Which College Scholarships Are Easy to Get? We Have the Data

Wacky, interesting, unusual and strange — those words can describe some “easy” college scholarships that are available today. But, while those scholarships might be described as the easiest scholarships to enter, the time and work you might need to apply to find scholarships adds up — as do the odds against your winning any given “easy” scholarship.

Few studies have been conducted on your odds of winning a scholarship. The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), which is conducted every 3-4 years, showed that students at four-year colleges represent 71.5 percent of scholarship recipients in 2003-04 and 77.0 percent of scholarship recipients in 2007-08.

If you further restrict the data to just the students who were enrolled full-time at 4-year institutions, 12.1 percent of students, or about 1 in 8, received scholarships worth $2,223 on average in 2003-04 and 10.6 percent of students, or about 1 in 10, received scholarships worth $2,815 on average in 2007-08. Full-time students at four-year schools represented 63.2 percent of scholarship recipients in 2003-04 and 69.4 percent of scholarship recipients in 2007-08 (breakdown of this information is found at FinAid).

The information shown above means that more students are applying for scholarships, increasing the odds against any one student attaining a scholarship.

But, another study, which shows that the odds for an athletic scholarship do not depend upon participation numbers, applies more to this article…as this article shows that winning a certain scholarship depends more upon the applicant’s ability and skill levels, rather than the number of individuals in the competition.


Scholarships provide one of the best ways to pay for your college education, as they do not need to be repaid. Easy scholarships are those that are easy to apply for, easy to understand and take little time for application. But, you must know yourself and you often need information at your fingertips for applications. You can pull together the following information and keep it in a file for easy access:

  • Transcript
  • Standardized test scores
  • Financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA or PROFILE
  • Parent’s financial information, including tax returns
  • One or more letters of recommendation
  • Proof of eligibility (e.g. membership credentials)
  • Medical records for student and parents
  • Military records for student and parents
  • Job and career proof for student and parents

Next, make a file for each scholarship and contest that you enter, noting the entry deadline and end of contest dates. You can do this easily online at Evernote.com.

When you apply for a scholarship or contest for college funds, be sure to read instructions carefully and follow those instructions to the letter. Make copies of everything you do and don’t leave any items blank. Proofread your entry before you hit the “send” button or before you seal it up to send it off in the regular mail. Finally, get all your applications in early and often (some scholarship funds are offered monthly, and you must reapply each month to be in the running). Make a calendar to note these dates so you don’t forget to enter again.

Your preparation and organization can increase the odds that you might win, especially when competing against people who are not organized.

But, the odds of winning scholarship funds when you enter depends upon the number of people who enter a contest in competition with you. If, for instance, you decide to enter an essay contest where hundreds of students enter and no one in your area has ever made the top ten spot since 1947, then the odds may be against you. But, if you never enter the essay contest at all, the odds are 100 percent against you.

Determine Your Categories and Your Odds

Scholarships basically are divided into four categories: contests and sweepstakes, money provided to special groups, money provided for talents and skills and money based upon activities. These categories are covered below, along with the odds of success for each category. The links included in each category lead either to lists of scholarships or specific scholarships that provide an example of what you can find through Web searches.

Contests, Lotteries and Sweepstakes

Contests are easy, some contests are fun to enter, and most are geared to students with less than stellar grade point averages. Some contests might require essays, but the topics usually are preselected. Some contests require an entry form, nothing more.

But, contests and sweepstakes that depend solely upon registration and nothing else are just like lotteries — and the odds are about the same. Single state lotteries usually have odds of about 18 million to 1 while multiple state lotteries have odds as high as 120 million to 1. But, like any other contest, you cannot win if you do not enter, and — unlike the lottery — the only cost to you for these scholarships is your time.

Therefore, use your time wisely by using scholarship search sites that list contests and update them regularly. Some of these sites include:

  • Scholarship Hunter: This page contains updated information on contests designed specifically for college students. One contest, for instance, offers $1,000 in a monthly giveaway and up to one year of free tuition with a simple registration.
  • Scholarship Lotteries: The odds of winning a free scholarship from these lotteries usually is less than 1 in 10,000 (if well-publicized). Note that FinAid, the author of this information, also states that the odds of winning a scholarship are closer to 1 in 15 if based upon academic, artistic or athletic talents.

Your Characteristics

Are of you Native American or European ancestry? What is your religious preference? Are you legally blind, or over six feet tall or female? All these characteristics provide opportunities to find scholarship money, and the odds against thousands of entries is high. Here are some resources to learn more about these scholarships:

  • FinAid Student Profile-Based Aid: This list includes scholarships for international, Canadian, female, older, Jewish and gay students as well as students with disabilities.
  • Native American Scholarships: This list offers many scholarships offered to Native Americans. If you are Native American, most often your tribal leaders may have more information available for you.
  • Religious Scholarships: These scholarships are very specific and cover a variety of sects and religions. Be sure to check with your local church or regional or nationwide office for further information.
  • Scholarships by Ethnic Background: Fastweb offers ethnic-based scholarships that range from African to Vietnamese.

Use your search engine to find more scholarships in all categories listed here. Just use keywords that describe you (one at a time) + scholarship to find results. For example, the keyphrase search, “deaf scholarship” provides links to sites such as Scholarships for the Deaf.

Your Talents, Knowledge and Skills

Are you a skilled writer? Are you an award-winning actor, athlete or artist? Do you have a stellar grade point average? These skills, your efforts, knowledge and talents can land you a scholarship with odds in your favor. Once again, a Web search can yield many more results than shown here.

  • Fastweb: Although you might find a few scholarships geared toward characteristics and activities here, most scholarships are geared toward your talents and knowledge (essays, etc.) and skills (art, etc.) This site also lists contests, but — for the most part — they are skill-based contests. Note that, on the page linked here, Fastweb makes the claim that one in eight applicants win scholarships through their site. See the link immediately below for confirmation of this information.
  • FinAid Scholarship Searches: Use this page at FinAid to learn more about other scholarship search engines that focus on skills, talents and knowledge. But, you might want to check the FinAid scholarship database quality information to learn more about the best scholarship search engines. Use the top-rated engines first and often.
  • Talent Scholarships: This link provides an example of what some colleges may offer to incoming or current students. This shows that your choice of college may influence your ability to earn a scholarship.

Your Activities

Have you been involved in student organizations, community outreach or politics? Do you or your parents belong to a specific club or organizations? You can find many scholarships based upon affirmative action, which targets funds to minorities and low-income families as well in this category.

  • Ambassadorial Scholarships: No membership is required in Rotary International, but you are required to attend at least one orientation if it is offered in your region. This site provides just one of hundreds of examples of scholarships offered by organizations for local or regional students.
  • FinAid Scholarships for Average Students: We’re not sure that “average” students might want to apply for these great scholarships, which focus on community activities, entrepreneurship and creativity.
  • National Black Police Association Scholarship: This scholarship’s guidelines may not fit you, but that means that you inability to apply narrows the odds for those who do fit the guidelines. This is just one example of a number of associations that offer scholarships that are “easy” to obtain if you fit the specifications.


Although some scholarship opportunities may seem easy, the odds against you winning many “easy” scholarships may be against you. Therefore, work smart, consider the odds and find scholarships that fit your personality, goals, talents, abilities and your family and health history to lower those odds.

The following resources contain more tips to follow to put the odds of winning in your favor — making your search for a scholarship truly easy:

  • Eight Steps to Winning a Scholarship: Offered by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administration.
  • Less Competitive Scholarships: FinAid provides tips on how to make scholarship competitions less competitive. With the odds averaging about one in eight for an average four-year college scholarship, FinAid suggests you find scholarships that are less competitive — because fewer students qualify for them. They show you where to find them.
  • Upping Your Odds of Winning: An excellent article provided by U.S. News & World Report. Pay special attention to the “Zig where you expect your competition will zag” option on writing essays. This is a hint on how to strengthen essay-writing skills.