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Don't Believe These Popular Scholarship Myths

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From "millions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed" to "it's too much work," misconceptions about college scholarships need debunking.

"A full ride." These are magic words to anyone beating the bushes for scholarship money. But students who get an all-expenses-paid college experience are rare. Let's move on to a more realistic view of scholarships.

Myth #1: A scholarship can pay all my college costs. Most scholarships pay for only a fraction of your total college costs and are usually only for college-related expenses as defined by the college. They usually don't cover expenses like computers or plane travel home. And some scholarships are good for only one year.

Myth #2: You have to be "an A student, baby." Actually, you don't have to be an A student to be eligible for scholarships. You do have to demonstrate qualities valued by the scholarship sponsor. That could be community service, artistic talent, leadership, or another nonacademic quality. GPA minimums are often as low as 2.0.

Myth #3: My talents and achievements will bring scholarships to me automatically.Face it, there are many, many outstanding students like you who are competing for scholarship dollars. True, the more you have going for you, the more you may be awarded, but that doesn't mean you can just wait for the money to roll in. You will need to find and apply for scholarships.

Myth #4: Millions of scholarships go unclaimed. Most "unclaimed" scholarships have narrow eligibility rules, such as a certain last name, hometown, or employer. If you see this statement in an ad for a scholarship search service, don't fall for it. Instead, use a free scholarship search tool, such as CollegeData's Scholarship Finder.

Myth #5: I can wait until my senior year to start looking. It is never too soon to start investigating scholarships and preparing to apply. Scholarship deadlines will fall throughout your junior and senior years—some long before you receive your acceptance letters and financial aid offers from colleges. Plan way ahead, build your case, and you may be well rewarded!

Myth #6: Only highly needy students get scholarships. Most private scholarships do not require financial information. They are awarded based on merit.

Myth #7: Scholarship applications are too much work for the results. It's true that scholarship applications can look time-consuming. However, the material you create for college applications, such as essays and résumés, can often be reused for your scholarship applications.

Myth #8: My scholarship money won't affect my financial aid. If a college has met your full financial need, federal rules require that it deduct your outside scholarships from your federal need-based financial aid. The college may even reduce your gift aid. Check the rules for each scholarship and each college very carefully.

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