College Planning Myth #3

There are Tons of Private Scholarships that Go Unclaimed Every Year and They Will Take Care of My Student’s Funding Needs

I’ve heard it in the soccer stands, from high school counselors, and even from “professionals” in the college consulting space: private scholarships are the key to helping your student pay for the college experience of their dreams.  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  In 2020, according to U.S. News & World Reports, the breakdown of higher education funding from sources other than families is as follows:  the federal government – 44%; colleges themselves – 36%; state governments – 9%; employers – 7%; and, finally, private scholarships – 4%.  

Private scholarships may be national or local in scope.   Amazon has a private scholarship.  So does Taco Bell and many others.  That sounds great, and there are plenty of websites and books out there that promise to point you to “all the good ones,” but it’s more complicated than that.  First off, there is so much competition for these scholarships that the chances of winning one are probably less than getting hit by lightning.   Secondly, “winning” one of these coveted awards might amount to only a few thousand dollars, hardly a dent in your college costs.  Local private scholarships might be within easier reach.  These are scholarships from your community’s Rotary Club or a local non-profit.  What you’ll find, though, is that these are again small in relative size and won’t make a big impact on your higher education bill.

Some well-meaning parents have bought into the urban myth that their amazing kids will be able to claim a full-ride scholarship that “they have heard” are available for students with outstanding grades, extracurriculars, or any number of other defining characteristics that fit their child.  Again, according to the same 2020 U.S. News & World Report story, there were currently less than 250 full-ride private scholarships in existence at the time of publication, and of all current college students, only 0.3% were receiving a full-ride scholarship from any source.

Let’s revisit the notion that lots of private scholarships go unclaimed every year, and it just takes a little determination to unearth those hidden gems.  Lynn O’Shaughnessy, a nationally-recognized expert on college planning, tells of an example in her book, “Savvy College Planning.”  According to Ms. O’Shaughnessy, there is actually a private scholarship for students who are accepted into Loyola University in Chicago.  The kicker?  To receive the scholarship, the student must have been baptized in the city of Chicago and have the last name of Zolp.  Is it any wonder this scholarship goes unclaimed year after year?  

Your best chance of finding dollars?  Widen your scope to explore schools that give generous merit aid awards.

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