There are over 1 million scholarships available to students just like you every year — with a significant percentage of them going unclaimed! The same goes for federal and state financial aid – where more than $130 billion dollar is dispersed every year – even with millions of eligible students never taking the time to apply.


Well, we think it may have something to do with some pervasive myths out there about scholarships and financial aid that keeps student from applying. You’re probably already familiar with the most common ones, but allow us to refresh your memory: 

  • “You need to have a perfect academic record.” 
  • “You need to be disadvantaged.” 
  • “You have to be an all-star athlete.” 
  • “You have to be lucky.” 

Yikes! It’s no wonder most students don’t even bother…

Luckily, those myths are far from true — which is why we want to help set the record straight! 

We want you to know that applying for scholarships and financial aid is well worth your time and effort no matter what kind of student you are or what your background looks like. And the facts we’re about to share we’ll prove just that. 

Let’s get started with some quick facts about the cost of a college education!

Facts and Statistics about the Cost of a College Education

You don’t need us to tell you that a college education can be expensive. But what does ‘expensive’ really mean when it comes to paying for college these days? 

Let’s take a look at the average cost per year (2019 – 2020) for the major options you might consider for your post-secondary education. 

Fact #1: For a two-year community college, you’ll be looking at an average cost of $3,440 per year (includes in-district tuition and fees).

Fact #2: For a 4-year public college, you’ll be looking at an average cost of $10,116 per year if you’re in-state (includes tuition and fees).

Fact #3: For a 4-year public college, you’ll be looking at an average cost of $22,577 per year if you’re out-of-state (includes tuition and fees).

Fact #4: For a 4-year private college, you’ll be looking at an average cost of $36,801 per year (includes tuition and fees).


Did those numbers scare or surprise you? If so, we totally get it. But by no means are you alone. 

Many students and families see those price tags — particularly for private and out-of-state public colleges — and think, “There’s no way I can afford that! At least not without a massive amount of student loans…” 

In fact, according to a 2019 study from Sallie Mae, the cost of colleges governs the decision making for nearly 8 in 10 families.

But there are a few more facts that we think you should know about the cost of a college education. 

Fact #5: Of the top 25 universities ranked for best value in the 2020 U.S. News & World Report, 96% are private colleges due to financial aid packages

If you remember the difference in cost between public and private colleges, you may be confused by this last fact. How is it true? 

Well, the U.S. News & World Report bases this ranking on the academic quality of the school as well as the net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid.

But, more importantly, although private colleges have a higher price tag on average, they are also much more likely to offer generous financial aid packages to attract students from all economic backgrounds. 

Fact #6: 15 US states currently offer tuition-free aid programs for students attending eligible community colleges. 

These programs are typically called Promise Programs and are available for students who choose to attend certain community colleges within their state of residence.

Fact #7: 85% of students receive some form of financial aid to help cover the cost of college (yet millions don’t maximize their aid by fully exploring federal, state, and school aid programs)

(If you want to learn more about facts 5-7, check out The Secret to Paying $0 for College and Graduating Debt Free!)

Facts and Statistics about Scholarships 

Alright, now that we have a better idea of how much a college education actually costs, we can look at some facts about Scholly’s favorite way students pay for college: scholarships! 

Fact #8: According to the latest National Student Aid Study, there are approximately 1,581,000 scholarships available to students every year. 

Fact #9: When calculating the total amount offered by all scholarships, there is about $6.1 billion available to students! 

Fact #10: The average scholarship amount per student is $3,852.

Those numbers may seem too good to be true. But, fortunately, they’re not! 

Scholarships can come from many different sources, including academic and athletic departments at universities, the government, local charities and organizations, large corporations, fast food chains, and more. 

Scholarships can also come in many different amounts, with some being as little as a few hundred dollars and others being full-ride scholarships that cover the full cost of tuition, fees, room and board. 

But what can feel like it’s too good to be true, however, is actually locating all of the scholarships you’d want to apply for — which brings us to our next fact…

Fact #11: 42% of scholarships can’t be found searching Google due to the antiquated way so many scholarships are set up on charity or foundation websites. 

What do we mean by this? Unfortunately, many scholarship websites haven’t been updated to account for how we search for things on Google. Sometimes scholarship applications are buried on old websites or only available as downloadable PDFs.

This problem, among other things, definitely contributes to the issue raised by our next fact…

Fact #12: More than $100 million dollars in scholarships go unclaimed every year! 

If you’re thinking “that’s a lot of money…,” you are right. It definitely is!

And at Scholly, our goal is to help students find and win as many scholarships as they can. Our database of scholarships on Scholly Search helps make that possible. 

As long as there are students who need it, there shouldn’t be so much unclaimed scholarship money!  

And do you know who is most likely to miss out on those unclaimed scholarships? Boys! Why? Well, it’s interesting, but…

Fact #13: On average, 67% of scholarship applicants are female. 

Why is that exactly? We’re not entirely sure. But, either way, one thing is for sure. More students need to start taking advantage of all of the available scholarships out there! 

Facts and Statistics about Other Forms of Financial Aid 

Now, we’re going to look at a few facts about other forms of financial aid available to college students who submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

If you’ve never filled out the FAFSA before or need to refresh your memory, make sure to check out How to Apply for FAFSA

It’s pretty important that you do submit the FAFSA. And we think you’ll understand why when seeing that…

Fact #14: In the 2016-17 academic year, 1,234,249 high school graduates didn’t fill out or submit the FAFSA, which resulted in $2.3 billion in free federal grant money going unused!

And the FAFSA doesn’t just determine how much aid you receive in the form of grants. It also determines whether you’re eligible for things like work-study programs and federal student loans

Fact #15: More than half a million students participate in the federal work-study program every year. 

For the work-study program, federal funds subsidize up to 75% of your wages at a part-time job on campus or a partner organization. The paycheck you earn can help you pay for things like books, transportation, and general living costs. But work-study is only available to students whose FAFSA results show financial need. 

Fact #16: For the graduating class of 2018, the average student loan debt is $29,200.

This last fact may seem daunting. But remember, you can potentially avoid racking up your own student loan debt by really going after as many scholarships as you can. By doing so, you could even graduate debt-free

Final Thoughts

We hope this post has encouraged you to make decisions based on facts when it comes to determining how you will pay for college.

In particular, we hope it has shown you just how important it is to take advantage of scholarships! 

If you remember one thing, let it be this: there is over $100 million worth of scholarships going unclaimed every year. With the right strategy for finding and applying for scholarships, some of that money can be yours!