This is the time of year that students are learning about their scholarship fate. After seeking out these opportunities, putting together an application complete with stellar recommendation letters, the only thing left to do, it seems, is to celebrate when the scholarship is awarded.
But the glory of winning a scholarship is not the end of the story; for many students, scholarships that are tied to their institution or to a state or local agency are renewable, which means that they must meet certain criteria to keep the scholarship.
When I witness what students do to sabotage their scholarships—and sometimes their ability to attend college in the future—I cannot help but be reminded of the 2003 movie How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, the one with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey that pitted the stars against themselves as one, Benjamin (McConaghey), bets that he can make a woman fall in love with him in 10 days while the other, Andie (Hudson), is working on an article titled “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”
As any good comedy these days, awkward moments and hilarity ensue, while we are assured that, in the end, Andie won’t actually lose the guy and love will conquer all.
But real life rarely mirrors romantic comedies. And often trying to lose a scholarship can be surprisingly simple. In an effort to help you and your student keep any hard-earned scholarships, here’s how to lose a scholarship in 10 days:
- DAY 1: Your student doesn’t know if the scholarship is renewable or assumes it only lasts for one academic year. A sure-fire way to lose a scholarship is to assume it is a one-time occurrence. Institutional scholarships are more likely to be renewable, but always check.
- DAY 2: Your student doesn’t know what the requirements are to keep the scholarship and has not made any plan to address those requirements. Many scholarships require a certain GPA, for example, a 3.25. But is that per term or can the GPA be averaged over two semesters? Grade Point Average is rarely the only requirement. Other requirements include credit hours enrolled in or earned, service or volunteer hours completed, attendance at an annual meeting or ceremony, reports or projects that reflect the student’s progress through the program, or a thank you note to the donor. I know of one foundation that rescinds the scholarship offer if a note of gratitude is not completed by a certain date!
- DAY 3: Your student hasn’t discovered there is a probation period in case the requirements are not met. For example, the scholarship may require the student to complete 30 credit hours in two semesters with a 2.5 GPA, but if they have to drop a class, they can use the summer terms to make up for the missing credits. Probation periods are often last-chance opportunities to meet the requirements, so use them wisely.
- DAY 4: Your student fails to monitor progress on the requirements. Ever try to stick to a diet without tracking calories in and out, stepping on a scale, or using the fit of your clothes to determine how you are doing? Just like a diet, it is hard, if not impossible, to move toward a target without monitoring progress. The same is true for a student who doesn’t check grades along the way. The end of the semester can then turn out to be a big surprise and not a good one!
- DAY 5: Your student avoids getting help to meet the requirements. While earning the scholarship most likely means your student excelled in some way, it doesn’t mean that your student must rely solely on themselves to keep it. If your student experiences any challenges meeting the requirements of the scholarship, they should seek out campus resources to help them get (back) on track.
- DAY 6: Your student refuses to change tactics to meet the requirements. Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing and expecting different results? Keeping the same habits and behaviors that worked in the past but not in college can lead your student down the short path to Lost Scholarship Land. If adjustments need to be made, your student needs to make them or risk losing financial aid.
- DAY 7: Your student avoids getting an accountability partner to meet the requirements. Everyone needs someone they trust to keep them on track and your student may be the same. An accountability partner is someone who your student can check in with regularly to discuss what they are doing and what, if anything, they need to change. You can be that person, but it may be more effective to have your student reach out to a peer mentor, advisor, counselor, or coach.
- DAY 8: Your student doesn’t talk to a financial aid counselor. Just as your student should meet with an academic advisor regularly, they should also check in with a financial aid counselor at the end of each semester to ensure that paperwork is complete and that there are no changes to the financial aid package they receive.
- DAY 9: Your student doesn’t have a Plan B. I once had a student tell me that she didn’t make a Plan B because she feared that if she did, she wouldn’t focus on making Plan A work. Warped logic, for sure, but I can bet if there is no Plan B, there is little chance that your student can easily pivot to stay on track with their degree.
- DAY 10: Your student avoids looking for other scholarships. Just because your student wins one or even more than one scholarship doesn’t mean they can’t keep looking. Many institutions offer scholarships for students already enrolled.
Unlike the happy ending in romantic comedies, losing a scholarship can put your student in a tough situation. The more they know about how to ultimately save their scholarship, the better you should both feel about earning one in the first place.
For more information, consider the following resources:
- Want to search for scholarships at reliable websites? Check out Fastweb and Scholarships.com.
- Want to dig a little deeper to find scholarships?* The Ultimate Scholarship Book, The Scholarship and Financial Aid Solution, and Confessions of a Scholarship Winner
*Affiliate links are used in the recommendations.