Wednesday’s Parent: Yikes! Scholarships can be lost

Yikes! Scholarships can be lost. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Yikes! Scholarships can be lost. Photo by Wendy David-Gaines

Scholarships can be won but did you know they can be lost? There’s no such thing as a free lunch and this applies to scholarship and grant awards, too. So-called college free money comes with strings attached. When broken, the money either isn’t sent or must be paid back. It’s essential for families to prepare themselves to avoid a nasty financial surprise. Here are four ways to prevent losing scholarships and grants:

Know the strings. Students should carefully read the eligibility requirements for directions when they win. Some awards have strings requiring the winning applicant to do something next like promoting the scholarship or writing a thank you note by a particular deadline before a check is sent. Thanking the sponsor is a good idea even when not required.

Keep the strings intact. Students should know what they must do to keep the grant or scholarship after it’s awarded. The free money may be tied to maintaining a minimum GPA (grade point average), keeping a major, playing an instrument in the band, or being on a sports team. Students must commit to the strings and be sure they have the time and passion to maintain them.

Use the money correctly. The free money may be designated for certain educational expenses only like tuition. Be careful not to spend it on specified non-qualifying costs like food and travel. This may be turn that portion into taxable income according to an article in Huff Post Financial Education.

Buy some time. Things can go south that cut the scholarship and grant strings like injuries and changing interests. The grant or scholarship may have an appeal process or offer a brief extension to give the student a chance to regain compliance.

Don’t bank on free money without knowing and being prepared to follow the strings attached. It’s also a good idea to keep searching and applying. Read the posts under College Costs on my blog for Scholarship Mom Alerts filled with scholarships and important info.

Read Suzanne’s post: Scholarships with Strings Attached

Read more:

Wednesday’s Parent: 4 strings attached to FREE financial aid 

Scholarships, grants, crowdfunding and other college finance self-help 


Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Suzanne Shaffer and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Suzanne and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound. 

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from to and vice versa.

3 Flavors of FREE College Money

Cliché: A free ride.    
POCS Reality: There are FREE money grants and scholarships to help students pay for college.


Did you get FREE money to help pay for college? Money that you don’t have to pay back is the best type of financial aid and there are 3 different flavors:

  1. Plain vanilla grants are free money for college based on financial need. Students demonstrate their need by supplying financial and other information on an application. Grant programs are sponsored by federal and state governments and the colleges. To apply for federal aid, students must fill out a FAFSA. Check with your state higher education agency for its application. Some colleges will use info from the FAFSA to award grants from their own institutional funds, others may require their own supplemental form, and a few hundred also want the CSS Financial Aid PROFILE®.
  2. Cream of the crop scholarships are free money from from the college based on student merit. Students are rewarded for their academic, athletic, artistic, musical or leadership abilities. Colleges may require a special application or just use the admission application to determine awards. Ask your college for program details.
  3. Cool Mint Chip outside scholarships are free money from private sources that students can earn or win. Many are contests that are as varied as their sponsors. For example, there’s a best tweet $1,400 Twitter scholarship (“In 140 characters or less, write a Tweet highlighting how we can use Twitter to improve the world.”), and a $5,000 duct tape scholarship to a prom attending couple “wearing complete prom attire and/or accessories made using duct tape.” Other sponsors include small and large businesses, employers, individuals, high schools, fraternal associations and professional organizations. Outside scholarships require an application and many also want an essay or a project. They may be financial need-based, not consider need at all, or a combo of need and merit.

POCSmom’s College Prep DIY Insight: Watch out for deadlines, follow the application rules, and reapply every year you want money for college. Before accepting, check for strings attached such as maintaining a certain grade point average, playing on the team, or writing a thank you note. You can search online for outside private scholarships but don’t give out your personal numbers (bank account, PINs, Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers). Watch out for scams and don’t pay a fee for free college money.

*POCSmom’s Insight: Outside College Scholarships

Cliché: Win the day.    
POCS Reality: Students can win scholarships to help pay for college.     


Every dollar won from outside college scholarships is a dollar the family does not have to pay for college.

Outside scholarships are often contests sponsored by schools, fraternal organizations, businesses, groups, and individuals. The free money amounts vary from less than $100 to a free college ride of thousands. Outside scholarships are a form of financial aid that students do not have to pay back.

 Then why don’t all students apply?

 Here are the 3 main excuses:

  1. I didn’t know where to begin.
  2. I didn’t think I would win so I didn’t bother.
  3. I tried but gave up because the application process was too much work.

 Where to begin

A good place to start your internet scholarship search is on the free federal government websites:

  •  (FSA-Scholarship Wizard)
  •  (Pay for your education…Scholarships & grants)
  •  (How to pay-Learn what’s available-scholarships, grants, loans and more, continue to Scholarships: earn to learn, for each state’s programs)

Local resources include high school guidance departments, PTAs, local businesses, employers, and local organizations.

 Go for it

If you don’t try, you can’t win. The stakes are high-college is expensive and costs are rising fast. It makes sense for students to exercise some self-help and apply for multiple scholarships to increase chances for winning. Winnings add up so a few small scholarships can easily approach one large one.

Don’t give up

Scholarships applications are as varied as their sponsors. Sometimes only biographical info is requested; other times students must submit an essay or complete a project. The sponsor determines the requirements. Bonus: If the scholarship requires a volunteer project, you help others, too.

Writing is a skill that can improve with each draft. The more you write, the better you write. Good writing skills will help you get into college (many colleges require an essay) and do well in college (think essay tests and papers). Bonus: Unlike in your school classes, you may be able to use the same essay with a little tweaking for more than one scholarship application.

You can increase your chances of winning outside scholarships by following all the scholarships rules. Submit a neat, complete, and error-free application before any deadlines. Proof-reading is a must.

Scholarship Expert Monica Matthews encourages students to apply for college scholarships and provides tips for parents to help:

POCSmom’s Insight: Be a smart consumer. Do not give out bank account, credit card, PINs and Social Security Numbers. Never pay a fee to win free scholarships. Have fun with your projects, develop your writing skills, and Good luck!!!

Stay tuned for POCSmom’s Insights on other forms of financial aid-from federal and state governments, and from college endowment funds.

*POCS: Parent Of a College Student