Millions wasted: Students leave scholarship money unclaimed


Brooklyn Gowan

Seniors at Pleasant Valley High School are preparing to apply for scholarships from the Pleasant Valley Educational Foundation.

Brooklyn Gowan, PV Only Editor

In the United States, nearly $100 million of scholarship money goes unclaimed each year. Students choose not to apply for scholarships for a multitude of reasons, including personal finances, their future plans or being under the impression that they won’t qualify. 

While the cost of college increases, so does the number of scholarships being awarded. Still millions of scholarship dollars are being wasted. College debt continues to be one of the greatest financial burdens people face, yet many of the scholarships offered go unused.

There are many opportunities to avoid college debt but several factors deter people from taking the time to apply. 

A lot of people choose not to apply for scholarships because they feel they don’t meet the necessary requirements, but they fail to realize there are specialized scholarships offered for a wide variety of interests and activities. Students often believe that one has to have great financial need to qualify for scholarships but this is not always true. Because of the vast amount of scholarships offered, it is highly likely anyone can find a scholarship to put towards their secondary education. 

Some people also choose not to apply for scholarships because they are pursuing a path that doesn’t involve a four year university. A common misconception is that scholarships are only available to high school students pursuing a four year degree, but the reality is they are available for most post-graduation paths, including community or two year colleges, trade schools and apprenticeships. 

Scholarships are offered to provide aid in helping people avoid the sometimes insurmountable amounts of debt adults encounter after high school, and many donors are trying to provide an opportunity to help students combat the cost of college. PV Communications Director Beth Marsoun shares her feelings on unclaimed money. “It’s disappointing when a student doesn’t claim a scholarship.  Our donors believe in our students and have invested quite a bit of money to show that they want students to succeed,” Marsoun stated.  

With the number of places offering scholarships—including businesses, banks and schools—and all with different types of requirements, there are a plethora of opportunities available for people to benefit from free money to put towards their education. With debt being a significant struggle, it is worth taking the time to find scholarships to put towards your future plans. 

PV personal finance teacher Rita Brown stressed the importance of accessing this aid. “If you receive one scholarship for $1,000 and the combined effort was two hours you just made $500 tax free. It is the best part time paying job possible,” Brown said. There are scholarships for GPA’s, athletics, service hours, and other extracurriculars. Typically scholarships ask for an essay to learn more about their applicants to decide who is the best fit. 

PV works hard to make sure all of their students are as prepared for their post high school plans as possible, even offering opportunities to PV graduates to collect their unclaimed scholarships. “If a student has not claimed their scholarship in the last two years, please have them contact me and we’ll get them the funds they’ve earned,” Marsoun continued. The scholarships at PV are open now for applications from the senior class. 

The Pleasant Valley Educational Foundation currently awards 134 scholarships to students with a large range of requirements. The requirements range from the elementary school you attended, to the extracurriculars you are involved in, or to your level of need for financial assistance. Rather than falling victim to the idea that you have to have certain grades or accomplishments to qualify for scholarships, students should take the time to find scholarships and invest in their future.