There's a myth that millions of dollars in scholarship money goes unclaimed every year. But the truth is that thousands of dollars might go unclaimed by you or your friends. Whether you're in high school looking into attending college or you're in college now, you might very well qualify for several scholarships. Even if you don't have great grades, you might qualify for a unique scholarship for a variety of reasons, such as your hobbies, unique skills, ethnicity or hometown.

Origin of the Myth

The myth that there are millions of dollars available in unclaimed scholarship money each year has been around since the mid-1970s. The myth originated from a National Institute of Work and Learning study, which estimated that billions of dollars went unclaimed from employers' tuition assistance programs. This isn't scholarship money but funds set aside by certain employers for staff who meet a set of criteria set up by the company.

Scholarship Scams

Some companies use the "billions of dollars going unclaimed" myth to lure unsuspecting students into falling for scholarship search scams. Many legitimate companies offer free scholarship searches. If a company insists that you pay money to access its services, this is probably a scam. And if a company tries to entice you into purchasing a subscription to get access to insider information about scholarships, this is likely a scam also.

Strange and Unusual Scholarships

Although there aren't millions or billions of dollars going unclaimed every year, you might be missing out on scholarships that you could personally claim. A number of businesses and foundations offer unique scholarships based on unusual traits. For example, scholarships are available for people of all sizes, ranging from money set aside specifically for tall people to money set aside for people with dwarfism. Another scholarship is available only to students who read an essay about sprinklers and fire safety online. People who work in a supermarket deli or bakery have their own International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association scholarship. There's even a scholarship for graduate students pursuing potato-related studies.

You Have to Apply

Some people miss out on scholarships that they qualify for because they mistakenly think they'll be automatically entered into the competition due to their high grades or achievements. Although some schools or regions offer automatic scholarships, such as for the top 10 percent of a high school graduating class, most merit-level university scholarships require an application. Even if you get accepted into the university, you'll still need to apply for its scholarships.