The art of scholarships

Hanna

HANNA

Major: Interdisciplinary Studies
– Teacher Education option
Hometown: Crested Butte, CO

Year: Senior

Fact: College is expensive.

Myth: Scholarships are hard to get and not worth the time.

Truth: Anyone can get scholarships -- you just have to do it right.

As a senior in high school I knew I wanted to go to college, but I also knew I didn’t want to graduate and begin the rest of my life in debt. I was standing on this weird middle ground where I didn’t have the greatest grades and my family made just enough money that I didn’t qualify for huge grants. I knew of scholarships and believed the myth above. I started researching scholarships online and discovered the major scholarship search engines where I could apply to hundreds of scholarships at once without having to do too much work, such as writing essays or submitting transcripts. I will tell you right now that for all the time I put into those sites, I didn’t get one scholarship from them. Then I changed my strategy and I received enough scholarships and grants to be finishing college with only $10,000 dollars in loans to repay. That is less than the cost of tuition for one year! Applying for scholarships is an art, but the guidelines that I followed will make the process doable.

Check List:

  1. Get a three ring binder with dividers that are labeled with the 12 months of the year
  2. Include 6 more dividers labeled:
    1. Essays
    2. Achievements / awards
    3. Community Service / other experiences
    4. Transcripts
    5. Letters of Recommendation
    6. Completed Scholarships
  3. Ask your school counselor for a list of local scholarships
  4. Ask the public library for a list of local scholarships
  5. Research scholarships in your state online
    1. Avoid scholarships.com and other large search engines
  6. Research institutional scholarships for the college you want to attend
    1. Find department specific scholarships for your area of study as well
  7. Write an outstanding essay
    1. Don’t write a sob story
    2. Ask your favorite English teacher to review it
    3. Ask your counselor to review it
  8. Ask at least 3 professional individuals for Letters of Recommendation
  9. Print copies of unofficial transcripts and obtain information about how to send official ones
  10. Compile a list of any awards and achievements you have received / done since 7th grade
  11. Make a list of any community service time or volunteering you have done
  12. Get organized

Organizing is the hardest part of completing scholarships, so here is my advice to avoid that stress. Set up your binder as follows:

  • Have your lists of scholarships in the very front, follow with the 12 month tabs, then with Essays, Achievements, Community Service, Transcripts, Letter of Rec., and Completed Scholarships.
  • Get the applications you need for the scholarships you are applying for and their due dates.
  • Organize the scholarships by placing them under the tab labeled for the month they are due.
  • Organize the rest of the materials gathered into the tabs they fall under, for example your scholarship essay will be placed under the essays tab.

You should now have all the necessary resources to make the application process relatively painless. Fill out scholarships based on the month they are due. If you complete your binder in September, start filling out scholarships that are due in October or November.  By doing them in chronological order, you can ensure that you aren’t missing any due dates and you aren’t feeling overwhelmed by trying to do them all at once. Try to set a goal to fill out about 10-20 a month.

Some scholarships require different sets of information, so ensure that you have all requirements met before submitting. If mailing in applications, print your essays on nice, thick paper to help it stand out. Mark off the ones you have completed and place under the completed tab to help keep you from getting confused as to which ones you have finished or not.

It is okay to fill out scholarships even if you do not fit all the criteria. If there are just one or two things you do not meet, still send in an application and if you are still the best one they receive, chances are pretty good that you will get it.

Finally, stay positive! You aren’t going to get them all but if you keep with it, you will probably get a few. Don’t disregard the small ones either -- $500 dollar scholarships add up and are often overlooked by other applicants. Trust me -- every little bit helps.

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    Posted @ Saturday, January 04, 2014 by Katey
    Katey's avatar

    Hanna,
    Wow! I learned a lot from your insight. Your organized system could also help with job and graduate school applications. I sincerely wish you wrote this earlier as it would have made my Peace Corps application process less tedious. Had I followed your advice and documented past my work and volunteer experiences before starting the application, I would be less stressed! Hopefully other readers use your suggestions earlier in their scholarship/opportunity hunts. Thanks for the advice; I plan to use it in the future!
    -Katey

    Posted @ Sunday, January 05, 2014 by Ms. Frazee
    Ms. Frazee's avatar

    Such great information Hanna! I'm going to share it with my high school seniors and other teachers at the high school. Thanks for sharing and taking the time to put it all together... invaluable information!!
    I hope you're well!
    Many blessings for 2014!!
    Big Hugs,
    Ms. Frazee

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Awards and Affiliations

Fort Lewis College is Colorado’s
Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges - COPLAC Public Liberal
Arts College
and a member of
The Princeton Review - Best in the West2013-14 Colleges of Distinction AwardForbes - America's Top Colleges