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What is the most difficult part about searching for scholarships?

Written by Elise Nass
Updated: September 14, 2022
7 min read
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Dealing with financial aid for college can be very complex. Navigating student loans, federal grants, work study, scholarships, college websites, and more is a convoluted process full of forms and financial jargon. In fact, simply searching for a scholarship opportunity to apply for is difficult on its own. Fortunately, understanding the most difficult parts of a scholarship search and learning about possible solutions can help you complete the search, finish the scholarship application, and get the funds you need.

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College students and graduate students alike can have difficulty locating scholarship opportunities that match their needs. Some students become discouraged that the first few scholarship applications they send in are rejected. In other cases, it can be challenging to find scholarship opportunities that match a niche major. However, there is an abundance of college scholarships that are available to undergraduate students who know where to look.

In fact, as of a report in 2020, 8.8 billion dollars worth of scholarship money was awarded to students on a need basis. Research from 2021 also shows that the number of scholarships awarded to college and grad students has increased by more than 45% in the last decade, so finding a scholarship financial aid package does not have to be an impossible process.

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There are more scholarship opportunities available to students than ever, and yet there seems to be a disconnect between the myriad financial aid opportunities and the applicants. An estimated $100 million in scholarship money goes unclaimed every year, partially due to a lack of eligible applicants and partially due to a lack of awareness. Fortunately, this means that winning scholarships does not have to be limited by a lack of availability.

This surprising statistic shows that there are more scholarships available than people may think. It’s still true that not every student who applies will receive money, but the increase in available scholarships and the continuing trend of unclaimed money means it’s worth it to apply anyways.

Scholarship opportunities on are free to apply for, making the application a low-risk, high-reward situation. While scholarship databases may not have access to all the scholarships in the world, is a scholarship database with hundreds of available scholarships and more updated every day, so it's an excellent option for students looking for financial aid.

On, Students may apply for as many scholarships as they want as there is no limit to the number of applications a student can submit. Scholarships are available for academic performance, athletics, hobbies, and more, and are funded by a wide variety of sources like community organizations, religious organizations, individuals, companies, and more.

A common misconception is that scholarships are only available to high school students, particularly high school seniors. Luckily, this is not true. Undergrads and grad students are also eligible to apply for many scholarships. There are just as many scholarships open to undergraduates and grad students as there are for high school applicants and there are even some opportunities that graduates who have student loans can qualify for.

Why is searching for scholarships so hard?

Many scholarships target a specific group of students. For example, a certain scholarship may only be available to biology majors. Another scholarship may only allow low-income students to apply. It’s also common for scholarships to overlap these criteria— many scholarships will have two or more criteria that students must fit in order to apply.

This would sound something like a scholarship that is only open to low-income students with an interest in computer science. Naturally, this kind of filtering removes a large portion of applicants, since each applicant has to match both (or all) requirements. As a result, one of the hardest things about searching for scholarships is finding a scholarship that you are actually eligible for.

While there are a decent amount of scholarships that are available for a general population of students, scholarships that have some specific criteria are more common and will give you a better chance of winning due to the limited number of applicants. General scholarships will likely be available for everyone as they don’t restrict the applicant pool or don’t restrict the applicant pool heavily. However, given the higher frequency of more specific scholarships, it can become a challenge for students to find specific scholarships that match their needs.

Many students must sift through several scholarships that they are not eligible for before finding a scholarship that they can apply to. This process can be both time-consuming and somewhat discouraging, but it's a necessary step in finding your perfect scholarship.

What are the challenges of searching for scholarships?

The main challenges of searching for scholarships are finding opportunities you are eligible for, as mentioned, and taking the time to search for scholarships.

Though most students have a busy schedule, it can really pay off in the end if students can find the time to apply for a few scholarships. In most cases, the time spent searching for and applying to scholarships will result in more money if the student wins than if the student had spent that time working a minimum wage job.

Of course, a part-time job is a good way to make money and is a more stable source of income than scholarships. However, scholarships can provide a much higher return for less time. As a result, sacrificing some time each week to apply for a few scholarships can be very rewarding, though it's important to remember that there is no guarantee of winning.

Keeping a schedule and planning ahead can help students both decrease academic stress and make more time for applying for scholarships. Online calendars, agendas, and phone reminders are all good ways to keep track of your time and make sure that it is spent effectively.

What is the best part about finding scholarships?

When students are able to locate a scholarship that they are interested in and eligible for, the possible reward of free money often makes the effort worthwhile. Scholarships can be a comparatively easy and low-stress way to make money to fund your education.

Winning a scholarship can make it possible for students to attend a certain school, or pursue a certain area of study. In most cases, the time and effort it takes to find and apply for scholarships can really pay off in the end.

Frequently asked questions about searching for scholarships

What is the easiest way to get a scholarship?

The easiest way to find a scholarship is to use some kind of search tool or search engine to help narrow down your search. There are several options available for students.

One example is the financial aid office or guidance counseling office at your school. Both students in high school and college can visit their respective school offices and ask about scholarship opportunities. Many academic advisors will be willing to discuss strategies for narrowing down the scholarship search with students. This may also be a particularly good way to find merit scholarships.

Merit scholarships are scholarships that judge applicants mostly based on their grades or academic achievements. Looking for this type of scholarship through your school may allow you to find merit scholarships that are only available in your school system. Finding local opportunities through your school may also help decrease the amount of scholarship competition you face— that is, finding a scholarship that is less accessible to the general public will have fewer applicants, meaning you have a greater chance of winning.

Finding scholarships through a school or other academic institution may connect you to niche opportunities and community scholarships that are not available to others.

Secondly, many students find it convenient to use an online search platform like Online platforms highlight hundreds of scholarships from all over the country. Though not all of these opportunities will be applicable to every student, the sheer multitude of scholarships means there are at least some scholarships every applicant can apply for.

In addition, websites like these often have search functions such as filters or other tools. These platforms may also be able to help students keep track of scholarship deadlines so that they don't miss the application window. These features can greatly narrow down the scholarship search for students, and save students a significant amount of time as they look for the right opportunities.

When should you start applying for scholarships?

There’s no right or wrong time to start applying for scholarships. Contrary to popular belief, scholarships are not just for high school senior students. Even high school underclassmen can apply for scholarships. In addition, there is a wide range of scholarships available for college students, both undergraduate and graduate students. College scholarships are just as common, and even more common on some sites than high school scholarships.

Both college applicants and high school applicants should look at scholarship opportunities that match their needs and apply for as many scholarships as necessary.

Elise Nass
Content Writer

About Elise

Elise is a skilled and knowledgeable writer. Her understanding of scholarships and internships enables her to craft insightful and informative content that resonates with students, helping them navigate the often complex processes of applying for financial aid and career opportunities.

Elise graduated from New York University with a double major in English and Psychology, as well as a minor in Creative Writing.


Through challenging university coursework and corporate experience, Elise has become an expert in several different types of writing, including literary analysis, content pieces, formal scientific writing, SEO editing, and more. Elise expanded on her knowledge while interning in marketing, using her understanding of SEO to boost website traffic and customer engagement.

She’s published a short story in The Foundationalist literary magazine and has also won several short story writing awards at the regional and international levels. Elise loves to craft content that helps students navigate college life and scholarship applications. She makes use of syntax and tone to write readable, engaging pieces. Elise has a solid understanding of linguistics and grammatical structures across multiple languages thanks to her fluency in English and proficiency in Mandarin and Cantonese. 

Elise first joined in 2022 during her undergraduate studies, explored other pursuits in 2023, and happily returned in 2024 as a Content Writer. Motivated by her writing skills, she aims to make educational resources more accessible for students of all backgrounds. Additionally, she believes it's important to add to the available information on student loans and student finances in a way that's user-friendly and easy to understand.

Quote from Elise

“I try to create content that would have helped my younger self— stuff I wish I knew when I was starting college.”

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