Why You Should Also Apply for Small Scholarships

Don’t shrug off smaller scholarships – they could add up to an affordable education.

By Ashley Henshaw | February 17, 2017

The fact that there are multiple winners and/or a smaller pool of applicants is what makes smaller scholarships worth applying for.
Photo: Thinkstock

When applying for scholarships, many students get caught up in the hopes of winning major awards that offer $1,000, $5,000 or even $25,000 towards their education. While these scholarships are absolutely life-changing, the reality is that very few students actually get them. Meanwhile, there are thousands of smaller scholarships available that will give thousands of students a break when it comes their college expenses. Learn more about why you should apply for small scholarships in addition to those bigger ones you may be dreaming about.

While you should definitely apply to larger scholarships, make sure to spend a significant amount of time applying for smaller scholarships as well.

Every Little Bit Counts

The thing about small scholarships is that it can seem like a lot of effort to fill out an application and perhaps write an essay if you’re only going to win a few hundred dollars. But all that effort can pay off big time, especially if you’re able to win more than one of these smaller scholarships. Plus, it’s important to keep in mind that every dollar you borrow through student loans typically ends up costing you more than a dollar due to interest. That’s why it’s so important to get scholarship money wherever you can.

If you’re wondering how small scholarships can help you pay for your college expenses, here’s a look at what some smaller awards could pay for:

  • $100: Groceries, public transit pass, school supplies
  • $300: One credit hour, a roundtrip flight home for the holidays
  • $500: Laptop, one month’s rent
  • $1,000: Textbooks, student health insurance

Another bonus of smaller scholarships is that the funds are sometimes given directly to the student rather than being applied directly to tuition costs, so you can use them for these expenses (and others) that pop up over the course of the school year.

Increasing Your Chances

Smaller scholarships usually fall into one of two groups or, in some cases, both. The first type is a large foundation or group that’s offering multiple smaller scholarships to a larger pool of applicants, like the Elks National Foundation Most Valuable Student Competition (500 scholarships starting at $1,000 are awarded each year, and any U.S. high school senior is eligible to apply). The second type is a smaller group that is offering a select number of scholarships to a smaller pool of applicants, such as Kevin’s Fund, which awards a few $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors at Norwalk High School in Norwalk, Connecticut, each year.

The Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise scholarship is an example of a unique scholarship that falls into both of these groups. As a large company, they choose to award 180 scholarships of $1,000 each through this program (as opposed to nine awards of $20,000, for example). However, the applicants must be Phi Theta Kappa members who plan to enroll in community college, which narrows down the pool of applicants.

The fact that there are multiple winners and/or a smaller pool of applicants is what makes these scholarships worth applying for. Your chances are increased in both scenarios. If you’re eligible for a small scholarship open only to students who have a parent working for the local police force, for example, your odds are dramatically better than they are for a scholarship that any American high school student with a decent GPA can apply to. Small scholarships may not be as attractive as those massive $10,000 or $20,000 scholarships, but they often come with much better odds. For this reason, it’s important to devote a good amount of time to finding smaller scholarships available to you as part of a niche applicant group, or those for which there is high number of awards being offered.

One bonus of smaller scholarships is that the funds are sometimes given directly to the student.
Photo: Thinkstock

Small Scholarship Tips

Check out the many ways you can improve your chances to win a small scholarship:

  • Search for local scholarships. In many cases, local merchants, civic groups, clubs and individuals will offer scholarship funds to local students. The smaller group of eligible students increases your odds of winning an award.
  • Find your niche. Are you a chemistry whiz? Do you love yoga? Are you left-handed? There are scholarships for all of these unique interests, hobbies and personal attributes. Look for scholarships geared towards a specific niche to find a smaller group of eligible applicants.
  • Save your applications. Certain application responses can be reused or repurposed. Essays, personal statements and descriptions of why you deserve a specific scholarship should be saved for future use. While you shouldn’t rush through an application by copying and pasting past responses, it can save you time to have some of these ideas handy.
  • Apply, apply, apply. Even though you’ll probably get sick of it, you’ll want to keep applying for scholarships as often as possible. The more you apply to, the greater your chances of getting some free money for school.

While you should still take time to apply for those huge scholarships, it’s definitely a smart strategy to spend a significant amount of time applying for smaller scholarships as well. Your chances are often much greater, and just a few of these awards can quickly add up to a significant sum.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

National Merit Scholarships
Corporate Scholarships: Walmart, Target, and Best Buy Scholarships
How to Use Scholarship Funds Responsibly
The Ultimate Scholarship FAQ

See All Finding the Right College Articles

Quick Search: Find the College that's Right for You!

OR

Visit Our Student Center

Get on track!

Visit our Student Center

And find out everything you need to know about planning for college.