Unclaimed Scholarships

The only scholarships that ever go unclaimed are scholarships with very restrictive selection criteria that match very few students. Unfortunately, most financial aid professionals agree that unclaimed scholarships are more myth than reality. While some do exist, they may have restrictions and requirements that many students do not meet.

Some say there are millions of dollars in unrewarded scholarship money each year. Others, commonly those in the higher education field, say that a lot of unclaimed scholarships is a myth perpetrated by fraudulent organizations that charge students for scholarship searches.

Types of Scholarships:

College scholarships fall into two categories: public and private. Unclaimed scholarships generally fall into the private scholarship category, but could potentially be in both.

Public Scholarships

Typically well-funded and open to any interested applicant, public scholarships provide partial or full funding for a college or graduate school education. Some require essays in addition to the application or other demonstrations of student willingness and desire for the scholarship. Many target students with particular aptitudes, interests, or majors. Students should check into public scholarships from for-profit corporations, as well as non-profit organizations.

While it’s rare that public scholarships go unclaimed, if you are interested in an unusual major, career path or geographic location, research scholarships in your field.

Private Scholarships: Source of Unclaimed Scholarships

Private scholarships provide full or partial tuition assistance but are only open to students who meet selective criteria. Some colleges and universities offer scholarships for various majors, including common disciplines as well as highly specialized ones. Some companies offer scholarship money to families through the workplace as part of the company’s benefit plan. This type of scholarship falls most frequently into the “unclaimed scholarship” category. The reason is simple. If not enough people at the company have children embarking on their college education, monies set aside for the fund remain untapped in that particular year.

How to Find Unclaimed Scholarships without Spending a Fortune

Don’t waste money on search services that promise to find unclaimed scholarships for a fee. Free scholarship listings provide easy ways to find many sources of scholarships. With diligence and perseverance, you can find them on your own. Try the following tips:

  • Start with your school college counseling or guidance counseling office. If your school doesn’t have one, ask a teacher if the district has central counseling resources. These offices frequently subscribe to books, publications, and databases that aren’t available to the general public but contain a wealth of resources to help you.
  • Ask parents or guardians if their employers offer scholarships. Because companies may not have many applicants in a given year, this can be a great source of unclaimed scholarships. The company’s Human Resources office distributes such information.
  • Visit your local public library. Libraries too, like guidance offices, contain reference collections that include college and scholarship guides to help students.
  • Call the financial aid offices of colleges to which you are applying. Explain what you need and request scholarship information and forms to apply. Financial aid offsets many aspects of college tuition, and financial aid offices are the hub for such funds on each college campus.


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