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 of 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 on your part. Consider it a character building experience because you will not be the same person afterwards.
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 begin to 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 be most likely to win.
There were other types of scholarships that required creative writing samples, creative video submission, 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 scholarship since my junior year of high school. I have applied to 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 in this journey, please reach out! Let me help you!
I had the opportunity to focus on being a full-time student during my freshman and sophomore year. This gave me an opportunity to focus on classwork, take heavier loads and become ingrained in the campus culture.
Unfortunately, this is a luxury that not all students can afford. Sometimes working part or full time while attending school is a necessity. I had my first part-time job my junior year. This was also before I started Achievement Consulting. It was the first time I had to balance a full-time school schedule as well as a part-time work schedule.
Although it can be difficult, it is possible to balance the two without sacrificing the full university experience.
Prioritize what is important to you (AND FOLLOW THROUGH)
In reality, your first job is school. If you are a full time student, you are taking at least 12 credit hours a semester. This is not including the (at least) 6 hours you spend preparing for those classes. College is a huge time and financial investment. Try not to let your part-time job erode that investment.
Once you prioritize what is important to you, make sure your actions reflect those priorities. For example, your priorities might be 1. School 2. Soccer 3. Work 4. Student organization. Once you determine your priorities (no more than 5) make sure your actions reflect those priorities.
For example, if you know you have a big test next week, you might not be able to attend the social your student organization is having the night before or if you know you have a soccer game in a month then make sure your are not scheduled to work that weekend.
Students can get in trouble because they have their priorities but they do not follow through with them. For instance, they might decide to work an extra shift and attend a social when they know they have a test coming up soon and need to study. When your actions are contrary to your priorities, it is a recipe for disaster.
Realize that work will be one of your priorities
It may not be your first priority, but it is on the shortlist. This sounds pretty obvious but some people take it for granted. This means that there will be sacrifices you have to make because of work. If you are working 15-20 hours a week, you might not be able to spend 2 hours on the phone with your best friend or stay at a party all night or binge on Netflix as much as you used to. You need to be ready and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make sure you can balance your school/work life successfully.
This does not mean that you cannot have fun anymore. You can still have friends and watch Netflix and go to parties. You just have to be disciplined with how you spend your time and with whom.
Communicate your priorities to your employer
If you have an on-campus job, this process is much easier. The university you work for wants you to be academically successful so they will cap the hours you work and are more willing to compromise on scheduling.
However, if you work off-campus you have to take the initiative to talk to your employer ahead of time about certain time conflicts you might have. For instance, if you know if you have a midterm coming in a month, then ask now for time off so you can study. If you know you have to travel for a soccer game then make sure your employer knows that you will not be available on that date.
You do not have to tell them all your personal information, just make sure you give them a clear picture of the times and dates you will be available. Communication is key!
Don’t get stuck
Learning is done in and out of the classroom. Make sure that you are developing yourself in someway wherever you work. If your job does not provide opportunities for advancement or professional development, try to find one that does. Look into finding a paid internship (which I would be happy to help with) or another part-time position that is more challenging but still works with your school schedule. This is not necessarily easy but it is definitely worth it.
If you have any more questions about balancing a school/work life successfully, please feel free to reach out!
Not every high school student is going to go to college. Some will choose to enlist or take a gap year. Others might decide go to vocational training or trade school. Regardless of what you end up doing after high school, I encourage everyone to seek a higher education, but that higher education does not necessarily have to be college.
With that being said, if you are pretty sure that you want to go to college, but need help picking the right one-you have reached the right place!
In-State vs Out-of-State
On average in-state colleges and universities tend to be more affordable than their out-of-state counterparts. Personally, I strongly recommend students consider in-state colleges and universities before they go out-of-state. This is especially important if you plan on continuing your academic career past your bachelor’s degree. Staying in-state can help you save money up front. However, if your heart is set on an out of-state school there is still a way to make it financially viable.
For example, there may be tuition waivers for non-residents and various other financial aid options that can help make the experience more affordable. Furthermore, schools that are located in more rural and suburban areas tend to be more affordable than their urban counterparts. If you are looking out-of-state, then consider schools in these areas as well.
Believe it or not, there are some schools that charge out-of-state tuition rates close to their in-state rates! You should check with each out-of-state institution individually. While you are at it, look into how long it would take to qualify as a resident of that state. If you plan on starting the next phase of you life in another state, then becoming a resident before you apply is a good investment. When it comes to comparing out-of-state schools, use the average tuition and cost-of-attendance of your in-state schools as a benchmark for comparison.
Check Transfer Credits
If you are in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or dual credit classes, then check to see if your prospective colleges and universities will accept your credits. Then do a deeper check to see under what circumstances will the credits transfers.
If you need a 4 in AP Chemistry but only a 3 in AP Biology to get credit, then that might influence what classes you take in high school. The same thing can be said about your HLs and SLs in IB. If you only a 4 in SL Economics to get the credit, but a 6 if you take HL then that might influence which HLs and SLs you want to take.
The process is a little different if you are getting your associate’s. Some schools will automatically accept your associate’s degree upon completion. Other schools pick apart your associate’s by class. Sometimes they give more weight to an Associate’s of Science depending on what program you plan to pursue at their institution. Regardless, you need to check which classes transfer (especially electives)!
Personally, I graduated from the IB program. A part of the reason I chose to attend the University of Houston was because they accepted almost all of my IB scores. I also took the AP exams to give myself the best shot of getting as many credits as possible.
In addition, I recommend taking some classes at your community college over the summer before you start your first semester. It’s a perfect way to get a head start on your pre-requisites if you are proactive. Plus courses at a community college are quite affordable! (Make sure you take pre-requisites that will transfer to your home institution!) The goal is to get as many pre-requisites knocked out before you start.
Personally, I went to Collin Community College the summer before I started at U of H. The classes I took transferred and helped me blaze through my pre-requisites.
Transfer credits can make your academic experience more affordable, give you more flexibility in your degree plan, and potentially speed up your graduation date if you want to graduate early.
Check the financial aid packages available for students and on average how many students receive financial aid. You can find this information on collegeboard.org or on the school’s website. I also encourage you to set up an appointment with a financial aid adviser and apply for any scholarships you are eligible for through the school. Never assume you are ineligible for a scholarship. Always check the eligibility and if you are unsure then contact the sponsors of the scholarship.
Most importantly APPLY FOR FAFSA!
How much financial aid a school provides to their students is a good warning sign for you and your family as you prepare to pay for college.
For example, if you want to apply to XXX University, but you notice only about 10% of the students receive financial aid, then that may be a signal to start shopping for competitive student loans or (more preferably) get busy applying for scholarships!
The reason you may see a low percentage of students receiving financial aid from the school is either: the school is super affordable and few people need financial aid to attend (unlikely) or the school is prestigious in nature and most students have the financial resources to pay for the tuition (more realistic).
If your heart is set on a school that seems out of reach financially, please set up an appointment with me. There is still hope yet!
Recreation center. Career center. Student center. Tutoring services. Housing center. Religion center. Student organizations. Counselling and mental health services. Center for students with disabilities. Child care.
These are just a few examples of the type of resources colleges and universities should provide to ensure the academic, personal and professional success of their students. THESE RESOURCES SHOULD NOT BE HARD TO FIND. This is not a game of hide-and-seek.
These resources will act as a lifeline during your academic career. They need to prominent and relatively easy to find online. The contact information needs to be up-to-date with staff on stand-by to answer further questions. It is vital you keep up with these resources. You should take a lack of ample student resources as a warning sign.
For example, if you know you have a learning disability, but getting in contact with the disability center is giving you a migraine or you know you need extra help in math but there is no tutoring services offered through the school, that is a sign it is time to move on.
Here are some other campus resources to look out for: health center, financial aid, women’s center, LGBT center, campus police, student advocacy, international student support, etc.
This list is not exhaustive and some resources may matter more to you than others but this will give you an idea of what to look for.
You do not need to choose your major before you step on campus, however I strongly recommend researching the type of programs that are available at the schools you want to attend. Furthermore, take a close look at the programs the schools are known for. This will let you know about the strengths of the school.
For example, the University of Houston is known for having one of most competitive Entrepreneurship and Sales programs in the nation. This is a sign that their business program is competitive. A prospective student with a strong interest in business may take this information into consideration and decide to apply. If you are more interested in STEM then look for schools with larger STEM programs. The same things can be said about the Arts or any other discipline you are interested in.
Unless you are super sure about what you want, my best piece of advice is to look for school with a variety of programs so you have the flexibility to try new things.
I was fortunate enough to fall in love with Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston early in my academic career, but another reason I chose U of H was because of all the different programs and specialties it offered.
Diversity and Culture
Culture and fit arevital! Check out the diversity and size of the student population.
Fun fact: my graduating high school class was the largest graduating class in the nation. I knew long before I started applying to a college that I had to go to school with a large population in a relatively urban area or risk claustrophobia. On the other hand, you might feel more conformable at a small or medium size school.
Preferences like these matter.
They will affect your campus experience. You can find this type of information at collegeboard.org or the school’s website.
Diversity is also another factor that can add color (or not) to your academic experience. Going to a school that is inherently diverse makes going to class more interesting. You are more likely to be challenges and exposed to different values and life experiences.
Never underestimate the importance of culture. Keep in mind, this is where you will experience the most amount of growth for the next 4 years.
What I love about U of H is the hustle mentality of its students. U of H has a long working class history and it shows in the mentality and worth ethic of the students and staff.
Bonus Tip: Community Colleges are AWESOME!
If you are on the fence about attending a college or university or need to take things a little slower then community colleges are an excellent option as well! Traditionally, community colleges operate at a slower pace and they give you more time to figure what direction you want to go in. Plus, they tend to be more affordable than traditional colleges and universities. (If a community college you want to attend costs more than a traditional college or university, then think twice before you enroll. In fact, I encourage you not to.)
Even if you are currently attending a traditional college or university, you can still attend a community college during the summer or winter session.
Personally, when I was home over the summer, I would go to Collin Community College to get some electives out of the way. If you struggle in an area and need extra help, then community colleges are a great way to gain extra skills and practice.
For example, if you know you have to take calculus 2 in the fall, but your pre-calculus is rusty, then sign up for pre-calculus and calculus at a community college over the summer. If you think you want to specialize in something related to biology, but you are not ready to commit then take a biology elective at a community college.
You get the idea.
Use community colleges as a resource to sharpen your skills and stay ahead of the game. Maybe af Continue reading “How to Pick a College!”
When I tell people that I travel on my own a common reaction I get is “Oh! How brave!”
I understand how staying in a country for an extended amount of time when you don’t speak the language can be seen as a bold and audacious move…….but brave?
The term ‘brave’ insinuates that traveling alone is inherently dangerous for women.
That’s not true.
Now I do acknowledge there are inherent dangers to traveling alone but those inherent dangers are applicable to everyone regardless of where you may be (at home or abroad). I do also acknowledge that women face inherent dangers being alone especially at night that traditionally men don’t worry about but (unfortunately) these dangers are universal. That means the women who live in the places you travel have to live with the same amount of risk and exposure you risk when you are home.
Think about it.
There are millions of women around the world who go about their lives every day without incident. They do it alone and they are fine. Seoul, South Korea is a foreign city and country for me but for millions of other women, it’s home. They walk the streets confidently and safely during the day and night.
If you are thinking about traveling abroad (which I strongly encourage you to do) but you are too afraid to make the leap here is some practical advice to help you bridge that gap.
Stop telling yourself it’s dangerous
Most likely the place you are going is not inherently dangerous. Would you purposefully put yourself in a foreign country that is inherently dangerous?
Of course not.
So stop telling yourself that traveling is dangerous! You can’t travel in peace when you are constantly telling yourself that you are in danger. That’s the equivalent of saying that women who call that place home are constantly in danger and that’s not rational. Use your same sense of self-preservation you have at home and you will be fine. Women’s intuition is a global phenomenon.
Choose a destination with excellent public transportation
Public transit is key to traveling independently and confidently. Choose a location that is known for its public transit then invest time in learning that system intimately. Using public transit can be a liberating experience especially when you start exploring. While I am in Seoul, I rarely ever know where I am going but I always know how to get back home. An excellent knowledge of public transit is key to your independence as a traveler.
Use apps like Facebook Events and MeetUp to meet new locals and foreigners. Whatever city you happen to land in, the point of traveling is getting outside of your comfort zone so make a conscious effort to do that every day. Personally I use MeetUp to language exchange cafes to practice my Korean. These apps are a great tool you can use to get out there!
Create an itinerary….. but do not treat it like the Bible
The nice thing about an itinerary is that it gives you direction and a sense of purpose for the day. It’s a great way to get the day started. With that being said it’s okay to deviate. In fact, invite it! Take a detour! It a part of the experience. It’s okay to miss that museum tour because you ended up talking to someone you me at cafe. Enjoy your travels with all its twists and curves.
There are some obvious aspect of traveling that I purposeful left out. For example, you know to keep your passport safe and to notify the bank about your time abroad. I trust you to take care of yourself while you are abroad; now trust yourself and start your next adventure