One of the best ways to reduce the cost of education is by earning scholarships. If you are smart about which scholarships you apply for, you may be lucky enough to receive a renewable scholarship. This means that the length of the scholarship can last multiple academic years without fully reapplying. However, most scholarship providers have criteria that you must meet in order to keep your scholarship over multiple terms. Here are some common mistakes that could cost you a scholarship (and how to avoid them).
- Academics: Many scholarships require that you maintain a certain grade point average in order to continue receiving their scholarship. Another phrase you may hear is ‘Satisfactory Academic Progress’ (SAP). These qualifications are in place to make sure that you are learning and that you are making progress toward your degree. It is a good idea to meet regularly with an academic adviser to ensure that your classes are leading you on the right path toward your diploma. Failing to meet the academic standards for your scholarship is a sure way to lose some much-needed money.
- Major/College Switch: Although there’s nothing wrong with switching your major or transferring schools, it can create some complications with your scholarships. Some scholarships are only offered to students with a specific major or a specific type of major. Other scholarships are only available to students who attend a certain school. If you decide to study outside of that group of majors or outside of the specified college, you could lose your scholarship. If you are debating making a change in your college career, check and see if any of your scholarships require a certain field of study or institution of study. This shouldn’t stop you from making these changes if you really want to, but be aware that you may have to find another way to fund your education if you lose a scholarship or two.
- Misuse of scholarship funds: Some scholarship providers are very specific on how you can use your scholarship money (for tuition, room and board, books, etc.). If you use scholarship funds for other purposes, you may lose your scholarship. Many providers list how their scholarship may be used in the application or criteria, but make sure to contact your provider if you are not sure.
- Discipline: Scholarship providers want to make sure that funding your education is a good investment. You can prove that they made the right choice in choosing you by being a good student and a good citizen. This means working hard and being responsible ALL the time, not just when you know you’re being watched. Believe it or not, this is not limited to underage drinking, plagiarism, or similar offenses. This can also include how you present yourself through social media. Click here to see how you can ‘clean up your act’ online.
- Student Status: Be sure to check whether your scholarships require you to take a certain number of credit hours in order to be eligible. ‘Full time’ generally means 12 credit hours or more, while ‘Half time’ means at least 6 credit hours in most cases. Check to make sure what your school’s definitions of ‘Full time’ and ‘Half time’ are, and make sure that you sign up for enough credit hours each term.
When you accept a scholarship, you are essentially signing a contract stating that you will manage the gift of a cheaper education efficiently and professionally. If you know the terms of your scholarship and commit to meeting those terms, you can graduate without breaking the bank.