4 Reasons Students NEED to Apply for Scholarships

On occasion, I get to meet with high school and college students and give them a “Finance 101” presentation. For some, I include information on the costs of college and the different options they have for paying for it. I know, I know… “Their loans are just going to get forgiven, Jessica! What does it matter??” Well… You don’t know that. Even if they are, it might not solve all their problems.

So, here are reasons why ALL students need to apply for scholarships, regardless of their economic status:

1. Big payoff for little effort

There are a lot of “small” scholarships out there. $1,000 scholarships are common, and quite often, they go unclaimed. I know this because I sit on a scholarship committee myself. There have been times we literally have to go find people to apply to the scholarships. They are just sitting there waiting for applicants. Sometimes, your odds of winning, as a student, are pretty good.

Sure, a year of college might range anywhere from $10,000 – $50,000. You might think – does $1,000 really make a difference? Yes, yes it does!

Let’s say you are a high schooler earning $15/hour at your summer job. That $1,000 scholarship equates to over 66 hours of your labor. If applying for the scholarship takes you 2 hours, I would say it’s worth it.

2. Excess loans can hold you back

The fewer school loans you have, the better. Having high loans after graduation can limit your options. Perhaps your debt will make you feel like you must take the high-paying job after graduation, even though it’s the wrong one for you. Perhaps you don’t have the cash flow or good credit to buy that car, first home, etc. Perhaps it makes you feel like you aren’t ready to enter a marriage, because you are saddled with debt. Perhaps it just becomes a mental burden hanging over your head until you can pay it off.

You and your future peace and security are worth the effort it takes to apply for scholarships now.

3. Scholarship applications can develop important skills and networks

Some scholarships require essays, volunteer hours, or even interviews. The skills and experience it takes to successfully apply for and win these scholarships directly relate to the skills you will need to succeed later in life – particularly the interviews. I’ve also learned that essays can often be repurposed and adjusted to be reused in different scenarios.

For one of the scholarships I won in college, I was able to meet the donor. That’s fairly common. It is a great opportunity to meet a remarkable person who is likely donating for a reason that is extremely important to them. Their impact in your life is meaningful and meeting you is likely very meaningful for them.

4. Loan forgiveness isn’t always cheap

Even if your student loans are forgiven in part in the future, a significant portion might not be. Also, for many federal loan forgiveness programs, loan forgiveness is a taxable event. You might have to pay a lump sum of tax in one year to compensate for the amount of your debt that was forgiven. That’s not exactly easy to plan for either.


So, my point is, I want to help students avoid huge loans as much as possible. Scholarships are one way to do that. I will remind you that there are also others, like such:

  • Good working and saving habits
  • Completing credits while you are a high school student
  • Completing your general education credits at a local college
  • Completing internship and job shadow experiences so you have more confidence you are in the right major (and not wasting classes!)