Searching for Private Scholarships Not Worth Most Students’ Time

High School seniors applying to college often ask when they should start looking for private scholarships — early in their senior year? Later after they’ve gained acceptance? They plan to add scholarship search to their already heavy caseload of classes, standardizing testing, college search, applications and essays.

However, the hunt for scholarships is typically not a good use of students’ time:

  1. Students who apply to and plan to attend a college or university that is a good fit academically, socially and financially will likely find that the price being charged by the university is in line with what the family expects and is able to pay. Students should research and choose colleges that meet all of their needs, including financial. Doing advanced research, plus the basics such as completing FAFSA and applying to colleges that meet demonstrated need is a better use of students’ time than searching for what are typically small amounts of money.

2. Most private scholarships are only for one year. While every little bit helps, a small scholarship for one year is not much of an offset for four years of tuition at a school a family can’t readily afford.

3. Searching for private scholarships is time consuming, and students are likely competing against many others for limited dollars. Students’ time is better spent formulating an effective college list. See above.

4  Some colleges reduce their institutional financial aid award (the amount the college itself offers the student) by the amount of the private scholarship. Ex: if a student wins a $1,000 scholarship, some schools reduce their financial aid by $1,000, so that the net price the student pays is the same without the scholarship.

Students, spend your time on building an effective college list rather than hunting for private scholarships.