I paid for my entire education with scholarship money. Because I work with families across the nation about college admissions and financial aid, I’m often asked whether it was my standardized test scores or GPA that led me to win so much money. The answer is neither. In fact, what shocks many people is that the ingredients for scholarship success has little (if anything) to do with what happens in the classroom. Here are a three common myths that often dominate conversations about scholarships: Myth #1: Scholarships are so competitive.
There’s a lot of emphasis on applying for college scholarships before you head off to college, and that’s certainly important. But did you know there are plenty of scholarships available to students who are already a few semesters in to their college experience? In fact, you may not even be eligible for certain institutional scholarships until you can demonstrate that you’ve maintained a certain GPA for two consecutive semesters at your university. The first scholarship I ever received was the Associated Student Government (ASG) Scholarship from Texas State University, San Marcos. It was a total fluke that I found out about it, too. Up until my junior year, I never lived in the dorms. Instead, I commuted an hour to and from school and worked every other day in a different city, so I didn’t have much time to get involved with anything on campus. But around my junior year, [...]
Senior year means many things to many high school students (prom night, senior ditch day, college plans, etc.). Many students mistakenly see it as the easiest year of their high school career. For many parents, it means thinking about the future financially. Seniors often don’t think about applying for scholarships because they feel it’s a waste of time, and there’s only a small percentage of who will win. I was no exception. To me, senior year was all about preparing for college. It meant (still) getting good grades, studying for hours for the SATs and ACTs, and getting into the college of my dreams: Rochester Institute of Technology. No way did I think that I was going to have to make time to write several dozen applications for scholarships alone. My parents had other plans for me, however. They had me apply for every scholarship that I was eligible for. [...]
There are scholarships for almost everything. If you’re a girl over 5’9”, a weightlifter with a stellar GPA or even just a squirrel-lover (squirrels are known to award students $10 plus three walnuts), there’s probably a scholarship out there to help get you through college. Kidding about the squirrels, but the rest is true. It’s spending the time to find, apply, interview–and actually spending that time–that’s tough. When I was headed off to school, I knew I couldn’t afford to go out of state unless I had some significant scholarship money, or else I couldn’t go without equally significant student loans. And I really, really wanted to leave the state. Hoping to avoid crushing debt, I spent many weekends looking for and applying for money. Ten years later, the Internet makes it light-years easier than I had it, but it’s still a chore, I know. Think about it, though. Giving [...]
Dr. Seuss once wrote, “Be who you are and say what you feel.” The same applies to scholarship essays. To write powerfully, students must know and describe themselves honestly. With my experience in writing, it is the most important advice I can give. I was a high school junior when I began applying for scholarships. Living in a middle-class family with three siblings, I knew such aid would benefit me; however, I feared I wouldn’t receive it. I didn’t show much financial need, and I wasn’t very active at my school or in my community (which was my mistake). As a result, I wasn’t a likely candidate for many national scholarships. Instead, I mainly set my sights on local merit-based scholarships (specifically, those offered at my future college and within my county). Surprisingly, my financial stability and lack of extracurricular activities weren’t my biggest challenges when writing scholarship essays. What [...]
College applications are so predictable across the board that long ago, The Common Application was created. The Common App (as it’s commonly known) offers students a one-size-fits-all application that asks for academic achievements, SAT/ACT test scores, an essay, recommendation letters, basic demographic information, completed courses, declaration of major… the basic things most schools want to know. It’s accepted by more than 400 schools and was used by more than 2 million applicants as of 2010 in an effort to prevent the repetition of submitting the same info over and over again to an array of schools. Each school may require some extra stuff (e.g. an essay about why you want to come to their campus, specifically), because they need some sort of litmus test for how strongly students feel about their institution. As “how do I get in?” quickly turns into “how will I pay for it?” come spring semester, another question arises: Why doesn’t [...]
America’s students today face tremendous financial challenges across the board when it comes to their education. Yet, the opportunities to go abroad are still there for the taking, despite financial constraints. I’ve always believed that true learning comes from the global classroom that is the world around us, not just within the walls of a classroom. The nearly half-dozen international programs in which I participated during college convinced me that only through first-hand experiences could I truly understand the world’s challenges. Through programs in Germany, Italy, Greece and Guatemala, my time abroad guided me toward the perfect major (international studies), exposed me to the tremendous challenges of marginalized groups, helped me develop skills to carry out ethnographic research, and reminded me that some of the greatest teachers on Earth are the people we meet on the street.
BetterGrads is looking for students and alumni who received a scholarship, fellowship or another academic grant to tell their story about how it shaped their path toward higher education. On the College 101 Blog in the past, we’ve featured special series on How I Picked My Major, College in the UK and a Letter to Your High School Self project. Now, we’re looking for personal essays that put a face on the scholarship application process and how it affects a student’s educational experience. To submit an article, fill out the BetterGrads submission form or e-mail the College 101 Blog editor, Lisa Rau at Lisa.Rau@BetterGrads.org with any questions. If you’re interested in contributing to the blog on a regular basis, please indicate that in your message. Check out our submission guidelines here.