Fin Aid Myths and Misconceptions

Millions of dollars in financial aid are available every year to assist students in paying for their college education, yet plenty of misinformation clouds the real facts about what type of aid is available and who is eligible. Chances are, you’ve heard some of these myths yourself. Don’t let these misconceptions keep you from applying for all the aid you’re qualified to receive.


Here are some of the most common myths for students confronting the process of securing financial aid:


  • “My parents’ income is too high to qualify for financial aid.”
    This may be true for some Federal grants, but this is not true for most other financial aid. Scholarships, fellowships and private financial aid programs are designed to make a college education available for students of families in any financial situation. Merit-based scholarships are not based on a family’s income at all. Moreover, even some higher-income families may qualify for need-based financial aid due to circumstances such as multiple children in college. Each situation is different so don’t automatically count yourself out of financial aid.


  • “Only students with high academic achievements receive merit-based aid.”
    Again, this is not always true. For example, the vast majority of federal aid is based on financial need and does not even consider grades. Other private scholarships and financial aid are available to students with all sorts of talents and interests. A student that participated in extracurricular activities or with an interest in public service or a well-defined career path is just as qualified to apply for and receive financial aid as students with high academic achievement.  


  • “You must be a minority to qualify for financial aid.”
    This is definitely not the case. Funds from federal financial aid programs are awarded on the basis of financial need, not on the basis of race or ethnicity. And most private scholarships and fellowships don’t take race or ethnicity into account at all. Only a very small percentage of private scholarships are aimed directly at ethnic or religious groups, and even within that group there are hundreds of different opportunities with different criteria. 


  • “Millions of dollars in scholarships go unused every year.”
    Hundreds of millions of dollars are awarded every year by various businesses, individuals, and groups. However, contrary to what many scam artists would have you believe, very little of this money goes “unclaimed.” Each year almost all of it is awarded to students. Most of the unclaimed money is slated for a small number of eligible candidates, such as employees of a specific corporation or members of a certain organization, and the only reason it went unclaimed is because those employees or members just didn’t apply that year.


  • “Students should concentrate on only a few scholarship applications.”
    Don’t make the mistake of thinking it will maximize your chances of winning aid by focusing on only one or two financial aid sources. This is exactly what you should not do. You should apply to as many sources of financial aid as possible. You shouldn’t waste time on applications you’re clearly not qualified for, but with all the hundreds of opportunities out there you should absolutely apply to any scholarship that’s relevant to you and your situation.