Scholarships are for students who have excellent academic achievements and athletic skills. This is among the most common scholarship myths that incoming college students from pursuing scholarships, and it is such a shame! There are plenty of scholarship opportunities for students with average grades, and it is not as difficult as it sounds.
The secrets: Getting your application materials ready for on-the-spot submission, if necessary, and being persistent in finding opportunities even in the least likely places. Indeed, you can also get a share of the $46 billion scholarship money that higher education institutions, public agencies, and private organizations award every year!
In the following sections, we will discuss effective ways of getting scholarships with average high school grades. We will also look into a few scholarship programs that may fit your needs. Just remember that scholarships do not come in the mail without hard work, acceptance of multiple rejections, and patience on your part.
Get the best tips and the best scholarship programs as an average college student! Check out these page jumps to explore your options:
Make Pre-packaged Application Materials
Submit as Many Applications as Possible
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Look into Your State’s Lottery Scholarships
Apply for Federal Student Aid
Look for Low or No GPA Scholarships
Use Your Parents’ Network
Make Pre-packaged Application Materials
Your application form and supporting documents will make or break your chances of winning scholarships! You must then be thorough when filling out scholarship application forms with the required information. You should double-check the information, ensure that the letters can be read – use block letters, if possible – and every blank and box are filled in.
Such a level of attention to detail should also be poured into your documents – every “i” should be dotted and every “t” crossed. Read your recommendation letters and personal essay to ensure that, indeed, they pass spell and grammar checks, among others.
Don’t forget that it is not just about the form but the substance, too! Your recommendation letters and personal essay should reflect your suitability for the scholarship and your personality and personal interests. You must write a persuasive personal essay, too, since winning scholarships with average grades means selling yourself more.
On another note, you will likely be applying for scholarships in several public agencies and private organizations. You must then have a set of pre-packaged materials that can be submitted at a moment’s notice. You want to send out applications with less time commitment, so starting from scratch is not recommended.
Here are a few effective tips in building an excellent set of pre-packaged application materials.
- Get solid recommendation letters from your teachers, guidance counselor, and principal as well as employers. The best recommendation letters provide scholarship providers better insight into your character, work ethic, and personality beyond your grades. You want them to look beyond your average grades and to see your positive experiences and traits, such as community involvement, artistic talent, and compassion for the less fortunate.
- Write a killer essay. Easier said than done, but it is possible! You do not have to write like a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer, but you should strive to present yourself in the best possible light. You must write a few drafts, let others read them and give feedback, and rewrite until you are satisfied with it.
Avoid mentioning your average or middling grades, much less make excuses for them. Instead, you must highlight your determination, creativity, and innovative spirit, which most scholarship providers look for in recipients.
However, don’t use the same essay for all of your applications, no matter how excellent it may be! You must rewrite certain parts of your essay to fit the scholarship criteria. You should change the addressee, including the scholarship organization’s names, the person in charge, and address.
Then, read the scholarship goal and criteria to get an idea of the provider’s type of recipient. You can then highlight your experiences, values, and traits that fit such an ideal recipient.
Your recommendation letters and personal essay are the core of your scholarship applications. You must then be ready with these documents in case a scholarship opportunity comes to your attention. Keep a few hard copies of your recommendation letters and a portable drive with your essay on it for quick editing and printing. Scan your recommendation letters, too, and save them in a portable drive.
When a scholarship opportunity comes up and the deadline’s tight, you can focus more on filling out the application form. Your recommendation letters and personal essay will be ready with a few rewrites.
Tip: Many scholarship programs require online applications. Be sure to use a formal-sounding email address – no nickname, novelty, and silly email addresses.
Submit as Many Applications as Possible
The only way to get scholarships is to apply for them, particularly if you have average grades. You must then apply to as many scholarship programs as possible and, thus, cast a wider net and increase your chances of winning several grants-in-aid. You should adopt a positive attitude because there will be rejections along the way –continue applying because that is your best chance.
Besides, applying for scholarships is not as hard as you think it is, although patience and perseverance are necessary. You have to read the scholarship requirements, fill out the forms, and submit the required documents several times, perhaps a hundred or more times. You must then wait for the results – again, keeping a positive attitude – and continue finding more opportunities.
With the Internet, you should have an easier time searching for scholarship programs. Most scholarship providers post their programs online to cast a wider net, too. But do not forget to ask your guidance counselor, look at school and community bulletins, and keep your ears open for scholarship opportunities in your daily life. Even telling others that you are looking for scholarships can open doors of opportunities!
A few tips when applying to numerous scholarship organizations.
- Always customize your cover letter and personal essay. You may rewrite them, of course, but double-check that the details are correct.
- Keep track of deadlines using a spreadsheet. You can then avoid submitting applications a day before or after the deadline. Furthermore, you should avoid submitting applications a day before the deadline or on the deadline itself unless you only knew about it a couple of days before. Otherwise, you’re sending a message that you’re either a procrastinator or thinking of the scholarship as an afterthought.
- Apply even when the scholarship money seems small. The funds will add up, and you may end up with funds beyond your cost of attendance plus miscellaneous and living expenses. Your worries about getting into student debt will be moot, and that is a great thing to have considering the student debts many college graduates are burdened with.
Think of this tip as winning the lottery: The more you bet on yourself, the more chances you can get what you want!
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
Social media is not just about getting news and entertainment, connecting with family and friends, and being in touch with the rest of the world. You will find plenty of scholarship opportunities on it and put yourself in a positive light for scholarships, too, which social media. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, even YouTube, are great sites for these purposes.
We suggest starting with Facebook because of its wide reach and useful search features. It is a goldmine for networks and scholarships with nearly two billion users and a 79% market share.
First, you can use the search feature. Just type in the appropriate keywords – “scholarships in my local area” or “scholarships no grade requirement” – and browse the results. You should be able to make a list of scholarship options with various keywords. You may even find a list of scholarships that you are qualified for.
Second, you can read the reviews about the scholarship programs. These reviews are written by parents and students, which provide insight into the scholarships’ reliability and relevance.
Just as social media is a goldmine for information about scholarship programs, it is also a goldmine of information about you! In a Kaplan Test Prep study, 35% of college admissions officers check social media and networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get more information about potential candidates. This may well apply to scholarship officers, too, since they will want to verify your application’s information and supporting documents.
For this reason, you should clean up your social media accounts to use them to your advantage, scholarship-wise.
- Go through your social media accounts. You can do one of two things: first, delete all inappropriate posts and photos; or second, delete your old account and start over with a new valid account, a good move if you do not want to go through years of inappropriate content. Google yourself to see what other inappropriate and unquestionable materials are on the Internet. Delete them if you can.
- Be mindful of what you write, post, and share on social media. If you are tagged in inappropriate photos, ask for the owner to delete the images. Of course, you should also use your legal first and last name – sexy, silly, and ridiculous names are not acceptable in professional circles.
- Populate your social media accounts with positive content. Keep in mind that you will be judged based on your accounts’ content – the more enlightened, active, and positive you appear on them, the better your impression of scholarship providers. You can highlight your community activities and non-academic school achievements.
You can also find scholarships with social media site connections or with social media-related components. Examples include: (Numbers in parenthesis are deadline dates followed by the scholarship amount)
- Student Transportation Video Contest (11/30/2020; $500) Submit a 2.5-minute video about trends, safety, or impact of transportation
- ScholarshipPoints $10,000 Scholarship (12/15/2020; $10,000) Become a member to get a chance to win a free scholarship.
- Express Medical Supply Scholarship (12/30/2020; $500) Submit a photo with a brief explanation of your idea about intergenerational learning
- Paradigm Challenge (05/01/2021; $100,000) Create original and innovative solutions to real-life problems in society
- The Christophers Video Contest for College Students (1/17/2020; $2,000) Submit a 30-second TV commercial about underage drinking and texting while driving
Again, you should not dismiss the scholarship programs with small amounts because these add up! You may even find that the smaller programs tend to be less strict with their eligibility requirements.
Look into Your State’s Lottery Scholarships
While submitting as many applications as you can feel like a lottery, there are scholarships funded by lotteries! You will likely find one in your local community or your state.
The best thing about these lottery-funded scholarships is that it is open for everybody regardless if they play the lotto or not. Most, if not all, programs are open for students of all ages, even non-traditional students.
Like all scholarship programs, however, these lottery scholarships have student requirements specific to the state. You must thoroughly understand these requirements so that you can correctly and completely comply with them.
Keep in mind that your state will have its lottery-funded scholarship. You can ask your local authority or guidance counselor, but here are a few examples to get you started.
- Bright Futures Scholarship Program is funded primarily by the Florida Lottery to provide students with financial aid toward pursuing post-secondary education. While the three scholarship programs – Academic, Medallion, and Gold Seal Vocational – have minimum GPA requirements, these are not as high as you dread. Medallion and Gold Seal Scholars are only required to have at least a 3.0 GPA.
- The Academic Challenge Scholarship is Arkansas’ lottery scholarship program, and the Arkansas Department of Higher Education manages it. There are two eligibility categories, namely, incoming freshmen and non-traditional students. The amount ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the year level.
- The New Mexico lottery’s Legislative Lottery Scholarships offer grants-in-aid that students can be used at 25 public colleges, junior colleges, public universities, and four tribal colleges in the state. These include New Mexico State University, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, and Navajo Technical University.
- The Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) of Georgia funds several scholarship programs, including HOPE GED Grant, Zell Miller Scholarship, and HOPE Scholarship.
- The Kentucky lottery provides funding for four financial aid programs – the College Access Program (CAP) Grant, a need-based program; the Kentucky Tuition Grant (KTG), also a need-based program; the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES), a merit-based program; and the KHEAA Teacher Scholarship.
- The South Carolina Education Lottery provides funding for several scholarship programs under the auspices of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education. Every scholarship program has its eligibility requirements, so be sure to check. You can also find information in The Lottery and Educational Opportunities for South Carolinians, an online brochure, and check out the South Carolina Can Go to College program.
- The Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship Programs are managed by the Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC), a non-profit corporation. TSAC also runs other federal and state student assistance programs.
Keep in mind that while the lottery itself is a matter of luck, becoming a state lottery-funded scholar is not solely a matter of luck! It is about following the instructions, checking the boxes and filling in the blanks, and ensuring your supporting documents are up to par. More importantly, it is hard work to fill up forms, submit them, and try repeatedly.
Apply for Federal Student Aid
Of course, you should apply for federal student aid even when you are applying for other scholarships! You can get financial assistance to cover your education expenses, including tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and transportation.
You do not even need to have good grades with federal student aid since most of the available programs are based on financial need. The criteria usually include family income, cost of attendance, and enrollment status in whatever university you are enrolled in.
There are three types of federal student aid offered, namely, grants, loans, and work-study. Let us discuss the grants only as loans must be repaid, and the work-study scheme involves part-time employment, both of which cannot be considered as scholarships per se.
- The Federal Pell Grants are open for undergraduate students from low-income and middle-income families, with the maximum amount being $6,345 (AY 2020-2021). These are purely need-based grants, so your concerns about average grades are unfounded.
- The Iraq & Afghanistan Service Grant is awarded to undergraduate students who are ineligible for the need-based Pell Grant but whose parent or guardian died during their military duty in either Iraq or Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, among other criteria. The award amount is equal to the Pell Grant for the academic year but should not exceed the cost of attendance.
- The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant is awarded to aspiring elementary or secondary teachers enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate program. The recipients agree to become teachers in elementary and secondary schools serving low-income students for a minimum of four academic years.
You must complete the FAFSA, the application form required by the Federal Student Aid – yes, the office is also called to be used by all colleges and universities when awarding federal student aid. You should consider filling it out even when you think that you will not qualify, or you do not need it, too.
You will find that in many private colleges and universities, the cost of attendance and other educational expenses can be financially overwhelming. Getting financial aid in any form will provide relief from the burden.
However, filling out the FAFSA is not an easy feat considering the sheer number of questions on more than 100 questions. Think about it: The standard federal income tax form only has about 50 questions. You will likely skip a question, which can affect your chances of getting federal student aid.
If you use the online FAFSA, you will have an easier time because of the skip-logic technology used in it. Nonetheless, the completion time will vary depending on whether you’re accomplishing it on your own or with your parents and whether you’re a first-time applicant or you’re up for renewal.
According to the Department of Education, dependent students filling out FAFSA took 47-58 minutes on average to finish the job. But it only took 32-42 minutes for dependent students to renew their federal student aid to complete the form. The completion time was shorter for independent students – just 18-24 minutes for a new application and 14-19 minutes for renewal.
Applicants can choose either to fill out the paper or the digital version of the FAFSA. You can print out the completed paper version, known as the PDF FAFSA, and submit it to whatever college or university you are enrolled in on or before the deadline. You have to download the myStudentAid app from either Google Play or the Apple App Store to your smartphone or tablet.
Are you eligible to receive federal student aid in the first place? Yes, you are if you belong to one of these categories:
- United States citizen
- United States nationals
- Legal permanent residents
- Individuals with Arrival-Departure Record from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services with certain designations, such as refugees
Students must also be enrolled in a Title IV-eligible program to qualify for federal student aid.
When filling out FAFSA, you and your parents or guardians must be ready with certain information to expedite the process. The information required include but are not limited to, the following:
- Full name
- Income including employment details
- Demographic factors (number of children in college, household size)
The information is necessary for calculating the expected family contribution (EFC) that, in turn, will be used in determining your eligibility for financial aid. If your EFC is zero, you will likely qualify for the federal government’s foremost need-based award, the Pell Grant. This is also true if your family earned $27,000 or less per year – your EFC will be calculated at zero for the AY 2021-2022.
Take note that there is no stated income cutoff for FAFSA completion. You may think that you will not need financial aid or qualify for it – but you do need it because you are reading this article –file your application.
Look for Low or No GPA Scholarships
While merit-based scholarships with minimum GPA and ACT/SAT scores are more known among students, these scholarships may be in the minority! If you search hard enough, you will find hundreds of scholarships that do not have these academic merit requirements. Most of them consider extracurricular activities, such as community involvement, volunteer work, and artistic talents, as the primary criteria.
You will find plenty of lists highlighting these non-academic scholarships. You may want to consider checking out most of the programs and verifying the information since many sites have outdated links.
You should also be more conscious of the scholarship programs you are checking out – if you see that the minimum GPA and ACT/SAT scores are beyond your record, skip the program. You are better off spending your time on other possible opportunities for free money for education.
Use Your Parents’ Network
While looking for non-merit scholarships can be challenging, you do not have to do it alone! You can ask your parents for assistance in locating suitable scholarship programs, filling in the forms, and making the best personal essay, among others. These are tasks that you and your parents can do together to expedite the process.
More importantly, your parents may have family, friends, and colleagues who can lend a helping hand. There are many forms of assistance that your parents can request from their personal and professional networks, including:
- Recommendation letters highlighting your non-academic achievements
- Referrals to scholarship programs at the local, state, and federal levels that may have escaped your attention
- Follow-ups of applications in case your parent’s relative or friend work for the authorizing office
You may also qualify for scholarships based on your parents’ professions! You will find scholarships for nearly every profession, too, from teachers to military service members.
If you are a veteran or you are a spouse, child, or dependent of a veteran, you can avail of scholarships like (Ask your parent or guardian, who may be a veteran or in active-duty service, for other scholarship opportunities)
- Academic Top Scholars for dependent children 24 years old and under as well as for spouses of active-duty military servicemen
- AFCEA Educational Fund with a $2,000 fund for students studying science and technology while also being employed
- Air Force Aid Society General Henry H. Arnold Education Grant Program also provides $2,000 for dependents of active duty service members, among other types of personnel
- America’s Child scholarship is open to surviving children of deceased military heroes who served in the war against terrorism
- Ankin Law Office Scholarship for Military Veterans gives $1,000 each to recipients who are immediate family members of veterans or veterans or disabled veterans.
- Armed Forces Crossroads Scholarships for Military Children is open to college-bound children of military service members, including those in active duty, retirees, and Reserve and Guard members.
- Army Aviation Association of America (AAAA) Scholarships welcomes college-level unmarried children and grandchildren of current and deceased members.
- The Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation offers money intended to bridge the gap between the total cost of attendance and financial aid for children of deceased military service members. The annual maximum amount is $6,250.
- The Jean Perkins Foundation Combat Veteran Scholarship offers $5,000 for students at the University of Texas who are undergraduate veterans or active military duty servicemen. There is no minimum GPA required.
You will also find scholarships for children of first responders and single parents, to name a few special categories. Just type in “scholarships for children of (write your category),” and you are likely to get dozens of lists.
There are scholarships for students who lost a parent or both parents, too. Examples include:
- The Life Lessons Scholarship Program awards $200,000 to students whose families do not have life insurance. Requirements include a video or essay detailing how the parent’s death affected the student’s life. Awards vary between $5,000 and $20,000.
- The MaryEllen Locher Scholarship Foundation welcomes children of breast cancer patients, either living or deceased. However, the scholarship is limited to students within 50 miles of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The requirements include a letter of recommendation, three written essays, and an official transcript as well as medical proof.
A word of caution: don’t completely rely on these scholarships for students who have lost a parent. You should also find other scholarships based on your career interests, talents and skills, and passions, as well as for general interests. Many of these scholarships are either one-time awards or renewable annual awards without the guarantee of renewal and, thus, these aren’t life-long in nature.
As society becomes more focused on diversity, there is a scholarship for every age, gender, area of study, ethnic background, political leaning, religious belief, and geographical location, to name a few criteria. You should not fall into desperation if the scholarship programs you’re applying in don’t seem to pan out.
- The Latinos in Technology Scholarship offers $30,000 paid over three years per student provided renewal requirements are met. Eligibility requirements include Latino or Hispanic origin, enrolled in a STEM program and demonstrated financial need.
- The Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program pays the full tuition of each recipient. Offered by the U.S. Department of Defense, it doesn’t have a minimum GPA but it requires an essay and recommendations. Certain education-related expenses are also paid for via stipends, which can range from $25,000 to $38,000 per year, plus health insurance and miscellaneous allowance.
- The James W. McLamore WHOPPER Scholarship Award gives equal weight to academic achievement on one hand and work experience, community activities and school participation on the other hand. Financial need is also considered. Up to three students will be awarded $50,000 each.
- The Gallery Collection Create A Greeting Card Scholarship awards $10,000 to the your school and the opportunity to see your greeting card for sale to the public. You have to submit an artwork, an original photo or computer graphics that will be used in a greeting card.
- The Pedro Zamora Young Leaders Scholarship awards $5,000 to each student who demonstrate leadership and active commitment toward the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Requirements include a completed application, a brief 500-word personal statement, a 1,500-word written essay, and at least one recommendation letter; a minimum 2.5 GPA is also required but it’s an average grade anyway.
Indeed, getting scholarships with your average grades can be fairly easy but you must apply yourself to it! You will receive rejection letters and get no callbacks several times. But you should use these rejections to propel yourself forward and onward – it’s the best way to become a success, whether in school or in the school of hard knocks.