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3 Common Obstacles to a Successful Scholarship Search

Deserving students miss out on a lot of money each year because of three common obstacles in the scholarship search process. Here's how to overcome them!

With thousands of dollars’ worth of scholarships available each year from companies, organizations, individuals, and foundations, why aren’t more students actively pursuing these opportunities? When surveyed and researched, students respond predominantly with one of three reasons. It’s essential that each of these three reasons are brought to light, discussed, and addressed. A successful scholarship pursuit can be achieved more easily with the understanding and debunking of these misconceptions.

The “I don’t have time” problem

Scholarship applications for private sources like companies and organizations may require some time to expedite, but rarely do they require a substantial amount of time and effort. A scholarship committee from a company or organization isn’t made up of academics like at a school. They’re professionals who are seeking the best candidate to be the recipient. They’re generally not interested in reading multi-page essays or papers. In fact, many private scholarships specifically request a very small amount of writing such as essays of 1,000 words or fewer. These submissions require only a small fraction of the amount of writing that a typical student is assigned from their teachers or professors.

A great time-saving tool is to utilize your ready-to-go-materials. Ready-to-go-materials include papers, projects, essays, or poems you’ve written in the past. Your time was already spent on those assignments—and every scholarship you pursue doesn’t have to relate or connect to your future goals. An essay written about the Civil War could be used for a scholarship related to US history; an original poem from a past English class might be used for a scholarship related to poetry. A student who’s awarded scholarship monies from these potential opportunities could be pursuing finance, engineering, or music. Ready-to-go-materials can be maximized to expedite more scholarship applications without requiring a significant amount of time from the scholarship-seeking student, so that excuse is justifiable no more.

Related: Scholarships: Quick Tips, Tricks, and Why They Matter

The “I’m not going to win, so why bother” mentality

Students have a strong misconception that everyone is applying for the same scholarships. Many believe their chances of winning an award is a long shot. Yes, there are some scholarships where, due to the popularity of the award, the statistical odds are stacked against students—but many of those scholarships are sweepstakes, which are absolutely a long shot. However, most private, lesser-known scholarships aren’t sweepstakes. Scholarship committees consistently express disappointment in the number of applications they receive for their awards. Local awards for high school seniors are only applied to by around 15% of a graduating class. Someone will receive the scholarship—and you can’t win if you don’t get in the game.

The “My parents make too much money” misconception

Scholarships aren’t all based on the financial need of a family. In fact, financial need is only one of many potential eligibility criteria that a scholarship committee might indicate as a requirement. A growing category of private scholarships are need-blind scholarships. Their decision-makers specify in the award descriptions that the financial need of a student’s family will not be a consideration. They may instead place importance on merit, community service, or any other potential criteria. If you fit the description and requirements of a scholarship, there’s no reason not to apply. 

Related: 3 Scholarship Search Mistakes Students Should Avoid

Private scholarships from companies, organizations, individuals, and foundations will continue to be awarded—whether you apply for them or not. By recognizing the reality of the scholarship process, students can remove these most common obstacles on their way to a successful search.

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About Jean O'Toole

Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book, Scholarship Strategies Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying Jean’s scholarship strategies. In 2008, Jean co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. Visit for more information, and follow Jean on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Abhishek Kumar

Abhishek Kumar

High School Class of 2022

As a high schooler, I know how hard it is to plan for college. You have to consider a lot of factors: SAT/ACT scores, college searches, scholarships, and more. CollegeXpress has been a helpful resource that solves all these problems. One can easily create a free account and search away. They help you search for scholarships and colleges, they have graduate program search, they have lists and rankings, and so much more. CX also has a lot of articles and advice to read—whether it’s financial aid, test prep, campus visits, internships/careers, or anything. Not only that, CX gives out free scholarship money to students who sign up and create a free CX account. I love CX and will continue to use it! Thank you CollegeXpress for making my college journey easier!

Melanie Kajy

Melanie Kajy

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress has helped me tremendously during my senior year of high school. I started off using the college search to find more information about the universities I was interested in. Just this tool alone gave me so much information about a particular school. It was my one-stop shop to learn about college. I was able to find information about college tuition, school rank, majors, and so much more that I can't list it all. The college search tool has helped me narrow down which college I want to attend, and it made a stressful process surprisingly not so stressful. I then moved to the scholarship search tool to find scholarships to apply for because I can't afford to pay for tuition myself. The search tool helped me find scholarships that I was eligible for. The tool gave me all the information I could ever need about a particular scholarship that was being offered. The CollegeXpress scholarship search tool is so much better than other tools offered, like the Chegg scholarship search. Thanks to CollegeXpress, I was able to apply to tons of scholarships in a relatively easy way!

Lu Diehl

Lu Diehl

High School Class of 2022

I never would have found the college I plan on attending without CollegeXpress! I've always been a person of ambition and have been dreaming of studying and working on my passion for law, legal studies, and political science. Washington College is where I plan on pursuing my career. My journey with my education has been difficult, and oftentimes, I was told I would never amount to much, but now I'm dual enrolled at Caroll Community College and have had experience in the fields I am dedicated to. Without the help of CollegeXpress (even in its early days), I would never have found Washington College and the information I need to apply and become a part of their community.

Emilie Delgado

Emilie Delgado

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2013

CollegeXpress has tremendously helped me in my search for financial aid opportunities as I enter my college career. It is easy to navigate and quickly narrowed down scholarships that I could apply for. Being awarded the scholarship will greatly help me in my finances regarding books and tuition. Thank you for this opportunity. Without CollegeXpress, it would have been more difficult to apply. I would recommend this site to everyone!

Maria  Fernanda

Maria Fernanda

High School Class of 2023

CollegeXpress is always telling you with time to spare when to apply for certain scholarships, what they require, and if you’re eligible or not. They also provide helpful tips for both incoming college students and current college students, such as what to absolutely have in your dorm.

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