competition = Greater Chance of Winning

More Money = More Competition = Less Chance of Winning

More Work on the Scholarship Application = Less Competition = Greater Chance of Winning

The less scholarship money = less competition. The same applies to those scholarships that require more work including an application, essay, letters of recommendation, etc. as opposed to simply submitting a simple application. The more work that’s required to submit the application = less competition. If you can get into a rhythm of applying for scholarships on a regular basis keeping this strategy in mind, I assure you, the $2k, $3k, and $5k scholarships add up very quickly.

It’s important to note that in some cases, scholarship money received may reduce the amount of need-based financial aid and loans received from a college. However, colleges are not required to reduce or take away money – the decision rests with the individual college. My kids were awarded more than $100k in college scholarships and neither of the colleges they attend reduced aid as a result of the scholarship winnings they received.

8. Before You Hit the Send Button, Proof, Proof, and Proof Again

One of the most important things your child should do before hitting the send button is to proofread their work several times and then, when they’re completely convinced it’s perfect, have someone they trust proof it again. As a writer by profession, I can tell you that regardless of how many times you proofread your own work, you always seem to miss a typo or grammatical error. And, nothing can put your scholarship in the round file faster than having a bunch of typos in the application and essay.

Also, before they submit the application, make sure they’ve read through the requirements thoroughly and have provided everything they require paying close attention to the maximum word count. Their application won’t make it past the first round if they can’t follow directions correctly. Lastly, don’t miss the deadline. If possible, apply early.

9. Don’t Give Up

According to the 2017 Sallie Mae How America is Paying for College Survey, nearly half of all families are relying on scholarships to fund the expense of college. And, it’s no small amount. Scholarships are funding nearly 35% of college costs on average. So, don’t give up!

10. Avoid the One Mistake Most Scholarship Winners Make

One of the biggest mistakes scholarship winners make is not taking the time to thank the scholarship committee. Several college administrators have shared with me that rarely, if ever, do they receive any feedback from students who are awarded a scholarship. Whether your child is awarded a small institutional scholarship from their college or a hefty outside scholarship from a private organization or civic group, they should always write a hand-written thank you note.

In fact, when my daughter was awarded a scholarship from her university, not only did my daughter write a hand-written thank you note, I followed up with a personal phone call to the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid to thank them. They were so appreciative (and shocked), that we took to the time to thank them personally that one year later, she received another scholarship. Trust me, the folks who work in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid are paying attention, and they will remember if you show appreciation.

I hope the tips and insight I have provided will serve as a guide, helping you to streamline your search for scholarships and improve your child’s chance of winning substantial funds to offset the expense of college. Again, as a mom who doesn’t have any professional experience scoring scholarships, it is possible to fund a large percentage of your child’s education through scholarships! If you have any additional tips or insight you’d like to share, please feel free to leave a comment. These tips cover merely the basics! Best of luck in your scholarship search!

Scholarships: 10 Tips to Boost Your Odds of Winning If you’re the parent of a soon-to-be college student, you’re probably in complete sticker shock. The cost of college has skyrocketed over the ]]>