Getting scholarships for college is a great way to offset the high cost of tuition and make your education more affordable. However, many students find applying for scholarships frustrating and don’t understand why their applications aren’t resulting in awards.
In this post, we’ll explore some of the 14 most common reasons why students may not be getting scholarships and provide actionable advice you can implement to improve your chances of receiving funding.
Let’s get started
14 Reasons Why You Are Not Getting Scholarships
Your Academic Performance Needs Improvement
One of the primary factors scholarship committees consider is your academic track record. They want to award scholarships to students who have demonstrated strong performance in high school and/or past college coursework.
If your GPA is below a 3.0 on a 4.0 scale or you have D’s and F’s on your transcript, it will seriously damage your eligibility for many merit-based scholarships. Some additional reasons your academics could be holding you back include:
- Not challenging yourself with honors, Advanced Placement (AP), or dual enrollment courses. These weighted classes show initiative and improve your GPA.
- Insufficient rigor in your course load. Make sure you are taking a full load of core academic classes each semester, not just easy electives to pad your GPA.
- Weak standardized test scores. Solid SAT or ACT scores complement your GPA and class rank. Below average test scores limit your options.
Solution: Review areas where your academics could be stronger and take action to improve before next scholarship cycle. Consider retaking the SAT/ACT, requesting stronger letters of recommendation from teachers in advanced classes, and asking your guidance counselor what other steps could boost your profile, such as summer academic programs. Maintain a high GPA in the meantime.
Incomplete or Poorly Crafted Application Materials
Scholarship committees struggle to form a cohesive picture of who you are based on incomplete applications. Common issues that undermine your candidacy include:
- Lack of personal statement or essay. Many scholarships require a thoughtful response to an essay prompt, yet applications are submitted without one.
- Bland, generic essays. Essays that don’t convey your unique background, interests, career goals, and why the scholarship is important to achieving them will not stand out.
- Poor writing quality. Essays riddled with spelling, grammar, and structural issues create a negative impression.
- Missing required documents. Failure to attach transcripts, letters of recommendation, FAFSA information, etc. results in disqualification.
Solution: Thoroughly proofread your applications and have others review your essays for quality and specificity. Ensure all required materials are included and meet deadlines. Consider visiting your school’s writing center for feedback on your personal statement.
Inadequate Extracurricular and Leadership Experience
Many scholarships aim to fund well-rounded students who demonstrate initiative beyond the classroom. Lackluster extracurricular involvement will damage your competitiveness, as shown by:
- Few if any activities or clubs in high school. Commit consistently to a few key activities to build depth and leadership over time.
- No talents, hobbies, or interests reflected. Capture passions through volunteer work, internships, summer jobs or programs relevant to your intended major/career.
- No demonstration of leadership roles. Strong applicants hold officer positions like president, vice president, or committee chair for at least one year.
Solution: Get involve in new activities and work to advance your roles, hours committed, and impact over subsequent years. Non-traditional pursuits count too if relevant to your story. Consider starting a school club if a passion area lacks representation.
Limited Community Service & Volunteer Experience
Volunteerism and community service demonstrate personal character, initiative, and empathy – desirable traits for many scholarship programs. Factors hurting your profile here include:
- No record of service yet. At minimum, log some hours annually with local non-profits to be a competitive applicant.
- Only school-required service hours completed. Judges want to see volunteers going above and beyond the minimums.
- Not continuing service into senior year. Active, ongoing service proven over multiple years strengthens applications more than one-off projects.
Solution: Research volunteer needs in your area and commit to bi-weekly or monthly service addressing meaningful causes. Track hours and request letters from supervisors to include with scholarship applications.
Weak or No Recommendation Letters
Recommendations from teachers, counselors, employers and community leaders provide important context for your character and capabilities. Issues include:
- No letters submitted. Applicants frequently overlook this essential element of vetting candidates.
- Poorly written, unremarkable letters. Positive but generic praise helps little; letters need specifics backing your abilities.
- Requesting last minute. Rushed requests yield less enthusiastic, meaningful endorsements.
Solution: Thoughtfully choose recommenders who know your strengths best and have ideally worked with you across multiple settings or capacities. Allow 4-6 weeks’ notice to draft strong, compelling recommendations on your behalf. Offer a resume and talking points as needed.
Overlooking Hidden Gems and Undervalued Scholarships
Students often neglect hidden sources of funding by exclusively chasing highly visible, ultra-competitive national awards. Yet myriad options exist, such as:
- Employer or parent’s employer scholarships. Over $150 billion in free money goes unclaimed each year from companies alone.
- Community foundation scholarships. Local organizations and service clubs offer deals overlooked by out-of-town applicants.
- Underdog scholarships. Unique awards for left-handed students, car enthusiasts or other niche identities go begging due to lack of applicants.
- Small private scholarships. Many quality $1,000 or below scholarships receive single-digit applicants though criteria perfectly match your profile.
Solution: Cast a wide net during research. Search databases and organizations beyond your high school’s announcements. Get creative pairing your interests and backgrounds with unorthodox scholarships. Quality over quantity; a few well-matched $1,000 awards make a meaningful difference.
Weak or Generic “Thank You” Follow-Ups
Following up respectfully after interviews or nearing deadlines communicates continued interest. Boilerplate notes fall short of deeper connections formed through:
- Personalized messages to decision-makers. Reference specifics from your interaction or why their group aligns with your goals.
- Update on achievements. Alert readers if you earned new awards or took on additional activities strengthening your case since applying.
- Handwritten cards. A brief mailed note expresses gratitude more personably than an email.
Solution: Have 2-3 follow-up templates tailored by scholarship but infuse each with a fresh anecdote, quote or detail from your exchange. Send promptly after meaningful interactions to positively influence decisions.
Overlooking Three Key Elements of “Fit”
To stand out from other qualified candidates, showcase why you are the strongest person to utilize the specific award on offer. Neglected aspects of “fit” are:
- Alignment with the selection committee’s values and preferences. Highlight volunteer work or essays addressing causes most important to their group.
- Relevance to intended career path or educational goals. Articulate direct impact award would make actualizing your dreams and filling societal needs they aim to address.
- Geographic ties. For local-oriented groups explain community roots motivating you to give back to the area or population they represent.
Solution: Analyze the funder’s mission and profile former recipients to deduce unspoken priorities versus generic specifications. Connect experiences, qualifications and aspirations in a personalized way addressing these exact interests.
Unrealistic Expectations About Chance of Receiving Awards
While scholarships present an excellent route to savings, factors like volumes of applicants and selectivity levels impact odds. Naïveté about realistic chances can also demoralize prospective recipients, seen through:
- Applying to scholarships clearly beyond capabilities. National awards attracting thousands rarely yield even 1% acceptance.
- Overreliance on single “home run” scholarship. Diversify applications for safety scholarships better matching qualifications.
- Applying too late in cycle. Many quality scholarships close by November for following fall term. Procrastinating limits viable options.
Solution: Research annual applicant statistics and selectivity; these factors vary greatly. Assess qualifications candidly and apply conservatively for amounts realistically within reach. Submit early and conservatively to multiple safe bets as insurance against long shot odds. Manage expectations.
Lack of Follow Through With Award Recipients
Even record-setting applications sometimes result in waiting lists instead of immediate awards. Demonstrating continued passion warrants follow up with:
- Thank you cards for semifinalist or honorary mention notifications. Express appreciation for consideration and restate why you’d be an impactful recipient if chosen.
- Polite inquiries about timeline if still under review past posted deadlines. Ask respectfully if a decision remains pending without seeming impatient.
- Informing of changed circumstances impacting need or fit. Alert to improved grades, new community service, or program changes heightened your suitability for funds waiting disbursement.
Solution: Never assume you are out of the running entirely until formally denied. Maintain polite, professional rapport with sources still amenable to potentially selecting you in future award.
Lack of Maintenance With Past Donors and Sponsors
For scholarship programs allowing renewal applications, maintaining contact demonstrates gratitude, interest in their mission, and want to provide updates on accomplishments made possible through their support. Neglecting this risks future eligibility and inspiration to continue funding your success:
- No “thank you” communication after receiving award. A brief note, email or phone call conveys appreciation for their investment in your education and goals.
- Failure to provide annual Updates. Scholarship administrators want to hear how recipients are progressing both personally and academically since receiving awards. This updates their network on impact of contributions.
- Not reapplying for additional years of college as renewal option. Programs aim to sustain individual success over multi-year degree programs when recipients remain qualified candidates.
Solution: Send yearly updates on milestones, experiences and gratitude by deadline. Personalize follow-ups from semester abroad programs or internships illustrating how award enabled access. Reapply each eligible term demonstrating continued merit or need. Consider handwritten holiday cards annually sustaining rapport.
Uneven Extracurricular & Work Commitment
Juggling academics, activities, volunteerism, family responsibilities and perhaps a job is challenging. However, when involvement lacks consistency across years, it diminishes your compelling narrative. Potential weaknesses here include:
- Work hours spike exceeding 20/week during school. Outside commitments should complement rather than compromise academics.
- No club officer roles as junior. Leadership strengthens junior and senior years rather than fading involvement senior year alone.
- Random start/stop pattern with volunteer groups or sports. Scholarship evaluators want demonstrated commitment over multiple years to a few key areas.
Solution: Maintain a sustained workload across high school years that is feasible without sacrificing grades. Pursue deepening roles in 1-2 organizations rather than joining many annually. Build your story arc strategically across applications.
Not Highlighting Unique Personal Adversity
or Life Experiences
Hardship overcome and unique background bring diversity scholarships aim to support. Challenges faced yet persevered from include:
- Being a first-generation college student. Breaking the cycle of limited access holds appeal.
- Familial responsibilities like single parenthood. Juggling caretaking with academics shows determination.
- Physical or learning disabilities, which adversity statements address how you succeed despite.
- Financial barriers facing high-need students. Earning money introducing constraints on extracurricular options.
Solution: Carefully craft statements providing relevant context to circumstances without dwelling in victimhood. Emphasize goals, strengths and resilience developed to rise above challenges making your success all the more impactful and inspirational when attained.
Ignoring Interview Opportunities
Follow up interviews, being observed at events or campus visits allow assessing fit beyond writing. Some bypass valuable chances by:
- Not RSVPing to invite-only receptions or Q&A sessions with scholarship leaders. Interact in person when possible.
- Declining phone/Skype interviews. Communicate confidence and passion face-to-face even if virtual.
- Skipping requested auditions, portfolio reviews or demonstrations when artistic/talent awards involved. Share your true abilities and interests live.
Solution: Treat interviews seriously as an audition through practiced responses to common scholarship questions emphasizing your qualifications. Practice establishing rapport virtually for distant options. Demonstrate everyday confidence and character if interacting in person.
Overlooking Integral Financial Aid Details
Scholarship administrators aim supporting students with highest urgency and merit-based need. Neglected data could lessen your perceived requirements:
- Not exploring additional loans, work-study or Campus jobs. Communicate all self-help measures taken to minimize out-of-pocket costs before seeking scholarship aid.
- Only listing family income, not vast assets like properties. Holistic assessment examines total household capacity for contributing rather than relying solely on tax figures.
- Failing to convert Need calculations to dollar amounts. Vague statements about “large NEED” lack impact versus specifying your predicted shortfall in securing funding without award support.
Solution: Consult your financial aid office for accurate FAQs/Net Price Calculators conveying full picture of your budgetary gaps to be filled through scholarship money. Provide concrete dollar amounts instead of ambiguous phrasing about need level to stress urgency of award for enrollment.
Overlooking Thank You Steps After Receiving Awards
Even after offers arrive, small touches sustain rapport with donors still involved as references or potential future award sources:
- Not providing photo for websites/newsletters featuring scholars. Share contributed success stories publicly motivating continued charitable investing.
- Skipping opportunities to shadow/connect with sponsor leaders. Express gratitude by learning about their line of work sparking your passion.
- No commencement announcements or graduation photos. Share milestones attained through backing to conclude your inspiring story arc.
Solution: Demonstrate how your education and field of study continue to progress and the difference support continues making through occasional updates on achievements, career milestones, or experiences brought about through aid received.
In summary, some of the most common reasons students do not receive scholarships despite applying include:
- Weak academic performance history that needs improvement
- Incomplete or poorly crafted application materials
- Insufficient extracurricular involvement and leadership experience
- Lack of community service and volunteer engagement
- Requesting recommendation letters too last minute
- Overlooking Hidden and niche scholarship opportunities
- Not properly emphasizing fit and alignment with the funder’s priorities and mission
- Unrealistic expectations of acceptance chances for highly selective awards
- Failure to nurture ongoing relationships with past donors and sponsors
- Uneven commitment levels across high school years
- Neglecting adversity statements about overcoming hardship
- Declining valuable interview and campus visit opportunities
- Providing incomplete financial details about budget gaps
- Missing follow up thank you steps after receiving awards
As you can see, there are many potential reasons scholarship applicants may not be finding success that have more to do with correctable factors in the application process rather than any deficiencies.
By thoughtfully addressing application weaknesses, showcasing fit and follow through, students can significantly increase their odds of receiving scholarship recognition and funding support.
In conclusion, getting scholarships for college is very achievable but requires strategic planning, persistence and maintaining excellent personal brands over the course of your academic career.
View each scholarship denial not as a rejection but valuable feedback on areas for growth. Keep broadening your experiences in purposeful ways while maintaining academic excellence.
Learn from peers who found fundraising success, apply early and often to targeted options, and nurture lasting relationships with program administrators. Most importantly, celebrate resilience, progression made and knowledge gained at each stage of the process regardless of individual award outcomes.
With effort, marketability and grit, achieving your higher education and career aspirations through scholarship assistance is more than possible – it’s within reach.