Scholarships are many peoples’ answer to the rising cost of tuition. And rightly so. Tuition costs have more than doubled since the early 1990s, leaving most prospective students in a difficult situation.
Yes, there’s financial aid or simply choosing a cheaper institution, but not everyone qualifies for financial help and not every college has a program that’s right for you. If you want to save real money on tuition costs, scholarships are the only options.
But applying for scholarships is time intensive; not only to actually apply, but to find scholarships as well. This dilemma has led to the rise of companies creating software to automate the scholarship process.
ScholarshipOwl, one such company, streamlines the process of applying for scholarships, allowing you to use one application to automatically apply for many different scholarships. It sounds great, and it is in theory, but the critics are harsh.
So today we’re taking a deeper look at ScholarshipOwl and how it can help (or hurt) your scholarship application process.
ScholarshipOwl purports that you can apply to hundreds of scholarships with just one registration. The idea being something like the Common Application. Fill out one application that includes information like your age, gender identity, ethnicity, student status, high-education affiliations, high school GPA, area of study, and more, and use it to apply to multiple scholarships.
The platform maintains an enormous database of potential scholarships that they match with all kinds of eligible people. ScholarshipOwl then submits an application to those scholarships on your behalf using your profile.
For the best results, the platform recommends spending time on your profile essay and other materials to ensure they’re error-free and high-quality; just like with any other scholarship application.
The benefit comes from the company’s using your profile information to match you with scholarships that you might have otherwise overlooked. Plus, you’ll automatically apply for multiple scholarships.
ScholarshipOwl offers an enormous variety of scholarships depending on your provided profile information. There’s a little something for everyone and we give the website credit for finding obscure scholarships that most people otherwise overlook.
Here’s a little rundown of what to expect.
Many scholarships are available only to those with specific financial situations. They’re sometimes referred to as financial or need-based scholarships and organizations offer them to people with lower-income backgrounds. It’s also common to qualify if an immediate family member (parent, sibling) is also pursuing higher education.
Merit scholarships are what people think of when they’re imagining “traditional” scholarships. These get awarded based on your GPA or other scholastic achievements. The better you do in school, the more merit scholarships you’ll qualify for.
Similar to merit-based scholarships, organizations award artistic scholarships to those that show some form of excellence in the arts. Be it completing specific classes or winning some award, ScholarshipOwl does a good job of finding these little-known scholarships.
Demographic-based are scholarships awarded based on gender, race, identity, and other factors that help minorities overcome adversity and achieve academic success.
ScholarshipOwl’s “You Deserve It” Scholarship
Ok, so this scholarship isn’t anything substantial but it’s not anything that you’d find elsewhere. ScholarshipOwl awards its “You Deserve It” scholarship every month by random drawing to someone who created a ScholarshipOwl profile.
The odds of winning aren’t great (depends on that month’s signup), but it’s a nice gesture and we love to see the company giving back.
Despite all of these scholarships, there are two main things that hold back ScholarshipOwl. First, some scholarships need separate, individual applications that ScholarshipOwl can’t handle.
And second, your one essay isn’t tailored to every scholarship you’re applying for. While a good essay can work across many different types of scholarships, sometimes it’s nice to get specific.
Luckily, ScholarshipOwl does list every scholarship before you apply, meaning you can submit different essays to those scholarships you think warrant the extra attention.
The Perceived Negative
Despite all its successes, price is the one category where ScholarshipOwl consistently gets poor reviews. Why? Mainly because the site operates on a “freemium” model that some feel takes advantage of potential recipients.
Signing up, creating your full profile, and even searching for scholarships is free. However, any type of applying requires a paid membership. Different levels of service offer different features, though even the most basic plans offer automatic applications.
And while you can argue the lack of forthcoming statement about ScholarshipOwl’s play-to-play nature is slightly deceptive, we can also argue you’re asking for too much.
Our argument is as follows. Aggregating scholarships isn’t something that the average person can do without either help or a tremendous amount of time. There are tons of scholarships out there and finding obscure opportunities that are easy to obtain is very difficult.
ScholarshipOwl actually offers an amazing aggregation service for free. You can pick and choose scholarships to apply for that you otherwise wouldn’t have found on your own. That in itself is probably worth paying for. Add in the auto-applying for when you do pay, and you’re looking at an excellent value.
Summing it All Up
So is ScholarshipOwl right for you? Well, it’s our opinion that if you’re already in, or headed for higher education, there’s no reason not to at least sign up for the free version. You’ll likely uncover some scholarships you would have missed.
Best case scenario – you buy into the platform and it works for you, while the worst case is you delete your account and move on. Our final consensus? We give ScholarshipOwl our seal of approval.