By Paul Culp, MA (Oxon.), CFT, GCDF, CCSP

The Coaching Educator delights in celebrating the triumphs of students who gain admission to the colleges of their choice and obtain the financial aid they need. Helping them achieve these goals is our raison d’etre, and we live and die with their successes and setbacks. Most of the time, we’re a jolly, upbeat little company. But while our Facebook page regularly features splashy photos of smiling teenagers accompanied by impressive dollar figures, and our blog is densely packed with all sorts of how-to information about college success and academic gold-mining, we also have an obligation to provide warnings about what not to do (although we try to be humorous about it)—and about the things that can go terribly wrong. A few weeks ago, we wiped the smile off our collective face and brought you Not So Fast: When Colleges Rescind Acceptances (January 31, 2019), and today, alas, we bring you a friendly reminder that scholarships can disappear. The good news is that the reasons are generally not surprising and that the student usually is in control of events for the most part.

Failure to reapply for renewable scholarships

Some multi-year scholarships don’t renew automatically. If that’s the case and the student doesn’t reapply, the outcome is obvious. This isn’t a scholarship taken away as much as it’s a scholarship handed back. 

Missed deadlines for renewal

Knowing you have to reapply is no good if you don’t do it in time. As we said in Ten Common Mistakes You Must Avoid in Applying for Scholarships, missed deadlines should never happen. The Coaching Educator recommends keeping a paper calendar and never, ever going down to the wire.

Poor execution of the reapplication

All of the rules and cautions for the original application are still operative. Being sloppy on the initial app probably would be your undoing, and a slipshod renewal effort can be as well.

Failure to meet academic standards

Many scholarships require that the student continue to perform at the level the provider expected when awarding the scholarship. Scholarship-holders should ascertain whether they will be required to maintain a certain GPA or demonstrate what many schools and donors call Satisfactory Academic Progress or SAP (not the acronym we would have constructed if it had been left up to us), which encompasses not only grades but also definite progress toward a degree. It’s only reasonable that those providing financial aid want to be certain they’re not funding an erratic and possibly truncated college experience that does not reflect well upon, or satisfy the objectives of, the institution or donor. Students who begin to fall short of the required standard can usually expect to receive a warning or be placed on probation rather than being led to the guillotine without prior notice.

A study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that GPAs tend to decline about half a letter grade from high school to college, so the loss of scholarships because of GPA or insufficient academic progress is common. Being certain of criteria for renewal is obviously critical.

If a scholarship is linked to a particular major, with a stout GPA requirement as well, the student should be realistic about his or her ability to meet that standard in that subject. Large amounts of money are available with such stipulations, but it’s best to resist fiscal temptation if the likely outcome is loss of the scholarship, change of major, and wasted time resulting in delayed graduation and further expenses.

Misuse of the funds

In many cases, the student and/or parents never actually handle the money, which goes directly toward some combination of tuition, fees, books, room and board, etc. In other instances, however, there is a direct disbursement, and scholarship providers want to see the funds applied in specified (and predictable) ways. If you are awarded the Zebulun and Dorcas Flamburgian Scholarship for the Study of Sibling Rivalry in Federally Funded Housing Projects, the Flamburgians probably will be displeased to learn that you are using their $53,000 to invent a new computer game based on the War of Jenkins’ Ear or fund a startup that manufactures alcoholic beverages from discarded pizza crust.

Disciplinary problems

Bad behavior, as defined by the entity awarding the scholarship, can be painfully expensive. Violent crime, drug abuse, underage drinking, and excessive practical joking tend to be frowned upon by scholarship donors, and plagiarism incurs their displeasure for obvious reasons. Misadventures on social media have led to the termination of many a scholarship, as have hormones inadequately supervised. When combined with social media, hormones are an especially powerful agent of self-destruction.  

Changing majors or transferring

Some scholarships are portable, but it’s essential to ascertain, before changing your major or transferring to another school, whether your scholarship can go with you.

Reduction in credit hours

Scholarships often require that the student carry a certain number of credit hours each term. If, for whatever reason, you need to reduce your hours, make sure you can do so without forfeiting any of your financial aid.

Changing situations for athletes

As we have stressed elsewhere (The “How Many” and “How Much” of Athletic Scholarships, June 7, 2018), the life of the scholarship athlete can be tenuous. Many athletic scholarships require renewal from year to year, and they can be discontinued for numerous reasons: grades, injuries, discipline problems, academic dishonesty, poor performance in the sport itself, or the departure of the coach under whom the scholarship was awarded. Four-year scholarships obviously are more secure, with sanctioning bodies imposing strict limits on the acceptable reasons for revocation, but misconduct and academic deficiency are still grounds for discontinuation of funding. Student-athletes with multiple scholarship offers would do well to read the fine print before deciding which one to accept.

So yes, scholarships do get taken away, so one of your takeaways here is that professional guidance can help you maintain financial aid success as well as helping you attain it.

The Coaching Educator has found that there is no substitute for being detail-conscious at all times. With a decade of experience, we know how to keep you on task, on topic, and on schedule throughout the admissions and financial aid processes. To learn more about our philosophy and capabilities, please watch our free webinars, sign up for our four-week College App Boot Camp, consider our Ultimate Programs, look at our special services for athletes and performing-arts students, and book a consultation to hear what we can do for you and how we do it. Keep reading this blog, and look for us on social media as we keep our clients and admirers advised of new developments in our effort to help students get into and succeed at the right college.

Paul Culp is certified as a global career development facilitator and writes about college admissions, college costs, financial aid, and college life in general for The Coaching Educator team. A former journalist and corporate ghostwriter who now operates Shenandoah Proofreading, Editing & Composition Services (SPECS), he has also been a humanities teacher at all levels from university down to sixth grade. Paul has degrees from Oxford University, Jacksonville State University, and Samford University, and also is certified as a fitness trainer.

References and Recommended Reading About College Admissions and Financial Aid

Culp, Paul. “The ‘How Many’ and ‘How Much’ of Athletic Scholarships,” The Coaching Educator, 18 September 2018, http://tce.local/2018/09/18/the-how-many-and-how-much-of-athletic-scholarships/

Culp, Paul. “Not So Fast: When Colleges Rescind Acceptances,” The Coaching Educator, 31 January 2019, http://tce.local/2019/01/31/not-so-fast-when-colleges-rescind-acceptances/

Culp, Paul. “Ten Common Mistakes You Must Avoid in Applying for Scholarships,” The Coaching Educator, 6 February 2019, http://tce.local/2019/02/06/ten-common-mistakes-you-must-avoid-in-applying-for-scholarships/

Davidson, Jake. “3 Mistakes that Will Cost You a College Scholarship,” Money, 3 September 2014,

Dugger, Ashley. “Reasons Why Athletes Lose Their Scholarships,”, Accessed 20 February 2019.

Ourada, Allison. “5 Ways to Lose Your Scholarship,” Education Quest Foundation, 13 February 2015,

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