Scholarships are a form of financial aid that you do not have to pay back, but they are definitely not free! From experience, I can tell honestly tell you the process of finding, applying and receiving scholarships is the equivalent of THREE FULL-TIME JOBS!
This is not an exaggeration on my part. If you do this the right way, you’ll end up pouring hours, weeks, months and even years of your life into the scholarship world. It takes significant personal effort and resilience. Consider it a character building experience because you will not be the same person afterward.
I can also say from experience that it is completely worth it and it (literally) pays off. I would do it all over again.
If you just started your scholarship search, this is a great place to start. I’ll break down what you need to know to be successful in your scholarship journey. After reading this article, if you are still nervous about this whole scholarship thing then please do not hesitate to reach out to me! Scholarships are definitely my thing so consider me a resource!
Yes it seriously is the equivalent of 3 FULL-TIME JOBS
A full-time job is 40 hours a week. It will take 120+ hours of work on a weekly basis to see the results you want. You need to be committed to making scholarships your lifestyle. (Note: not “part” of your lifestyle. It needs TO BE your lifestyle.) Finding and applying for scholarships should become obsessive. Make it your mission in life to know everything and anything that has to do with the scholarship world.
Focus on what you are good at
Once you begin to explore the scholarship world, you’ll realize that there is a scholarship for everything under the sun. The variety is amazing, but also distracting. Just because there is a scholarship for everything does not mean you should dedicate your precious time to applying for each and every scholarship you find.
For example, I only apply for scholarships that are academic or essay based. I have very strong writing skills and my grades have always been excellent. Those were the type of scholarships I would most likely win.
There were other types of scholarships that required creative writing samples, creative video submissions, art pieces, woodwork and other elaborate works that required a level of skill that did not come naturally to me. I completely ignored those scholarships and focused on what I was good at: academics and essays. (It paid off.)
Stay up-to-date with all the scholarship engines
It is your job to know what is going on, on each and every scholarship engine platform.
You should know the various scholarship deadlines.
You should know the popular and unpopular scholarships.
You should have a specific calendar dedicated to scholarship deadlines.
Remember the whole “treat it like a full-time job” thing I mentioned earlier? This is a part of that. It is your job to know what’s going on in the scholarship world. Don’t let an opportunity fly by because you were not paying attention.
Start with the low hanging fruit
In this case, the low hanging fruit would be the resources that are already open to you. Check within your community first. Is your place of worship sponsoring college students? What about your parents’ workplace? What about your school district? Have you asked your teachers? Professors? Colleagues? Advisers? Peers? What about your home college or university? What about any national organizations you are a part of?
It never ceases to amaze me the amount of scholarship money that goes unclaimed simply because no one applied. Never make any assumptions when it comes to scholarships. Always ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no.
For example, I got a scholarship from a local law firm my senior year of high school. This scholarship was not widely publicized and only students from my school district qualified. (I did not have to study pre-law to qualify either.) I also got a scholarship from my elementary school and many, many, many scholarships from the University of Houston as well. I am also a member of HonorSociety.org so I was eligible for those scholarships too. These are resources that were already open to me.
The nice thing about low hanging fruit is that everyone always overlooks them (except you because now you know) so there is less competition.
FAFSA! FAFSA! FAFSA! FAFSA! FAFSA! (You get the idea)
Hopefully one day this will become a no-brainer, but until that day comes I will preach FAFSA on the top of my lungs! Luckily I created a nice infographic and video about FAFSA. Make sure you complete your application ASAP!
Stay eligible! Stay focused!
Most scholarships come with a GPA requirement. The last thing you want is to lose all that funding because you let your grades slide! In addition to your 3 FULL-TIME JOBS, you are also a full-time student. (Most scholarships require you to be in school full time.) It is a juggling act that requires an intense level of discipline, but it is possible! (Again, I say this from experience).
In addition to your GPA, your scholarship might require you to perform a certain number of community hours, or study a particular discipline or play an instrument.
Make sure to honor whatever the conditions of the scholarship so you do not lose your hard earned dollars!
Grow a thick skin
If you do this right, you will be rejected on a regular basis.
I have been applying for scholarships since my junior year of high school. I have applied for thousands of scholarships and in all my years of applying have won less than 15 separate awards. It paid off because I am now graduating debt-free, but I was rejected often and on a regular basis.
You cannot let rejection discourage you from applying. By the time you get rejected (because you will), you should already be working on the next scholarship. In reality, you should not have time to feel sorry for yourself.
Remember your sponsors!
When you do finally win a scholarship, never forget the people who invested in your education! You need to take the time to thank your sponsors. Make sure to honor the investment they put into you.
I know this sounds old school but learn how to perfect the art of a thank you note. It goes a long way. Send a heartfelt email if sending a note is not possible. Get really good at saying thank you!
Like I said earlier, I am an experienced traveler in the world of scholarships. If you need more guidance on this journey, please reach out! Let me help you!