More than 1.7 million scholarship programs are awarded to eligible students a year. Since you can apply for and receive multiple scholarships at a time, it’s possible to offset a huge chunk of the cost of college or even get a degree for free.
However, you will be competing with millions of students who want to get their hands on scholarships, too.
The good news is that there are less competitive scholarships that get very little to no attention from college-bound kids. Applying for them can significantly increase your chances of winning.
Scholarship programs very few students apply for come from small local organizations, companies and businesses. Many of them also come from personal donations and employers. Non-traditional scholarships are eligible only to certain types of applicants, such as returning students and single mothers.
Most students apply for competitive scholarships because of the big awards involved, ranging anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 or more. Some of these scholarships will cover the majority of the cost of college.
Unfortunately, your chances of winning prestigious scholarships are very rare. It doesn’t come as a surprise since many dream of getting their hands on those big bucks for college. As a general rule, the more competitive the scholarship and the more students apply for it, the lower the chances of getting it.
Let’s check out some of the hardest scholarships to get and their acceptance rates:
|Gates Cambridge scholarship||1.60%|
|Eugene McDermott scholarship||4%|
While there are competitive scholarship programs with big cash prizes and low acceptance rates, there are also small scholarships that not a lot of students consider applying for.
Scholarships Nobody Applies For
Long Essay Scholarships
There are many things that students in their junior and senior year of high school have to deal with. One of the things that can consume lots and lots of their resources is applying to various colleges and universities.
It’s also the best time to apply for scholarships — there is no need to figure out which college you will go to before you decide which scholarship program you will apply for. Besides, applying early gives you plenty of time to send applications to as many scholarship-granting organizations or corporations as possible.
Because of the stressful and nerve-racking nature of the last couple of years of high school, many students steer clear of scholarship programs whose requirements can be time- and energy-consuming, such as essays.
Some scholarships require 500-word essays, while others require longer ones.
It’s for this reason why no-essay scholarships tend to attract tons of applicants. On the other hand, those requiring applicants to write long essays, sometimes about very challenging topics, act as repellents against very busy high school students. The longer the essay, the farther students stay away.
Needless to say, if you have plenty of time and also the knack for writing and you want to get your hands on a scholarship grant that not too many students fight over, then sit before your laptop, fire up your favorite word processor, and start composing a winning essay.
When applying for scholarships, most students look for programs that involve cash prizes amounting to more than $1,000. The bigger the award, the easier college will be on the pocket.
However, as mentioned earlier, it’s not easy to win high-dollar scholarships. Similarly, the majority of them can be stressful to apply for. Because huge sums of money are being given away, their providers want to make sure that only the most deserving will be awarded, and it’s by having rigid eligibility requirements.
If you don’t want to waste your resources trying to win prestigious scholarship awards, then consider applying for those that involve winnings of $1,000 or less. There are a couple of reasons why this is a great idea. First, not a lot of students think about applying for them. Second, there are many providers of these smaller college scholarships.
Many of these scholarship programs award $500 that applicants may win easily. Some examples are:
- Webpop Design scholarship
- Vegetarian Video scholarship
- Nutrition and Internet scholarship
- Band Together scholarship
- Camera Runner Photography scholarship
- Home Cleaning and Organizing scholarship
- Celebrity scholarship
Based on the names of the above-mentioned scholarship programs, it’s safe to assume that having a low GPA or test score should be the least of your worries when applying.
Believe it or not, there are scholarship programs that award $100 or less. It’s rare to hear or read about these financial aid gifts as no one really talks about them — competitive scholarships are the ones that everyone focuses on.
For many students, applying to these small-money scholarships is a complete waste of time.
Since practically no one is interested in these scholarships, those who apply for them enjoy higher chances of being named winners. The cash prize may not be the biggest on the planet alright.
However, $100 is still $100 that doesn’t grow on trees. Anything that can help make going to college easier on the pocket is a big help.
It’s when you apply to an affordable college or university when you will feel the full effects of winning a $100 scholarship. And winning several different ones can cause the cash award to add up.
But just because the providers are giving away small amounts of cash only doesn’t mean that the application will be trouble-free all the time. If the under $100 scholarship involves a long application process that will take up lots of your time and energy, then it’s probably not worth applying for it, as many scholarship-seeking students feel.
Many students search far and wide just to get their hands on scholarships. Because of this, they tend to miss the ones right under their noses — local scholarships.
Local scholarships, which are some of the most overlooked scholarships, ranging from $50 to $500.
It doesn’t come as a surprise since they are usually offered by small organizations in the local community. They may have big hearts, but they have small pockets. But that’s okay because, as they say, it’s the thought that counts. Local scholarships are sometimes just enough to pay for one semester’s textbooks or miscellaneous fees.
Some of the local organizations or groups that offer scholarships include:
- Restaurants. Local restaurants and franchises are commonly run and staffed by locals, and some of them love giving back in the form of small-money scholarships.
- Volunteer clubs. It’s not that no one applies for scholarships offered by some local volunteer clubs. It’s just that they are usually awarded to volunteers. This is most especially true for long-standing ones.
- Banks. Since they are financial institutions, it’s not uncommon for local banks to offer scholarships. Many credit unions, despite being non-profit, award scholarships, too.
- Religious groups. Are you a member of a church or congregation? See if you are eligible for a scholarship. Being a member or having the willingness to convert can increase your chances of winning.
Since only small amounts of money are involved, not a lot of students apply for local scholarships, which is to the advantage of those who are on the hunt for financial aids that very few to no applicants are interested in.
Various questions can pop into the mind of a student thinking about applying for scholarships offered by an individual. Are there strings attached? What if the person dies? Will the school or I get the check?
It’s because of these conundrums why many choose to steer clear of personal donation scholarships.
More often than not, scholarship money is from the pocket of someone who used to be a member of an organization or group and would like to give back to the community by helping students go through college. This is why, typically, a scholarship program is named after a philanthropic person.
Allowing a prospective donor to know that his or her money can spell a difference in your life may be done, too. You can do this by writing a scholarship donation letter. See to it that you remain polite and positive throughout your letter, and remember to make the receiver feel important and needed, too.
By the way, you can come up with a personal donation scholarship named after you. One of the steps you may take is by donating a minimum of $500 to Dollars for Scholars by Scholarship America.
Based in Minnesota, Scholarship America is an organization that awards scholarships to students.
It does so by assisting foundations, corporations, communities and individuals, such as yourself, with raising funds and managing and awarding them to eligible students. Since it was established in 1958, Scholarship America has awarded $4.2 billion to over 2.5 million US students.
Compared to high-profile scholarships, unique scholarships are way less competitive. What’s more, not a lot of students who are serious about earning a degree for less take these financial aid packages seriously.
Due to these reasons, you have higher chances of winning a unique scholarship than a more competitive counterpart. This is most especially true if you are unique enough to be the total embodiment of what the providers of these monetary gifts for college are looking for exactly.
Cash prizes range anywhere from as small as $250 to as high as $2,000.
The program choices come aplenty.
For instance, there’s one that requires applicants to design the best prom dress using nothing but duct tape.
Then there’s another one that requires the applicants to be very tall. As a general rule, the more you can beat other applicants with your uniqueness, the higher your chances of taking home the award.
Besides being a complete standout, most unique scholarship programs also require applicants to submit the usual requirements, such as high school transcripts and school ID.
Just about anybody who is nothing like the majority of college-bound kids can be considered as a non-traditional student.
If you are one and on the hunt for a way to make earning a college degree as cheap as chips, then consider applying for a non-traditional scholarship offered by corporations, organizations, and even colleges.
A lot of people think that non-traditional students are students enrolled online.
While this is true, a handful of others fit the non-traditional student mold, too. For instance, if you choose to postpone college after getting your high school diploma to get a job or establish a business, you are automatically a non-traditional student when you decide to get admitted into a college.
The same is true if you quit college before completing your chosen program — we will talk more about this in a few, so don’t stop reading now.
A few examples of scholarships perfect for non-traditional students include:
- The American Legion Auxiliary Non-traditional Student Scholarship. Up to $1,000 is awarded annually to non-traditional students enrolled at accredited vocational schools or two- or four-year colleges.
- The Walmart Associate Scholarship. It’s obvious that this non-traditional scholarship is offered by a well-known national retail chain. Awards given range anywhere from $500 to $1,500.
- The Osher Reentry Scholarship Program. Non-traditional students eligible for this financial aid package should be between 25 and 50 years old and have stopped going to college for at least five years.
Did you know that single moms are considered non-traditional students, too?
So, if you have to divide your money between raising a family on your own and getting a degree, you may apply for a non-traditional scholarship exclusive for single women.
Returning Student Scholarships
Unless you were once enrolled at a college or university, you are not eligible for a returning student scholarship. The name of this type of financial aid package says it all — it’s reserved for those who decide to give earning a degree one more chance. So, in other words, applicants fresh out of high school do not qualify for it.
Because only certain types of students apply to returning student scholarships, your chances of being the winner are high. This is most especially true if you meet other eligibility requirements, such as having an acute financial need.
Reasons for dropping out of college come aplenty. Some of the most common ones are:
- Dissatisfaction with the school
- Unsureness of the major
- Unpreparedness for the experience
- Encountering family issues
- Having personal emergencies
- Inability to afford to go to college
- Needing to get a full-time job
Speaking of which, since many returning students already have jobs or built-up savings, not too many of those who go back to school apply for scholarships, in particular the ones intended for returning students. Without the need to compete with a lot of applicants, being the winner is very much likely.
However, the returning student scholarships, which can range anywhere from $1,000 to $15,000, are non-renewable. So, in other words, you will enjoy it, should you win one, for a single academic year only.
Regardless if you quit college to become employed or are powering through college while maintaining a job, you may be eligible for an employer-sponsored scholarship.
There are a couple of very important things to get this type of financial aid package:
- You need to be employed
- Your employer wants you to finish college
Because not all people who have jobs like to go back to school and not everyone’s employer is handing out scholarships, it’s unlikely that you will have to compete with a lot of applicants just to get your hands on it. However, there is one catch: most of the time, you will have to take a program that’s related to your job or industry.
It’s also important to note that, in many instances, you will have to stay with your employer for some time after earning your degree. This waiting period usually lasts from one to two years. Failure to meet this requirement in exchange for your college could mean paying back the provider of the scholarship!
What’s so nice about employer-sponsored scholarships is that they can be awarded not only to employees. In some cases, they can also be granted to the dependents of eligible employees, such as their spouses and children.
However, to be eligible, employees should have been with the employer for a long time, at least one to three years.
Unclaimed Scholarship Money
It’s true that tons of scholarships are available every year, amounting to more than $7.4 billion.
However, it doesn’t mean that all the winners are able to claim their prizes. Unclaimed money, many assume, is then redistributed for other uses or kept for future scholarship programs by their respective providers.
Many students are on the hunt for unclaimed cash prizes, which some people, after doing some math, believe amount to more than $6 billion just waiting for some college students to get their hands on it.
Alas, unclaimed scholarship money is just a myth.
Its existence, however, tends to reemerge every academic year, especially when every high school student is busy applying to colleges and universities and for scholarships, too. One of the reasons for the myth’s resurfacing year after year is unclaimed Pell Grants, which actually exist because of the failure of students to fill out the FAFSA form on time.
Unclaimed scholarship programs are college financial aids that nobody applies for because it’s not a thing.
There are competitive scholarships many students apply for because of their big awards. Then there are also less competitive scholarships, like the ones mentioned above, that not everyone considers applying for because the cash prizes are not that big — some of them award less than $100 to lucky applicants.
Because what they give away is still money, no matter how small, it’s still a good idea to try applying for them.
Applying for several small scholarships allows you to enjoy bigger chances of winning numerous small awards, which can quickly add up and slash a portion of the cost of going to college.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.