Are Private Scholarships Worth the Effort?

private scholarships

Are Private Scholarships Worth the Effort?

Published January 7, 2016

private scholarships

With all of the college scholarship search websites available, it would seem that getting a scholarship to pay for school has never been easier.

One scholarship search site offers to match students to 3.6 million college scholarships worth over $14 billion.

Another site claims there are over $1 billion in awards waiting for students.

How hard can it be to get a scholarship?

Private Scholarship Websites Come in Many Shapes and Sizes

Actually, the truth is that the internet has made it easy to find numerous private scholarships students might qualify for.

Searching is just the first step, students still need to apply for these scholarships and compete with all the other students who used the same search websites to find the same scholarships.

Another truth is that private scholarships (those NOT awarded by the school the student is attending) generally only make a dent in the cost of attending a public university.

Make it a scratch for attending a private school.

According to, in 2022:

  • 25% of college students received money from scholarships and grants (Sallie Mae, 2021).
  • Only one in eight college students is awarded a scholarship (Kantrowitz, 2019).
  • Of the students who were awarded scholarships, 97% receive $2,500 or less (Kantrowitz, 2020).
  • Furthermore, only 0.2% of students receive scholarships worth $25,000 or more (Unigo, 2021).
  • 50% of students who were awarded private scholarships experience scholarship displacement.

The average cost of tuition for an in-state student attending a public 4-year institution is $25,707 per academic year. The average private, nonprofit university student spends a total of $54,501 per academic year.*

It’s going to take a lot of $2,000 scholarships to significantly reduce a student’s out-of-pocket costs.

Of course, that doesn’t mean students shouldn’t try for private scholarships. They should just make sure they understand the ratio of effort they’ll have to put in relative to the possible payout.

Ultimately, we would argue that the effort would be better-spent targeting schools for merit scholarships. However, we realize that there are plenty of people with more energy and ambition than you can imagine.

If you’re going to make a serious effort researching for and applying to niche and private college scholarships, you should know the following:

The Smart Way to Look for Private Scholarships

1. Don’t pay for a scholarship search service

There are plenty of reputable FREE scholarship websites available.

It’s highly unlikely that paying someone will result in scholarship information that you wouldn’t have found yourself.

If you’re willing to pay someone to search for scholarships so that you don’t have to, then you probably don’t need to be chasing outside scholarships.

2. Don’t wait till senior year to start applying for scholarships

Lay out a timeline for your student to follow.

More than 90% of college scholarship seekers don’t actively pursue scholarship success until their senior year of high school.

Yet preparation before senior year can make an enormous difference.

In addition, there are many scholarships out there offered to students starting in 9th grade (and younger), so don’t overlook starting the search process earlier than you originally planned on.

3. All the college scholarship websites will have varying degrees of reliability

Some will do a better job of narrowing results to your qualifications while others will have fewer outdated scholarships.

You’re probably going to want use a combination of websites to maximize your chances of finding scholarships.

4. You will have better chances at getting local scholarships

There definitely are niche and local scholarships that turn up through your high school counselor’s office, your parent’s workplace, or in the local paper’s community section.

They aren’t as easy to find so not as many people will be applying for them, but with a good strategy, you could be successful in your scholarship search.

In addition, check our website for monthly lists of Private Scholarships.






*Source: Education Data
In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

Why Is My EFC so High and What Does it Mean?


Why Is My EFC so High and What Does it Mean?

You’ve filled out the FAFSA and received your EFC or tried an EFC calculator. Now you’re asking, Why is my...

What Does an EFC of 00000 Mean?


What Does an EFC of 00000 Mean?

If you’ve filled out the FAFSA and come back with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) of 00000, you might think...

Merit Scholarships Guide: Factors, Tips, Full List and Search Tool

College Financial Planning

Merit Scholarships Guide: Factors, Tips, Full List and Search Tool

Paying for college is a bigger challenge than ever. Even if students qualify for need-based aid, many of their families...

Tools & Services Recommended for You

There may come a time when you realize you can’t do it all alone. Use any of the many tools in our toolbox to assist you on the road to college.

Become a Member

At Road2College you’ll find everything you need to make the admissions and paying for college process less stressful and more transparent.


Explore College Insights™ — your source for finding affordable colleges and merit scholarships.


Get coaching on admissions and college financing.


Join Road2College where parents and experts work together to inform and inspire college-bound families.