Can This Teenager Win a College Scholarship?

I wanted to share with you an email that I received last night from a high school freshman, who spent her Christmas break stressing out:

Dear Lynn,

I am a freshman in high school, and I am enrolled in all advanced placement classes. For the first marking period, I received all B’s and one A+. My second marking period grades have greatly improved, where I now hold an A in the majority of my classes. Bottom line, I want to know if I have already destroyed my chances of receiving any significant scholarships, or have obliterated the already miniscule chances of becoming valedictorian (or maybe even salutatorian?) I hope to hear from you.


Kelly, Paranoid Freshman

Here is what I told Kelly:

Hi Kelly,

No, you absolutely didn’t wreck your chances of receiving significant scholarships!

Most colleges award scholarships to students who are not straight “A” students.  Two-thirds of undergrads receive scholarships from colleges and universities. So you can see just from that percentage that it’s not just the 4.0 GPA kids who get scholarships. The average scholarship that private colleges give out  today is $14,400 a year. At many schools, “C” students can earn these scholarships too. At some schools, 100% of the students receive some type of financial assistance.

By the way, the vast majority of college scholarships come from the schools themselves and not from private scholarships. Unfortunately, most kids limit their search to private scholarships from places like Coca Cola, Intel, Lion’s and Kiwanis clubs and other sources. The typical private scholarship is worth less than $2,000 and it’s a one-shot deal.

I’d argue that it’s pointless to fight for the honors of being No. 1 or No. 2 in your high school class. You will get into many, many, many wonderful schools without that designation.

You can learn more about the the widespread availability of college scholarships or grants by reading the latest College Board report.

Hope this helps.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of The College Solution and she also writes a college blog for CBSMoneyWatch.

Further Reading:

The Shrinking Cost of College

A Primer on College Scholarships

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