Scholarship Statistics


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Report Highlights:

  • 7% of students are likely to receive a scholarship.
  • 16% of students will receive a state scholarship, while 13% will receive a private scholarship.
  • In 2020, 58% of families used scholarships to help pay for college.
  • It is estimated that there are around 1.7 million private scholarships.
  • The largest federal scholarship is Pell Grant, providing financial aid to 7.5 million students.
  • 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%.
  • 4% of students have a 3.5 to 4 GPA.

scholarship statistics

Scholarships are becoming an increasingly important element in the American tertiary education system. As the cost of college increases every year, an increasing number of students are having to rely on scholarships to complete their education.

Therefore, it is important to understand all the factors at play. This includes how many scholarships are awarded each year, how much is awarded, and how the likely sources and recipients are. Such information helps to pain a clearer picture.

Scholarships Awarded

One of the primary elements to consider is the number of scholarships awarded. This shows just how many different opportunities to financial aid there are. At the same time, it proves how the overall worth of scholarships is split among students.

  • There is an estimated 1.7 million private fellowships and scholarships.
  • The combined worth of these scholarships are over $7.1 billion.
  • In 2015 – 2016, a total of $1.6 billion was awarded to 1.58 million recipients.
  • The average recipient will receive $4,202 in scholarship funds.

Utilization of Scholarships

A significant number of students need scholarships due to growing costs. Nevertheless, the actual numbers are harder to come by. These statistics need to be clearly stated and understood.

  • In 2020, 58% of families used scholarships to help pay for college.
  • The average amount used was $7,923.
  • 79% of students prefer relying on scholarships in comparison to just 63% of parents.
  • Overall, scholarships and grants helped to pay for 19% of college costs.

Odds of Receiving a Scholarship

There is a great deal of misconception of how scholarships are handed out. As such, people tend to overestimate or underestimate the probability of receiving a scholarship. Furthermore, fewer people are aware of how much is awarded in each case.

  • 7% or 1 in 8 students are likely to receive a scholarship.
  • Only 0.2% of students receive upwards of $25,000 in scholarships.
  • 5% of students in bachelor programs got enough of scholarships to cover 100% of costs.
  • 7% received enough to cover 90% of costs.
  • 9% received enough funds to cover 75% of costs.
  • 8% received enough funds to cover 50% of costs.

Scholarship Recipients

Many people believe a number of myths regarding which students receive scholarships. The actual recipients are more surprising than most people imagine. This includes in terms of academic achievement as well as race.

  • 4% of scholarships are awarded to students with a GPA of 3.5 to 4.
  • 30% of scholarships are given to students with a GPA of 3.0 to 3.4.
  • 5% of scholarships are awarded to students with a GPA lower than 2.4.
  • Over 66% of students with above average SAT and ACT scores receive private scholarships.
  • 17% of STEM students vs. 12.1% of non-STEM students were awarded scholarships.
  • Over 33% of private scholarships are provided to STEM students.
  • The chances of a white student getting a scholarship are 14.2%, while the odds for minority students are 11.2%.
  • The odds of a Black student winning a scholarship is 11.4%, 9.1% for Hispanic students, and 10.5% for Asian students.
  • Middle-income students won 13.8% of scholarships compared with 10.6% of low-income students.
  • 8% of the scholarships were awarded to upper income students.
  • 10% of private school students win private scholarships worth $2,631.
  • 3% of public school students win private scholarships worth $3,463.

Merit Scholarships Statistics

When most individuals think of scholarships, they are actually thinking of merit-based scholarships. These are grants awarded based on a student’s academic or extra-curricular activity. It remains one of the most commonly awarded forms of scholarships.

  • In 2007 – 2008, 14% of students received merit scholarships.
  • The average student received $4,700 each.
  • In 2019 – 2020, 22% of undergraduates received merit aid.
  • 25% of students at private institutions received merit scholarships.
  • Only 18% of students at public universities received such scholarships.
  • 56% of moderately selectively universities provided aid, whereas only 28% of less selective colleges offered aid.
  • 35% of more selective universities offered merit-based scholarships.
  • 24% of Southeast universities provided merit aid.

Need-Based Scholarship Statistics

Need-based scholarships are grants provided to students from low-income families. They are also the largest type of scholarships provided. Therefore, it is important to appreciate all the factors regarding this type of scholarship.

  • In 2007 – 2008, 37% of students were receiving need-based scholarships.
  • The average student received $4000 each.
  • 16% of recipients were need-based versus 18% of students that received merit-based scholarships.
  • In 2015, over $8.8 billion was awarded in need-based scholarships.
  • California alone has a need-based scholarship expenditure of over $1.8 billion, marking a 37.2% increase.
  • From 2012 onwards, New Hampshire and Georgia spent $0 on need-based scholarships.
  • In 2017, 20 states considered 40 pieces of legislation regarding need-based scholarships.

Athletic Scholarships Statistics

Athletic scholarships are a misunderstood type of scholarship. To begin with, most parents and students overestimate the odds of receiving such a scholarship. Furthermore, many people misjudge the overall worth of these scholarships.

  • The NCAA predicts that only 1.3% of high school athletes will receive scholarships.
  • In 2017, $3 billion was awarded to 175,000 athletes.
  • The average scholarship for Division I schools was $ $14,270 a year for men and $15,162 for women.
  • For Division II schools, the average amount is $5,548 for men and $6,814 for women.
  • Men received 53.7% of athletic scholarships even though women represent 54.8% of the student population.
  • Football offers the highest number of scholarships with 85 for D I schools and 36 for D II schools.

Scholarship Sources

There are three main types of scholarship sources – federal, state, and private. It is interesting to determine where the most amount of financial aid comes from. It is just as fascinating to determine the percentage of students benefiting from each type of scholarship source.

  • In 2007 – 2008, around 27% of students received federal aid in the form of a Pell Grant.
  • In 2018, around 7.5 million low-income students had received financial aid from a Pell Grant.
  • For 2020, the maximum amount awarded per student is $6,345.
  • In 2007 – 2008, 16% of undergraduates received a state grant.
  • Of the $8 billion, $5.8 billion was awarded for need-based scholarships.
  • 20% of students received an institutional scholarship.
  • 13% of students received scholarships from private institutions.
  • In 2022, the National Merit Scholarship Program will provide 8,700 awards totaling $40 million.
  • Around $5 billion is available in private merit-based scholarships.

It is apparent that the situation regarding scholarships is a lot more complex than most people would imagine. In fact, there is quite a bit of misconception regarding this form of financial aid. It is important for every person to appreciate the actual condition so that each and every student can fairly benefit from it.


[1] Washington Post, Your Child Probably Won’t Get a Full Ride to College

[2] Yahoo News, 17 Things to Know About Merit Aid Scholarships

[3] Education Commission of the States, Need Based State Financial Aid

[4] U.S. Department of Education, Merit Aid for Undergraduates Trends From 1995–96 to 2007–08

[5] CNBC, Student Aid Secret: Even High-Income Families Can Qualify

[6], Athletic Scholarships for College Students

[7] U.S. News, 10 Facts to Know About the Pell Grant

[8] Sallie Mae, How America Pays for College 2020

[9] FastWeb, Top Ten Myths About Scholarships

[10] Federal Student Aid, Federal Pell Grants are Usually Awarded Only to Undergraduate Students.

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