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NerdScholar Scholarship Study: What are students’ real chances at getting free money for college?

By Rachel

NerdScholar’s scholarship study highlights the best time to apply and state and scholarship requirements that give the best advantages.

It is well known that the price tag on an education is only increasing. As of last year, the average cost of public university tuition rose by 4.8%. Scholarships are one method that has made higher education an attainable dream for some students, or at least eased the financial burdens for others.

Scholarships also, to some extent, reveal what we reward in our students. The NerdScholar Scholarship Tool has 5,864 verified private scholarships. All scholarships are through private organizations that are not university affiliated.

An analysis was performed on these scholarships and below are the main results:

  • The greatest number of scholarship deadlines occur in March—over 25% of all private scholarship deadlines—and the largest pool of money to win from.  However, the highest average scholarship amount is in September.
  • There are 4x as many scholarships for females as there are for males.
  • Only 6% of private scholarships have ethnic restrictions, but access to these scholarships are relatively equal amongst minority ethnic groups.
  • High school seniors have the greatest number of scholarships available to them.  The number of scholarships available increases by more than 10x from high school junior year to high school senior year.
  • California has the most number of private scholarships available, with over 20x as many as the state with the lowest number.  Further, California has the greatest pool of money for scholarship applicants as well.
  • Home state and study area are more important than gender and ethnicity.  40% of scholarships have location restrictions and 37% have study area restrictions while only 5% have gender restrictions and 6% have ethnicity restrictions.

March Madness: March claims over 25% of scholarship deadlines

The most common deadline for the private scholarships is March. Of the 5,864 scholarships, 4,965 had specified scholarship deadlines. 1,410 scholarships had deadlines in March—28% of all scholarship deadlines occurred in March. Further, the greatest pool of scholarship funds, $3.5 million, was awarded within the month of March.

Although the greatest number of scholarships have deadlines in March, the greatest average scholarship amount occurs in September and October. These fall months have average scholarship awards of over $5,000.

California: Palm trees, good weather, and lots of scholarship money

Of the 5,864 private scholarships analyzed, 2,339, or 40%, have state residency requirements as part of their application. The greatest number of scholarships are open to California residents at 253. Further, the total money pool open to California residents ranks at the top with over $700,000 available.

This may seem like a small number to some, but as a reminder, these are private organization scholarships and not university scholarships.

Power to the Female: There are over 4 times as many scholarships restricted to females as there are restricted to males

Historically, females have had to face more social challenges and restrictions in order to obtain an education. However, in the past few years, there are records of more women attending college than men. The fact that females have more scholarships available to them may still reflect the historical social barriers females had to face to attend college. In particular, there are some great scholarships for women returning to college as well.

Ethnic Requirements: Scholarship love to minorities is equally spread

Only 5% of the scholarships had ethnic requirements, mostly open to minorities. There was no drastic difference between the numbers of scholarships open to the minority ethnicities by each different ethnicity. Here are 10 brilliant scholarships for African-Americans and the Top Scholarships for Hispanics.

Application Requirements: Home state and study area weigh more heavily than ethnicity and gender.

Scholarships were originally created to provide aid to those who faced obstacles in obtaining education and going to college. This led to the belief that scholarships were often for ethnic minorities or women. However, there are more scholarships that place home state restrictions and study area restrictions over ethnicity and gender. To see for yourself, search our scholarship database for yourself here.

High School Seniors Make It Rain: There are over 10x as many scholarships open to high school seniors as opposed to high school juniors

No matter what year of high school you’re in, money for college would always be nice. However, perhaps with the loom of college right around the corner, it’s easier for private organizations to request career ambitions from high school seniors than juniors. Whatever the case, high school seniors are eligible for the most scholarships over the entire span of higher education.

Key Student Takeaways

There were quite a few facts thrown around based on the analysis of private scholarships. So what does this all mean for the average student anyways?

1. Students should search for scholarships and should always take advantage of any opportunity, however, if they had to choose one time of year to apply, it should be March.

2. There are restrictions on many scholarships—students ought to use those to their advantage. If they can apply to scholarships restricted to their state, ethnicity, city or study area, they most definitely should apply.

3. Again, students ought to be opportunistic and take every opportunity, no matter what year of schooling they are in. However, students should take note to apply with even more gusto senior year, since the pool of scholarships available is even bigger, which should give them better chances.

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  • Curtman40
    March 12, 2013 at 11:43 am

    I think they should allow for early registration for some of these scholarship programs because to wait until your junior or senior year is just to late, you need to start early so that you know what is available to you.

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