Private Scholarship . . . Reality Or Fairy Tale? | Luanne Lee, CCPRS

Private scholarships – we love them and hate them. We love them because they make a good story. We hate them because for most of us they are so darn elusive and time-consuming to get!

The media loves to promote stories that have happy fairy tale endings. What’s better than a student being able to win enough money in scholarships to pay for their full tuition room and board? Sounds like a fairy tale story that will get lots of clicks. But in reality, Mark Kantrowitz, former publisher of and, reports less than 20,000 students a year receive a completely free ride to college. Out of the millions of students who apply to college each year, what do you think your chances are?

At Your College Planning Coach we recommend your #1 priority should be researching and targeting colleges that want your student and are more likely to offer your student Financial Aid in the form of Grants and Merit Scholarships. According to College Board’s Trends in Education, 40% of all free aid money is given by colleges. Less than 11% comes from private grants/scholarships. That doesn’t sound like a good use of your time, does it? Spend your valuable time more efficiently. Once you’ve applied to those colleges that offer your student Grants and Merit Scholarships, put whatever time and effort you have into applying for private scholarships.

Please share the following tips with your student…..

  1. Applying for private scholarships to pay the bulk of your college bill is like taking on a part-time job. It will require you researching hundreds of scholarships and submitting applications and essays for dozens every year you are in college. The cost to attend in-state public flagship universities is over $25,000 a year, $50,000 per year for out-of-state-state universities. Most private scholarships are $1,000 or less and are only good for one year.
  2. There are plenty of free college scholarship websites. Some will do a better job of narrowing results to your qualifications while others will have outdated scholarships. Use a combination of websites to maximize your chances of finding scholarships. If they boast “No Essay Required” they may be a scholarship sweepstakes, a form of marketing and lead generation. It will be best to create a separate email for your scholarship searches.
  3. Check your high school counselor’s office, your parent’s workplace, and the local paper’s community section for local scholarships. You will have a better chance earning local scholarships. They aren’t as easy to find so not as many people will be applying for them.
  4. Most private scholarships will be for one year only. Pay attention to scholarships that are multi-year or allow you to apply and win more than once.
  5. Private scholarships must be declared to your college financial aid office. This can affect your financial aid award from federal and institutional sources being reduced.
  6. To get the most out of private scholarships, be organized, apply for as many as possible, as early as possible. Track deadlines, requirements, and recommendations in one place. Give yourself time to write the essays and also give your teachers plenty of time to write your letter of recommendations.


Every student should try to find and apply for scholarships. Just be realistic about the effort needed and the potential outcome. And remember, if you really want to make a dent finding money for college, the best time spent will be used towards targeting schools that are more likely to offer financial aid or merit scholarships. And just like the research for finding private scholarships, the earlier you start the better.


About Luanne Lee

Luanne Lee is a licensed College Planning Relief® specialist with over 20 years in business and personal financial services. Married to Jim for 40 years, she is a proud mother of two young adults, three grandchildren, 3 dogs and 2 cats and lives in Northern VA.

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