Students continuously leave scholarship money on the table

Depending on the institution and any given student’s situation, college tuition can require a serious financial sacrifice. Proactive students find ways of retrieving money to help lessen the magnitude of their sacrifice, which usually come in the form of grants and scholarships. However, others struggle finding ways of receiving financial assistance for different reasons.

Dy’Shealan Daniels, athletic training senior, said, “I’ve always known scholarships were available, I just never knew where to look.”

Students admitted to being aware of the university making numerous scholarships available. However, few of them took advantage of scholarship opportunities.

Drake Dusek, finance sophomore, said he applied for and received the Jim Mims Business Scholarship.

Dusek said, “I was made aware by my academic advisor and my counselor that emails me about the opportunities.”

Although Dusek had someone present this scholarship opportunity to him, he said he did not try seeking out others.

“I am missing out on scholarships partly because I don’t have time to apply to all, and somewhat of not caring very much,” Dusek said.

Dusek said he believes that most students miss out on scholarships because they either have their parents pay for college, they don’t know about them or don’t care enough about them. While Dusek said he doesn’t care all that much, others do care but have different reasons for missing out.

Daniels said, “I am missing out on scholarships, not because of ignorance or lack of caring, [because] applying for scholarships is time-consuming and requires a lot of hard work without a guaranteed grant. I barely have time to work on school stuff due to spending 20 to 40 hours a week in my clinical. I definitely don’t have time to go sit and actually put my all into applying for multiple scholarships when there is no guarantee I’ll get them.”

Daniels does not stand alone in making a case for a lack of free-time being the cause of an inability to apply.

Christian Guillory, political science junior, said, “I feel that I am missing out on scholarships [becuase] I just got to the school and have not been able to do research.”

While his situation differs from Daniels, both cases point toward time being the biggest hurdle in completing the application process. Students not only blame time for their failure to complete scholarship applications, but their own ignorance as well.

Sheldon Carter, business administration senior, said, “There are some scholarships I have missed out on, sometimes due to ignorance. I believe a lot of scholarship money goes unclaimed simply because no one knows about them.”

Daniels said she believes not knowing about the scholarships is the reason most students miss scholarships, but not the reason she misses them.

“A lot of first-generation students are missing out because they don’t know or their family members don’t know. I was lucky to know because my grandparents went to college, and I have a couple of aunts and uncles who have been to college. I’m just considered first generation because my mom never went, and my dad went but didn’t graduate,” Daniels said.

The example Daniels’ family set for her in going to school gave her inspiration to do the same. It also assisted her in better navigating her own collegiate journey.

In fact, this university offers a Priddy Scholars Program uniquely for students who are the first of their immediate family members to go to a four-year college. It offers full tuition and residential funding. If students find this unique scholarship surprising, the long list of others would likely have the same effect on them. However, this is the core issue. Students often believe scholarships are strictly for the geniuses and athletes of the world.

Carter said, “A lot of times people think they don’t qualify so they don’t even bother to apply. That’s the situation with me a lot of times, or my GPA isn’t high enough so I don’t bother.”

Carter points to high grades as the primary route to scholarship money, and follows it by stating that things other than high grades deserve recognition and scholarship money.

Carter said, “I think that a lot of scholarships have a negative stigma on them, as if you have to be ‘smart’ or ‘an honor student’ to receive money. I think the university can do a better job of explaining scholarships and encourage those who qualify to apply. Also, it should create more diverse scholarships that would apply more to students who may not normally receive financial help.”

He admits to including himself in the group of students who “may not normally receive financial help” and proceeds with a succinct description of his situation.

“I’m not on any scholarships. They may give me some extra FASFA from having decent grades, but that’s about it. I pretty much take out loans as needed, but would love to have scholarship money,” Carter said. “A partial book scholarship would help with books and other class necessities. A meal plan would be nice as well, so I wouldn’t have to spend so much money eating out.”

Some students learn to find various ways of making ends meet in college. Whether it be grants or scholarships of small or large amounts, anything helps students financially.

Guillory said, “Having more scholarships would make school easier as well as college life in general.”

Everyone agrees that money makes life easier on college students, so why do students continuously leave money on the table? Does the responsibility of awareness fall upon students or the university? Some students argue that the university needs to do a better job of creating awareness, while others argue that students who need the money should be more intentional about acquiring information.

Carter said, “I believe schools have a duty of letting their student body know about available scholarships and the criteria to apply.”

Daniels agrees with Carter, in that schools should be better at creating awareness of scholarships than they are.

“I do believe students should do a better job of searching, but I also think the person giving scholarships should do a better job of advertising them. Even if students look as hard as they can, it’s not easy to find what they’re looking for if they don’t know what they’re looking for,” Daniels said. “I didn’t know our school offered full tuition and room and board scholarships for students whose parents make under a certain amount until I was in the spring semester of my sophomore year.”

Dusek said he disagrees that schools should bring more awareness to the scholarships.

“No, I don’t think schools should make students more aware of scholarships, they already attempt to let students know of them. It’s the students’ responsibility to take action and apply for them,” Dusek said. “Students should take more time to research and apply for scholarships because ultimately every college student is considered an adult so they should take responsibility for their future and look at what they can do to help their financial situation.”

Guillory sees it as a two-way street, but ultimately places the majority of the responsibility on students who need the money.

Guillory said, “Schools should do a better job in making scholarships more available, but the responsibility falls on the student. Students, including me, should do better at researching the scholarships. I think students get lazy and feel that the scholarships are too much hassle for the outcome.”