Do Un-awarded Scholarships Really Exist?

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Pile of $1 million.

This is $1 million. So, 10 times this amount supposedly goes un-awarded every year. Sure, right.

If you’ve searched for scholarships, then you’ve heard about the mystical un-awarded accolades. You know—the bazillions of dollars in scholarship cash just sitting out there without anyone to spend it.

While there are un-awarded scholarships (a 2005 report hypothesized that approximately $100 million in scholarship dollars goes un-awarded each year), the Internet has exaggerated this concept.

I would rather focus on under-awarded scholarships, which are scholarships that receive very few applicants. Why? Because, the odds are in your favor to win more of these kinds of awards.


After winning one local scholarship, I asked the scholarship provider how many people had applied. She said something along the lines of, “Oh, this year was tough! We received 20 applicants.”

20 applicants. For two awards. That sounds like pretty favorable odds to me!

Why Do Some Scholarships Go Un-Awarded/Under-Awarded?

There are several reasons why a scholarship might go un-awarded. Here are just a few examples:

  1. The eligibility requirements for the scholarship are too narrow. Meaning, there might be too few people actually eligible for the scholarship.
  2. The scholarship award was not well-marketed and students never found it.
  3. The caliber of applicants who actually applied did not meet the standards of the organization.

Those are just a few examples, as different scholarship organizations may have varying reasons for not awarding a particular scholarship.

How To Use This To Your Advantage

While you can’t do much about a scholarship organization not being happy with the caliber of applicants it receives, you can do something about finding the scholarships that are not well publicized.

Simply put, these scholarships will take more effort to find. Typically, an underpublicized scholarship will not be listed on a scholarship search engine and you’d be lucky if they had a website.

The organizers of the scholarship will do a couple of things to publicize it: (A) email local counselors at schools with the scholarship application and/or (B) physically mail a copy of the application to schools, organizations, and people that they want to help them spread the word. (That local scholarship I mentioned before? I found the application on my counselor’s desk—that’s how random these scholarships are to find.)

The most likely way to get a hold of these scholarships is to contact your financial aid office about upcoming scholarship opportunities and to browse the financial aid websites of other schools in your area to see if they have posted any scholarship information that your school may have missed.

Very few students do this; thus, many of these scholarships go un-awarded or receive just a handful of applications! That is where your opportunity lies.

If you’re looking for other scholarship opportunities, don’t forget these options for both April and May. And you can search for even more scholarships by signing up for a free SALT™ membership at

(Photo: JBlaze B)

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