Scholarships That Went Unclaimed Last Year
Could someone actually receive a scholarship only to not use it later on? Indeed. There are a few occasions when scholarships are left unclaimed. They may provide a unique opportunity for you to get extra money for school. Let’s explore the reasons behind unclaimed scholarships and how you can benefit from someone else’s forfeiture.
Are There Really Unclaimed Scholarships?
While uncommon, there are unclaimed scholarships every year. Some of these are considered “unclaimed” based on technicality alone. But there are times when a recipient simply does not cash in on his or her award. However, it is much more common for a scholarship committee to reissue a scholarship to another recipient, rather than leaving the money unused altogether. In one way or another, someone benefits from the financial aid.
Unclaimed Pell Grants Are Much More Common
Anytime you see a news report about millions of dollars in unclaimed financial aid, it’s most likely referring to Federal Pell Grants. Some sources estimate that as much as $2.3 billion in Pell Grants were left unclaimed in 2017. This is mostly from high school seniors who do not fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in time for college enrollment. Yet there are many college students who make the same mistake.
Filling out a FAFSA takes a little bit of time, but it is a requirement for many financial aid applications. The Pell Grant is one of the many awards available with a FAFSA, and it currently provides a maximum of $5,920 in funding. Think about how far that could go to help you pay for college.
As you fill out scholarship applications, take a moment to complete the current year’s FAFSA. Get this done as soon as possible so you have the best chance at maximizing your aid. Then all you have to do is repeat the process once a year. Also, most of the information will auto-fill for you.
Reasons Why Scholarships Go Unclaimed
In the rare instance of an unclaimed scholarship, one of these reasons is usually to blame…
The winner did not complete a necessary step in the post-application process
Scholarship issuers can set their own rules about what an applicant needs to do to earn an award. The application may end with an essay or resume submission, or it may require some effort after the winner is chosen. For instance, if someone wins a beauty pageant scholarship, they may need to attend several speaking events as part of the award. Failure to complete these post-application steps could cause the person to lose the scholarship.
The winner did something to lose his or her scholarship
The scholarship committee decides what instances are grounds for termination. Much like an employer would for his or her workplace. If the winner does something that harms the reputation of the organization or proves his or her unworthiness, the scholarship issuer may retract the award. We will discuss this further in the next section.
The winner chose to attend another school
Many scholarships are school specific. If a recipient chooses to go to another school, he or she will no longer be eligible for the scholarship. A good example of this is when a student becomes a National Merit Scholar after scoring well on the PSAT. National Merit Scholars offer high-value scholarships at schools throughout the country. They cannot claim all of the awards available to them. They will only be eligible for scholarships at the school they choose to attend.
The winner lied on his or her application
If the scholarship committee finds out that an applicant lied on his or her application, they may choose to reverse the award.
The winner did not meet the requirements for a renewable scholarship
Some scholarships are renewable, which means that a winner can continue to receive funding for multiple years. In order to do this, the recipient must fulfill the scholarship’s renewal requirements. If the student does not do this, the scholarship issuer will not provide additional funding the following year.
Can Someone Lose a Scholarship after Winning One?
Yes, it is possible to lose a scholarship after winning one. This usually happens because the winner violated a rule for the school or for the scholarship itself. For instance, a student attending college on a wrestling scholarship may lose his award if he gets a DUI over the summer. The event may not have occurred during school hours or on school property, but it still creates a poor reputation for the college. The school may revoke the award and issue it to another student.
Aside from illegal activities, a scholarship winner may lose the award if he or she lied on the application, or even if he or she changes majors. Some scholarships are specifically designed for students in a certain career path. If the winner changes majors after the first semester, the scholarship may not be available in the second semester.
This is important to keep in mind for any scholarships you earn. Understand the terms of the award carefully, and make sure you fulfill them while you are in school. You wouldn’t want to have unclaimed scholarships due to a simple error.
What Happens to Lost or Unclaimed Scholarship Money?
Unclaimed scholarships are typically handled in two ways. Either the scholarship is given to another student, or the scholarship money is applied to future awards. The funding will get used in some way. Even if it is not during the same round of applications. In the case of an unclaimed Pell Grant, the money stays in the pool of federal aid for future students to use.
How to Take Advantage of Unclaimed Scholarships
Apply to as many scholarships as possible each semester. If the winner of a scholarship loses the award later on, the issuer may choose another recipient from the first-round applicants. If your application is there, you could be chosen for the award, despite the fact that you did not win originally. In another scenario, the issuing organization may end up with more available funding than they once predicted. Thus, providing a chance for more scholarships. You could be selected for one of the new awards.
Pay close attention to scholarships that very few people apply for. Including small-value scholarships or small/local scholarships. These awards have a higher chance of going unclaimed because so few people apply for them. As always, stay diligent in your quest for financial aid and you can go to college without carrying student loan debt.