Crazy Reasons Why Scholarships Go Unclaimed, And Tips to Win

Are you among those harboring the crazy belief that valedictorians, 4.0 students, and athletes are the only ones winning scholarships? Well, I’m here to set the record straight.  That’s false thinking. It’s simply not true. 

In working with students worldwide to identify sources of free funding, what I do know is that those who do win scholarships believe they are going to win.  

And they do win. 

In other words, their belief system allows them to creatively separate themselves from the pack of other applicants. 

Take it from me, someone who was a country mile from being a valedictorian or athlete. I was a C student in high school yet I was the proud winner of nine scholarships. 

I didn’t listen to college counselors who believed that my chance of succeeding was unlikely. I believed in me and my inner resolve to make college happen. And it did. 

What I discovered is that there are scores of scholarship opportunities, each with their own criteria. Some tied to academics or community service. Others focusing on esoteric hobbies or traits. 

Many communities provide local scholarships through service clubs, organizations, small businesses, and philanthropists. 

Once you are armed with a positive belief system, your next step is to complete scholarship applications early and often. Absent of this important work, there is a 100% chance you’ll receive no free aid and have to rely exclusively on student loans.  

Here are some steps you can take right away: 

  • Inquire about these opportunities through teachers, family, and friends. Word-of-mouth can be one of your best allies. 
  • Check the websites of local services clubs and organizations
  • Do geographical web searches with key phrases like “Scholarships in California” or “Service Clubs in Austin”
  • Identify the alums of schools you are interested in attending and ask them
  • Use a personalized scholarship search tool

Your inclination once you’ve uncovered this gold mine of scholarship opportunities may be to seek out the ones that offer the most money. While you can certainly pursue this route, keep in mind that these are also the most competitive in terms of the number of applicants, often into the thousands. 

Scholarships with smaller award amounts tend to attract a more limited pool of applicants. These monies can provide huge savings by assisting with often-overlooked costs like books, supplies, and living expenses. 

So instead of trying to pursue every scholarship, you might qualify for, try the strategic approach of going after low hanging fruit. Find the ones that are in alignment with your values, interests, and passions. For the more targeted your scholarship approach, the more likely your passions will burst forth during the submission process. 

Finally, I recommend that you start applying for scholarships as soon as possible. 


For starters, there are scholarships that give priority to early applicants. Moreover, not waiting until the last minute gives you ample time to adjust and pivot in the event that some sort of glitch comes up with your application. 

Bottom line: When you are not rushed you are able to deliver your best work and build confidence around your results. 

Scholarships and grants offer an amazing way to fund your college education because they do not require repayment. In the end, there is nothing more freeing than to matriculate through school and graduate with little or no debt or interest hindering your post-college ambitions. 

Happy Savings,

source: The Debt Free College Financial Plan | Photo credit: Tonny Tran

Author of, Get a Degree Debt-Free.  Awarded nine scholarships.  Earned a debt-free college education. Worked at Irvine Valley College Student Supportive Services Department. The Director and I developed a California state funded program to help single parents earn a debt-free college education. Creator of Kollege Kampus to help students earn a debt-free college education.

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