Press release

Research Shows Fewer Families Taking Advantage of Scholarships, Potentially Paying More for Higher Education Than Necessary

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Despite the large-scale impact of the pandemic, college remains a priority for families. According to a recent survey of 1,000 college students and parents by Sallie Mae® and Ipsos, 95% of returning college students reported they didn’t change their college plans this semester due to COVID-19. That said, many of them may be paying more for college than they have to, because fewer families reported using scholarships in academic year 2019-20 than academic year 2018-19.

According to “How America Pays for College,” 58% of families reported using scholarships to pay for college, down from 65% last year. A key factor of those families who didn’t use any scholarships – three out of four students simply didn’t apply.

To help make finding and applying for scholarships simpler, Sallie Mae offers Scholarship Search, a free resource recently updated to now provide access to more than 6 million scholarships collectively worth more than $30 billion. Students fill out a brief profile, and in minutes, the tool responds with matches that identify relevant scholarships, their award amounts, application requirements and deadlines. Last year, 24,000 students who used the tool secured at least one scholarship, with a combined value of over $67 million. Sallie Mae also offers Graduate School Scholarship Search, home to 950,000 graduate school scholarships worth more than $1 billion.

Sallie Mae’s research also showed that due to the impact of the pandemic, a quarter of families appealed for more financial aid after filing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Sixty-six percent of students were successful in that appeal, and 20% were granted additional scholarships for the current academic year.

“Higher education is a proven pathway to upward mobility and figuring out how best to pay for it makes all the difference,” said Jen O’Donald, senior vice president, Sallie Mae. “That’s why empowering students to take the right steps at the start, like filing the FAFSA and applying for scholarships, is so important.”

Additional tips from Sallie Mae to help families secure scholarships for higher education include:

Start with the FAFSA. In order to qualify for a share of $150 billion in financial aid, including scholarships, students and families should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as early as possible. Schools use this application to put together financial aid packages, states use it to determine eligibility for state aid, and it is required for many scholarship applications. Families can complete the FAFSA in 20 minutes or less using Sallie Mae and Embark’s free application service.

Apply every year in college or grad school. Despite the emphasis on finding scholarships when entering college, approximately 50% of available scholarships are for students already enrolled. Students, whether a high school senior, current college student, or graduate school student, can and should apply for scholarships each year.

Don’t assume you won’t qualify. Scholarships aren’t just for athletes and valedictorians – there are scholarships for being left-handed, for wearing a duct tape dress to prom, and for creative plans to fight off a zombie apocalypse. There are scholarships for nearly every interest, hobby, or background.

Don’t skip the small scholarships. Not every scholarship is going to provide a full ride, but even the smallest of scholarships can start to add up. Remember: every scholarship dollar used to pay for college is a dollar that doesn’t need to come out of pocket or be borrowed. No scholarship is too small.

Avoid the scams. Never pay for scholarships, be wary of “guaranteed” money, and don’t be lured in by sites or organizations that charge a fee to access scholarship applications. For added comfort, consult school counselors and school financial aid offices, who can recommend reputable options.

To find and apply for scholarships, check out Sallie Mae’s free Scholarship Search or Graduate School Scholarship Search.

Sallie Mae (Nasdaq: SLM) believes education and life-long learning, in all forms, help people achieve great things. As the leader in private student lending, we provide financing and know-how to support access to college and offer products and resources to help customers make new goals and experiences, beyond college, happen. Learn more at Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

Category: Financial Literacy