Scholarships can cover a significant portion of college costs, but all too often students don't take the time to apply for them. They may be dissuaded from checking out scholarships because they've been misled by some common scholarship myths.
Here are a few of the most common misconceptions about scholarships and why students shouldn't buy into them.
Myth 1: You need a 4.0 to earn scholarships. Some scholarships are open only to students with exceptional academic records, but there are so many more that are for those who have certain interests or hobbies, plan on working in a certain field or are involved with volunteer or religious groups.
Many awards don't have an extensive list of qualifications and only require you to live in a certain state or attend a particular high school. Some are open to everyone and have no requirements at all.
Myth 2: Scholarship applications take too long. Some awards require you to write an essay, create a five-minute video, submit recommendation letters and fill out a lengthy application. However, not every scholarship has extensive application requirements that will take days to complete.
There are plenty of awards, like the Cappex Easy Money Scholarship, which require you to just enter your information for a chance to win. Keep in mind these aren't the only ones you should apply for; typically, the easier an application is, the more competitive the award will be.
Myth 3: Only high school seniors can apply for scholarships. This myth keeps too many eligible high school freshmen, sophomores and juniors from applying for scholarships every year. Students need to start thinking about paying for higher education as early as possible, which is why they should be applying to scholarships throughout their high school years, not just once they start applying to college.
There are thousands of awards that don't require students to have reached a certain grade to apply and are open to all high schoolers. Just look at DormBedding.com's #FortOnFleek Challenge. Anyone ages 13 or older can build a fort out of sheets or blankets, post a photo to Facebook or Instagram and be entered to win a $1,000 scholarship.
Myth 4: I won't win because scholarships are too competitive. Some scholarships receive hundreds of thousands of applicants, especially if they're well-known awards that don't have very specific eligibility criteria. Give them a shot and apply, but don't neglect smaller, lesser-known or local awards.
You may think it's a waste of time to write an essay for a $1,000 scholarship that's open to students from your city, but if few people apply your chances of winning are much higher.
Myth 5: Great students don't need to apply for scholarships. Students who do well academically still need to apply for scholarships. Organizations aren't actively looking for high schoolers with great grades to give scholarships to – they're looking through applications and going from there.
Don't assume that grades alone will be enough to get you an award without any effort. Filling out scholarship applications is still the best way to increase your chances of winning money for school.
Myth 6: I should only aim for full-ride scholarships. We've all heard stories about students who win a full-ride scholarship to their dream school thanks to a flawless academic record, athletic ability or another desirable talent. However, very few students will actually win full-ride awards. Many scholarships are very small, with some only being a few hundred dollars.
However, your chances of winning these awards can be higher and receiving a few of them will add up. Apply for big, full-ride awards if you think you're qualified, but don't neglect smaller scholarships that could make a significant contribution to your educational costs if you aren't granted that full-ride scholarship. The Mark A. Gabis Foundation is a good place to start – it offers Stepping Stone scholarships ranging from $50 to $300 dollars.