Overhead view of person at desk with a laptop, calculator, and notebook doing research about scholarships

College Success

How Much You Can Expect From a Scholarship?

01.10.2023 • 10 min read

Nick Griffin

Subject Matter Expert

We’ll go over the average scholarship amount for full, partial, and small scholarships. Plus, read some useful tips for when you apply.

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In This Article

  1. What Is the Average Scholarship Amount?

  2. 3 Types of Scholarships

  3. 5 Tips When Applying for a Scholarship

  4. Scholarships FAQs

About $100 million in scholarships goes unclaimed every year, according to Forbes. Many people do not understand scholarships, nor apply for them. By dedicating some time in your busy life to apply to scholarships, you can deduct thousands of dollars off your college debt.

The best part is that anyone can apply for most scholarships. If you are a student in high school or considering going back to college in your 30s, there are scholarships available for you.

What Is the Average Scholarship Amount?

First-time undergraduates at a 4-year college on average receive about $13,690 annually in government grants and scholarships.

Scholarships can range from a few hundred dollars to full tuition coverage. The average scholarship amount varies depending on the following:

  • The type of scholarship

  • Academic achievement

  • Financial need

  • Extracurricular activities

  • Volunteer work

While full scholarships are not given out as frequently as many would hope, significant scholarship money is within reach of anyone. The key is to look for scholarships and apply to them as if it were a part-time job, earning you money down the road.

Scholarships, no matter the type, must be applied for each year, whether you are in school for 1 year or 4 years.

3 Types of Scholarships

Three general types of scholarships are available:

1. Full Scholarship

These academic scholarships are the ones that most people think of and hope for. When a school pays for a student’s tuition—and sometimes fees—this is called a full scholarship.

Some full scholarships include room and board on top of tuition and fees, but these are even more rare.

Most full scholarships are offered at expensive private colleges. The schools base them on merit—being particularly good at something. Typically, a student receiving a merit scholarship has high financial need in addition to a high grade point average (GPA) and test scores.

While exceptional athletic ability can lead to an athletic scholarship, most student-athletes still need to find other ways to fund their education.

While less than 1% of students earn full scholarships, they are still something to look into. By filling out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and researching your school of choice, you can find out if there are any full scholarships you qualify for.

2. Partial Scholarship

According to the Education Data Initiative, around 25% of college students have some sort of partial scholarship to help pay for school. The average scholarship amount is $5,000 to $10,000 annually.

These scholarships are typically available through the college you are planning on attending. Community partners and professional organizations offer them as well.

You can use partial scholarships for any college expenses: tuition, fees, room, board, books, or supplies. It all can really add up.

Since scholarships can come from various sources, colleges often host a website to help students apply for known scholarship opportunities. By checking with the school’s financial aid office, you may be able to apply for several scholarships simultaneously.

Many scholarship programs require an essay. This takes time to write and stops lots of students from applying. When using scholarship websites hosted by the school, you may be able to use one essay to apply for several scholarships at once.

3. Small Scholarship

The simple word “small” deters people from applying to scholarships that have an award amount of less than $1,000. These scholarships can add up to big savings though. Paired with finding a college job, you can really gain financial independence during school.

The best part about small scholarships is that not many people apply for them. Often, these private scholarships are offered through local organizations or nonprofits where you live, and they have minimal requirements.

A great place to start looking into small scholarships is through your school counselor. Often, organizations and businesses in your area have scholarship funds and will announce scholarships to school counselors exclusively.

This makes small scholarships far less competitive and gives an edge to anyone who takes them seriously.

While the average amount is low, remember it adds up. How much money could you earn by adding 5 to 10 small scholarships together? Then what if you combine that with a partial scholarship?

5 Tips When Applying for a Scholarship

1. Start Early

Giving yourself plenty of time to start applying for scholarships will give you an edge against other applicants. To do this, you need time to think about your college goals, network, and research scholarship opportunities.

Many scholarships are not directly tied to a major. That’s great news! You can begin to apply for them, even if you’re still a high school student.

By doing your research, filling out applications, and writing scholarship essays early, you give yourself plenty of time to create eye-catching applications.

Often, students begin the scholarship application process up to a year in advance. This ensures you make time to finish all your applications by their due dates. Typically, scholarships are due by February before the school year starts.

2. Be Creative

It is important to set yourself apart from other applicants out there. You can do this in 2 different ways.

One way is to spend time looking for scholarships in places that others may not look. By talking with your guidance counselor, local businesses, and community organizations, you can find unique opportunities.

The other place to bring in creativity is through your scholarship essays. Be sure to tell your story in an engaging way. This will separate your essay from all the others.

Instead of telling the scholarship reader why you deserve the award, show them your strengths through a unique personal story.

3. Think of It as a Job

Earning scholarship awards is the same as getting paid. It may take some time to see the benefits of your hard work, but the money will come.

You may have to take out less in student loans to pay for school or have all your book costs covered. This is a big deal when you add up all the expenses of going to college.

By setting aside the time to work on scholarships each week, you are helping your future self have less debt. This means more financial freedom.

Take the time to apply for lots of scholarships and work through multiple drafts of your essays. Keep refining your process and keep looking for new opportunities. You’ll thank yourself later.

4. Seek Guidance

Your high school counselor and your college financial aid office are the two best places to start when looking for scholarships. Make an appointment and talk to them about how to find money to pay for school.

Once you have direction, seek some advice on how to create a great scholarship essay. Maybe you have an English teacher that could read your essay for you. If so, ask them.

By getting some feedback on your work from a professional, you are improving your odds of winning scholarship money.

Chances are, someone would love to help you out.

5. Keep Going

Applying for college scholarships can feel defeating at times. After a lot of work on essays and applications, you may not hear back for some time. Don’t let that get you down.

The more scholarships you apply for the better your chances are of getting significant scholarship money. Apply for every scholarship you come across, no matter how much it’s for.

If you apply for 100 scholarships and only get 10 of them, you are still making good money. The more scholarships you apply for, the better you get at the application process and the better your chances of winning.

Scholarships FAQs

What is a good amount for a scholarship?

While some would say that any amount of money is good, you need to consider your time in applying for scholarships. Consider how long it takes to fill out an application and write an essay that you review and edit.

The number of hours you spend working on the scholarship application should pay off better than you could make at an hourly job.

If there is a $100 scholarship, and you could use an essay you already wrote, it may take an hour to complete. This is great money.

While it is possible to get a scholarship that pays for most of your education, the small scholarships of $100 to $500 can add up quickly. Don’t overlook them. A typical student who is dedicated to the scholarship process earns between $5,000 and $10,000 annually.

How do grants help pay for college?

Grants are similar to scholarships in that they are free money to help pay for higher education. A grant differs in that it is often need-based, meaning a student has high financial need when comparing the cost of attendance to their family’s income.

The U.S. Department of Education awards the vast majority of grants, mostly Pell Grants, to undergraduate students. Information on the FAFSA determines who is eligible to receive a grant.

The FAFSA is also how students apply for low-interest student loans and work-study programs.

While grant money can be substantial enough to pay for most college expenses, typically a student uses a combination of grants, scholarships, and loans to pay for school.

What is the highest-paying scholarship?

Private colleges offer the highest scholarships to students. These full-ride or nearly full-ride scholarships are given to students based on merit and financial need compared to family income.

Since private schools usually have the highest price tag, their scholarships tend to be quite large.

Benefactors of these scholarships are usually exceptional students who come from low-income areas or are the first in their families to go to college.

How important are grades in getting a scholarship?

Grades are an important factor in getting scholarships and are a required category on most applications. This being said, grades are not the only factor of importance.

Each year students are eligible for thousands of dollars in scholarship money and many average students do not take advantage of it due to concerns over their grades.

When applying for scholarships, it’s best to think about what it is that makes you unique. By highlighting these things in your essays and on your application, you can set yourself apart from others who may have a higher level of academic achievement.

Remember to apply to multiple scholarships and not to get discouraged while waiting to hear back.

What scholarship is the hardest to get?

Getting a full scholarship is by far the hardest to get and requires the most specific criteria. Full scholarships are very rare though, and there are far more small scholarships that are far easier to get.

Keep applying to the small scholarships and watch them add up to big money.

How can I get more money for college?

Creative students can come up with all sorts of ways to get financial aid for college expenses. While filling out the FAFSA can get you the loans you need to go to school, make sure to explore all your other options as well.

Taking courses at a community college or through an online program like Degrees+ can earn you transferable credits at a fraction of the cost of most universities.

Consider finding a part-time college job to help offset some of your expenses. Not only will you reduce the amount of money you have to pay back in loans, but you also gain valuable work experience that you could put on a future resume.

Fill out your FAFSA and see if you qualify for grants or work-study, and don’t be afraid to take out loans. Talk to people you trust and see how they managed to pay for college. Keep exploring new avenues to help get you closer to that college degree. Your efforts are sure to pay off in the long run.

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