Getting Awarded a Scholarship Might Be Easier Than You Think

Little River Surveyors Tricia (left) and Gayle on the job in Vermont.

Just a few weeks ago, I was hurrying home through an afternoon rainstorm. As I pulled up to my house, I found the driveway blocked by the Little River Survey Company‘s truck. Hopping out of my car, I ran through the rain. Dodging the drops as best I could, I headed for the surveyor’s tripod. I was thrilled that the property was being surveyed a month earlier than we had hoped (due to an early Spring or “Mud Month” as we call it here in Vermont). I was also excited to see that the two surveyors were women. As I later learned, one of them owned the business. Like many STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math), land surveying remains a male-dominated field. Although women are still paid less then men for the same job, it’s important for us to enter into high-paying STEM careers.

It was refreshing to see two women conducting the survey and to meet a fellow female small business owner. We chatted briefly about our businesses. I shared that I was publishing an eBook series of Scholarship Opportunities. (The first book presents scholarships for women undergraduates and will be available in late June). Gayle followed in her father’s footsteps and became a surveyor. Tricia, the owner, told me she was a past president of The Vermont Society of Land Surveyors. She said VSLS offers a $2,000 scholarship for a Vermonter studying land surveying. She looked perplexed when she added that some years the scholarship isn’t awarded because no students apply. She was surprised that in these turbulent economic times and ever-increasing college costs, that students wouldn’t seek out a $2,000 scholarship.

Tricia is not the first nonprofit President that I’ve worked with who has expressed a similar situation. One funding source recently told me his organization has ongoing difficulty giving away five $5,000 scholarships for Native American STEM students. A national nonprofit has repeatedly extended their deadline because no one has applied for their $5,000/year scholarships. Apparently, only a fraction of these scholarships is awarded each year. Clients often ask, “Why aren’t college students applying for our scholarships?” Yet, on the other hand, students express to me how challenging it is to find legitimate, scam-free scholarships.

While it takes time to complete the application process for a scholarship, the rewards are well worth it. If scholarships are going unawarded because there is a lack of student applicants, the odds of getting the scholarship increase dramatically. The odds go up again if you are:

  • A woman;
  • A minority (Alaska Native, African American, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, and Native American);
  • A first-generation student (one of your parents does not have a college degree);
  • A non-traditional student (older students, single parents, or those returning to college); or
  • A student with disabilities (physical, mental, or hidden)
  • A low-income student

This is due to federal mandates to increase the number of college degrees and jobs held by underrepresented groups. Even if the scholarship eligibility requirements do not specifically state this, the funding organization will certainly consider these qualities in your favor.

If you’re majoring in science, technology, engineering, or math, your chances increase yet again because the number of scholarships for STEM students far exceeds those available for other majors. Again, the US government and hiring companies are looking to fill STEM jobs now and in the future and they need an educated workforce.

So, don’t be intimidated. Look at the eligibility requirements and if you meet them, apply!