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How much money can I expect from college scholarships?

Published March 14, 2024| minute read
Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase

    The amount of money you can expect from college scholarships depends on how many you apply for and get awarded. The number of scholarships you can apply for is unlimited. Many students spend time researching and applying for many scholarships to maximize the scholarship money they receive.

    If you’re interested in getting the most amount of money possible from college scholarships, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

    How likely is a full college scholarship?

    While the media is full of stories about student-athletes and child prodigies heading off to college with a full-ride college scholarship, the truth is, full-ride scholarships are exceedingly rare.

    College is expensive, and full scholarships are unicorns unless you're in the top percentage of the most sought-after applicants. Even if you excel in athletics and have a grade point average of 4.0, you shouldn’t expect a full-ride scholarship that will pay for all of your college costs.

    Still, that shouldn’t discourage you from applying for multiple scholarships in hopes of being awarded money for college. Even just a few hundred dollars here and there can help a lot.

    It’s also important to be aware that Ivy League schools have moved away from offering scholarships at all — shifting to a need-based aid format to assist students. While that might seem like an additional hurdle if you're a student who's interested in one of these schools and in need of scholarship money, it's also worth noting that these schools are known for their particularly generous financial aid packages, so don’t let their lack of scholarships prevent you from applying.

    How likely is it to receive partial college scholarships?

    While full scholarships are scarce, there are many more opportunities for partial scholarships. There are scholarship opportunities from civic organizations, businesses, and professional associations to consider applying for.

    Students can be eligible for partial scholarships for all sorts of reasons. That eligibility may be based on their high school academic record, grade point average, community involvement, or family background.

    When you start a scholarship search, it may help to apply for any award you qualify for and have time to apply for. The more you apply for, the more you open yourself up to receiving scholarship funds.

    Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you apply for college scholarships

    • If you spend hours on scholarship applications but don’t get the large five or six-figure award letters, have you wasted your time? Not at all. Small scholarships — $5,000 and under — may cover chunks of your education, especially if they can be used for books, dorm fees, and other expenses outside of tuition.
    • Local scholarships — those offered by local governments, companies, and nonprofits — may be worth looking into because they go to those with connections to specific communities. For example, your church or other religious organizations may set aside dollars to help young people who are members pay for college. Your parents’ employers may offer scholarship funds exclusively to employees’ children. There are dozens of community-based opportunities worth researching.

    Final thoughts

    Everyone should consider applying for scholarships. Even if you’re not the soccer team captain or a super genius with the perfect SAT score and grade point average, there are opportunities to consider. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.