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Articles / Admissions / Small Scholarships Can = Big Aid

May 18, 2020

Small Scholarships Can = Big Aid

One day at a time. A thousand mile journey begins with the first step. One more brick in the wall.

Huh? What's that all about?

The lesson here is that going after a group of smaller, less prestigious scholarships can add up to a significant boost in your financial aid picture. All too often, high school seniors become dazzled by the "big" scholarships, such as Coca-Cola's and others. However, the natural caveat here is that just about every other aspiring college student on the planet is also competing for these biggies, so your chances may be similar to that of winning the Power Ball lottery.

To optimize your scholarship impact, why not divide and conquer? (Yet another cliche!). Consumerist.com has an interesting article about just such an approach to securing money for college. Let's take a look at some key points.

Rather than banking on one big scholarship, students are finding success by stringing together several small scholarships. By filling out an online questionnaire, you can get matched up with organizations that focus on specific subjects, talents, interest groups, ethnicities, and industries. Here's your first step:

WSJ reports that first what you want to do is make a profile at SallieMae.com/scholarships, fastweb.com or SchoolSoup.com. They'll use your answers, which include your background, what you're interested in, your GPA and test scores, to hook you up with scholarship that will fit you.

The amounts can be small, anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. One of these alone is not enough to pay for your education. But if you can snag several, it starts to add up. While it still won't be enough for a full-ride, anything that defrays the costs helps. And hey, it's essentially free money.

November is the deadline for many scholarships, so get cracking.

Just remember to watch out for application fees. For the most part, the only thing you should pay for when applying for a scholarship is postage. Investigate the names of any scholarships asking for application fees, it could be a ripoff.


Contrarily, and apparently, many students aren't thinking small. It appears as though many students want the brass ring, or at least a much bigger chunk of the available scholarship cash out there. A poll cited on the UniversityBusiness.com site addresses this exact topic:

With scholarships, students apparently want more buck for their bang. A poll of 500 visitors to the scholarship search site www.Lunch-Money.com found that more than one-quarter would not apply for a scholarship worth less than $5,000; nearly half would only eye a prize of $1,000 or more. Typical Lunch-Money.com visitors, President Mark Rothbaum says, are at the end of high school or in an early year of college; nearly 70 percent are seeking needs-based scholarships.

So why the hang-up about award amounts? Thinking that applications require significant effort (essay writing, recommendation letters, etc), students feeling time-strapped may be less likely to go for scholarships paying more modest amounts, surmises Melanie E. Corrigan, assistant director of the Center for Policy Analysis at the American Council on Education ...

I wonder how much more cash these "hung-up" students would have to put toward their college expenses if they didn't spend so much time texting, posting on Facebook, and watching the Kardashians. So much for creativity, initiative, and motivation.

What's your take on more smaller scholarships vs. fewer big ones? Let us know below.


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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