How to Get Students Motivated to Apply for Scholarships

Bribery and the Scholarship Application Process

How to Get Students Motivated to Apply for Scholarships

Published January 28, 2021 | Last Updated July 31st, 2023 at 06:41 pm

Bribery and the Scholarship Application Process

On top of homework, extracurriculars, internships, or jobs, and the stress of deadlines, chores, and fitting in social activities, it’s no wonder some students are unmotivated to finish college applications and meet scholarship deadlines.

Some parents have found creative ways to incentivize their children to do the extra work without fighting or nagging.  

Scholarship Application Strategies: Every Family Needs Them

Debbie Schwartz, founder of Road2College interviewed Pam Andrews, a College Admissions Coach and Scholarship Strategist on the process of applying for private scholarships. The upshot of the interview?

It doesn’t matter who you are, applying for private scholarships takes work. 

It’s a numbers game, for one thing. While Andrews was able to coach her son to earn $700,000 in scholarship money for his undergraduate and graduate education, he applied to a total of 147 scholarships before winning six. And while her clients also have won over $1,000,000 in scholarships, success like this is hardly a given.

Applying for private scholarships is such a tough process that Andrews recommends putting it off until your child has first identified and applied to colleges that offer the most in grant and merit scholarships. (This route might offer more payoff for the effort). From there, her tips for winning scholarships emphasize time and diligence on the part of all involved. Parents, you’re definitely implicated:

  • Encourage your student to identify scholarships that match their profile—be it leader, volunteer, or civic-minded individual. 
  • Once a list of scholarships has been established, help your student find a designated time and place for scholarship application work. 
  • Andrews recommends all family members share the application essays on google docs for easier group editing.

In its ten ways to help students find and win scholarships for college, The Scholarship Workshop also highlights a hefty investment of team effort: 

  • Parents and counselors can create mini-libraries of motivational scholarship books.
  • Find scholarship success stories and workshops that will inspire students. 
  • Does your student have an updated resume detailing extracurricular activities or a checklist of information to provide recommenders? If not, they probably should.

For many parents, all this highly suggested prep work can seem overwhelming. 

Let’s say though, for argument’s sake, you’ve eaten the elephant. Your teen—armed with an application-ready profile and enlisted recommenders—is set to follow in the well-heeled footprints of scholarship conquerors gone before. You’ve prioritized approaching deadlines. It’s time to wrap things up.

You say, scholarship application work session; your teen says Netflix binge. Or maybe (raising the stakes of their own reasonable argument) they say, homework, club work, sports, or chores. 

You say, “think of your future.” 

They say, “what’s for dessert?”

Now what? 

One Mom Pays Her Daughter $20 Per Completed Scholarship Application.

Say What You Will, She Says It Works

Holly Raza, mother of three, described her experience in the Paying For College101 Facebook  group and in a personal interview. She had spent months nagging her oldest child to finish her college applications. That mission accomplished, adding scholarship applications to the list seemed too much—for both Raza and her daughter. It was becoming a power struggle. 

“I’m too busy,” or “Geesh, I’ll do it, just quit asking,” her daughter would say. 

Meanwhile, application deadlines were approaching. 

Raza remembered when her kids were little, she used to give them popsicle sticks with “for pay” chores written on them that were above and beyond their regular chores. Since scholarship applications seemed above and beyond her daughter’s normal workload, she decided to incentivize the chore in an upgraded version of what she’d done in the past.

It’s a simple plan, one that involves little-to-no discussion. Raza labels each application, prioritized by deadline. When her daughter is ready, she does the application, then takes the $20 that Raza leaves attached to the fridge for her.

After two weeks, her daughter had spent five to six hours working to complete four scholarship applications. Pleased with this success, Raza decided to post about it so that other parents who were struggling might find help, or at least hope.

“Is this bribery?” she posted. “Yes, or the way I look at it, a little added incentive to finish a somewhat painful task.”

Raza’s post led to hundreds of thankful supportive comments. Clearly, a fair share of parents found themselves in a similar boat.

On the other hand, some parents adamantly opposed Raza’s route, stating that if their kid wasn’t ready to fill out scholarship applications, they weren’t ready to go to college—and they didn’t have to go.

Others said their child didn’t need extra motivation, or if they did, monetary payment probably wouldn’t work. 

Reading these responses, Raza admitted, “I was a little disappointed in the group because [there] seems to be a lot of complaining and humble bragging.

But I’ve learned if you are going to complain about something (even internally), be the change you’d like to see in the group. That’s why I decided to make the post to begin with.”

Ultimately, Holly is glad her idea helped some other parents, and mostly she’s just glad it worked.

Several weeks after the Facebook post, her daughter has finished about ten applications, and identified a few not live until late spring, so she’ll probably continue to submit applications then.

In her mind, Raza says the $20 is like paid time-and-a-half for overtime, or akin to buying a new outfit after meeting a personal goal.

On Bribing Students to Work, Differentiated Rewards

Educator and author A.J. Juliani argues that our educational system is already predicated on bribes in the form of grades and ranking. Some students are motivated by grades or reputation.

Others, however, are not fine working to meet expectations that are lower than their capabilities. 

If students work harder because of incentives, Juliani suggests, be it money or grades, they are learning more and that’s a win.

Juliani summarizes recent studies that show most students respond to bigger rewards, immediate rewards, and the threat of having a reward taken away. But what constitutes a reward differs from student to student.

Incentives should be differentiated, the author believes. Twenty dollars motivates Raza’s daughter. What will motivate your child? 


Use R2C Insights to help find merit aid and schools that fit the criteria most important to your student. You’ll not only save precious time, but your student will avoid the heartache of applying to schools they aren’t likely to get into or can’t afford to attend.  

Other Articles You Might Like:

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

How to Motivate Juniors to Start the College Process

College Countdown Gift Ideas for Parents of Seniors




In this article:

Upcoming Events

Similar Articles for You

6 Types of Insurance for College Students and How to Save on Them

College Life

6 Types of Insurance for College Students and How to Save on Them

Navigating insurance options is essential for college students to protect their health, belongings, and finances. However, many people aren’t aware...

How to Write a College Essay That Works


How to Write a College Essay That Works

Millions of high school students apply for college each year, and many have to write at least one college application...

Dear Roadie, My College-Bound Daughter Is Upset About Leaving Our Senior Dog Behind. What Can I Do?


Dear Roadie, My College-Bound Daughter Is Upset About Leaving Our Senior Dog Behind. What Can I Do?

Dear Roadie, My daughter is getting ready to go away to college and she’s extremely upset about leaving our senior...

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 R2C 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.