Scholarships for Students Facts and Statistics | Bankrate (2024)

Going to college is expensive. According to the College Board, the total cost of attendance for resident students at public four-year universities was $27,940 in 2022-23, while non-resident students paid an average of $45,250. Students at private nonprofit four-year universities spent even more: nearly $57,600.

If you’re looking to reduce your out-of-pocket college costs, scholarships and grants should be your first option. Unlike federal and private student loans, they’re both a type of gift aid, meaning you don’t have to pay them back. Here’s what to know.

Scholarships and grants are a type of gift aid (money that doesn’t have to be repaid). They’re the second-largest source of financial aid, covering over 25 percent of students’ college costs.

Key insights

Scholarships and grants are a type of gift aid (money that doesn’t have to be repaid). They’re the second-largest source of financial aid, covering over 25 percent of students’ college costs.

Scholarships statistics

  • Scholarships, in combination with grants, were the second-largest source of financial aid in 2021-22, covering an average of 26 percent of students’ college costs.
  • The average scholarship award was $6,041 in 2022 — a 22 percent decrease from last year.
  • During the 2021-22 academic year, 60 percent of American families used scholarships to pay for college.
  • Among households who did not use scholarships to pay for college in 2021-22, roughly one-third applied.
  • Among those who used scholarships in 2022, 62 percent said they obtained them from their college or university.
  • The average institutional scholarship award is $6,335.
  • About four in 10 scholarship recipients received funds from their state, with an average award of over $2,362.
  • Thirty-seven percent of scholarship recipients received money from private sources, including companies and nonprofit organizations; the amount averaged $2,189.
  • The average white student received $4,250 in scholarships for the 2021-22 academic year, while Black students received an average of $2,303. Hispanic students received the lowest scholarship amount, with an average of $2,259.

Grants statistics

  • In 2021-22, students received a total of $140.6 billion in grant aid.
  • Fifty-five percent of American families reported using grants to help pay for their kids’ college costs during the 2021-22 academic year.
  • Undergraduate students received an average of $10,590 in grants during the 2021-22 academic year — double the amount they received 20 years ago.
  • Graduate students received an average of $9,120 in grant aid, representing a 37 percent increase over the last two decades.
  • Grant aid for both undergraduate and graduate students has risen by 7 percent over the last decade.
  • Out of all types of grants, those provided by institutions have grown the most over the last decade. They totaled $74.4 billion during the 2021-22 academic year, representing a 48 percent increase since 2011-12.
  • More than half of all the grant aid awarded in 2021-22 came from the students’ institutions.
  • Federal grants were the second-largest funding source, accounting for 26 percent of all grants aid in 2021-22.
  • State grants were the smallest funding source, accounting for just 9 percent of all grant aid in 2021-22.
  • During the 2021-22 academic year, 6.2 million college students were Pell Grant recipients.

Scholarships and grants by recipient

When it comes to scholarships and grants, aid is distributed almost evenly across students from different backgrounds, as shown in the chart below. The most notable difference is between Black and Asian students. According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ most recent figures, 88 percent of Black students received some form of gift aid in 2015-16, while only 66 percent of Asian students received some form of gift aid.

Likewise, there wasn’t much difference between the percentage of men and women receiving scholarships and grants in 2015-16. Some 73 percent of full-time male students received gift aid, while nearly 80 percent of female students received gift aid.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Scholarships and grants by household income and type of institution

Although private nonprofit four-year institutions are more expensive than attending a four-year public institution, they also offer more grant aid to students.

Data by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the average cost to attend a public four-year institution in 2020-21 was $20,385, while the average cost to attend a private nonprofit four-year institution was $43,758.

Students at public institutions — regardless of their income — received an average of $7,813 between scholarships and grants. Meanwhile, students at private institutions received an average of $21,011 in gift aid. That means scholarships and grants helped cover about 38 percent of the costs at public institutions and almost half of the costs at private institutions.

Besides that, students with a household income of $48,000 or less tend to get substantially more gift aid at both public and private universities, as shown below.

Household incomeAverage scholarship and grant aid received at public four-year institutions (2020-21)Average scholarship and grant aid received at private nonprofit four-year institutions (2020-21)
Source: National Center for Education Statistics
$0 to $30,000$11,386$26,753
$30,001 to $48,000$10,445$27,003
$48,001 to $75,000$7,561$25,012
$75,001 to $110,000$4,392$22,080
$110,001 and over$2,777$18,389

How to apply for scholarships

Scholarships fit two main categories: need-based and merit-based. Need-based scholarships are awarded based on your financial need to pay for college.Merit-based scholarships are those awarded based on recipients excelling at something, such as academics, athletics or arts.

You can also get scholarships by meeting certain criteria, such as majoring in a certain field, being a first-generation student or being a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Likewise, there are scholarships for women, Latino students and many other groups.

Universities, the state and nonprofit organizations typically award need-based scholarships. Applying involves filling out the FAFSA. Your school may also require the CSS Profile.

Both forms help your school and other entities determine whether or not to give you additional funding based on your financial circ*mstances and needs.

Merit-based scholarships, however, require you to do more digging, as private entities and businesses often provide them. You can find hundreds of these using scholarship search enginessuch as and Fastweb. Although requirements may vary, they usually include:

  • A written statement.
  • A copy of your resume.
  • Two references.
  • A letter of recommendation from one or more sources.
  • A copy of your transcripts (especially if a certain GPA is required).

Although this can be time-consuming, it’s worth it. You could secure thousands of dollars worth of aid just by filling out a form and tracking deadlines.

How to apply for grants

Applying for grants is usually fairly easy. Most of them are need-based, meaning that they’re awarded based on your economic need, and you can get them from the federal, state and local governments, as well as from your university.

The most famous and generous grant available is the Pell Grant, which currently has a maximum award of $6,895 for the 2022-23 academic year. To apply for grants, you typically need only complete the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. Not all schools use the CSS Profile, so check first.

Both forms will ask questions regarding your family size, living situation and household income to determine your eligibility.

What to do if your financial aid package falls short

As skyrocketing inflation makes everything more expensive and college tuition prices rise, scholarships and grants may not cover your costs. Federal student loans may not be enough to make up the difference.

If your financial aid package falls short, you can use private student loans to bridge the gap. However, unlike federal student loans, private student loans are issued based on credit. It’s important to shop around for lenders and compare quotes before you sign on the dotted line, to ensure you’re getting the best terms and interest rates available for your situation.

If poor credit keeps you from accessing the best rates, you aren’t stuck with a high interest rate forever. You can always refinance your private student loans once your financial situation and credit have improved. Refinancing may make your debt more manageable and save you money on interest.

Scholarships for Students Facts and Statistics | Bankrate (2024)


What is the #1 way to increase your chances for a scholarship? ›

Raise Your GPA for More Scholarships

In general, if a scholarship includes a GPA requirement, the lowest they will go is around a 2.5 GPA. Study hard, do your work, seek help if you need it, and put your nose to the grindstone to increase your GPA, and lower your ultimate college debt.

What is a good source for scholarship information? ›

Try these free sources of information about scholarships: the financial aid office at a college or career school. a high school or TRIO counselor. the U.S. Department of Labor's FREE scholarship search tool.

What are the statistics on scholarships? ›

These are the key scholarship statistics you need to know: 58% of U.S. families use scholarships to help pay for college in some way each year. There are over 1.7 million scholarships awarded each year. The largest federal scholarship fund is Pell Grant and provides financial support to 7.5 million students annually.

What are scholarship judges looking for? ›

Down in the nitty gritty, judges will compare GPAs, test scores, experiences, essays, in order to see which candidate is most suited for their scholarship award. After this step, they'll pick their winner—or winners, depending—and send out notifications to the lucky and deserving student.

How do you stand out when applying for a scholarship? ›

10 Ways to Stand Out When Applying for Scholarships
  1. Stay Organized. ...
  2. Request Letters of Recommendation in Advance. ...
  3. Pay Attention to Details and Requirements. ...
  4. Don't Copy and Paste Past Essays. ...
  5. Know Your Audience. ...
  6. Emphasize What Makes You Unique. ...
  7. Be Personal and Passionate. ...
  8. Present Yourself Professionally.

What information should you never provide for a scholarship or grant application? ›

If an application asks for money, walk away. Don't give out bank or credit card information. Any financial data you provide should come from IRS or FAFSA data. Legitimate providers do not ask for bank information.

What are colleges looking for in scholarship essays? ›

A typical scholarship essay topic will likely ask students about their career goals and their plan to achieve those goals, Matthews says. Other essay prompts might ask students what they've done to make their community a better place or to describe a personal achievement and how they overcame challenges to reach it.

What are the most common scholarship requirements? ›

While some applications may be similar, other award organizations may ask for different information or material from their applicants. The most common scholarship requirements though tend to be your basic information, financial details, essays, and high school transcripts.

What are the odds of getting a full scholarship? ›

Unfortunately, the reality is that many students who more than meet all of the requirements for a full scholarship will not get it. In fact, only 0.1% of students get a full-ride per year.

How likely is it that I will win a scholarship? ›

7% of students are likely to receive a scholarship. Only 1.5% of students will receive a full scholarship. $8.8 billion was awarded in need-based scholarships. White students have a 14.2% chance of getting a scholarship, while minority students have 11.2%.

How many scholarships is a good amount? ›

The more scholarships you apply for the better your chances are of getting significant scholarship money. Apply for every scholarship you come across, no matter how much it's for. If you apply for 100 scholarships and only get 10 of them, you are still making good money.

How can I win a lot of scholarships? ›

How to win scholarships: 20 top strategies
  1. Start the process as early as possible. ...
  2. Sign up for Going Merry. ...
  3. Make a list of college scholarships. ...
  4. Search for awards specific to you. ...
  5. Research local organizations. ...
  6. Reach out to your chosen colleges. ...
  7. Prioritize your scholarship list. ...
  8. Create a deadline calendar.
Jan 27, 2023

What are the chances of getting a full scholarship? ›

Full-ride scholarships are awarded to only about 0.1% of students (Wignall, 2021). Nearly just as rare are full-tuition scholarships, which are awarded to only 1.5% of students (ThinkImpact, 2021). A regular high school student may have the qualifications for as many as 50 to 100 scholarships (Dickler, 2021).

What are my chances of winning a scholarship? ›

Odds of Winning a Scholarship

Only about 1 in 8 college students wins a scholarship, and the average amount used to pay for college is about $4,200 a year. Very few students win $25,000 or more in scholarships each year (only about 0.1%). Among the students who win scholarships, 97% win $2,500 or less.

Is it hard to get 100 percent scholarship? ›

Some scholarships cover the tuition fees, while some also provide expenses for accommodation, traveling, food, etc. Although it is a bit difficult to get a full-ride or 100% scholarship, if you do proper research and are lucky enough, you can get a full-ride scholarship.


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