Win Scholarships

How Can I Win a Scholarship?

The picture below is of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. The classic look of large red-brick buildings looks like a typical university. You might picture yourself attending a school that looks a lot like this one. But, you might ask, “How much will it cost?” You don’t want to graduate with a huge burden of debt. You will probably get some financial aid, but it would help to get scholarships to replace the loans that are offered. Will you be able to win enough scholarships to cover most of your expenses?

Almost all students can win scholarships if they begin very early, do their research, and submit enough applications. For most of these scholarships you need to be a well-rounded student.

To win a scholarship, you should have good grades and test scores. They want students who will succeed in school, not drop out.Red brick buildings Study hard. Prepare well in advance for Entrance Exams. You should also actively participate in school activities and hold some sort of leadership position. You should have work experience and have done an outstanding job. You should participate in some sports, have done some volunteer work, have good letters of reference and have written outstanding essays.

This is what you normally hear about winning scholarships. They left out the most important part. There are two secrets to winning scholarships.

What is the first secret to Winning Scholarships?

To win scholarships, it helps to be very special, to be outstanding in some way.

You need to decide just how you are special. If you start early enough, you can choose which way you want to become special. You can star in a sport, win essay contests, be active in volunteer work, get a job in the area you’d like to work someday, take AP classes, and more.

1. You can make really excellent grades and have unusually high test scores. These scholarships are often called merit scholarships. (This is not about the National Merit Scholarships, although they are a good example.) A merit-based scholarship is given to the top students whether or not they show financial need.

2. You have financial need that won’t be covered by the usual financial aid. It helps, though, if you also have excellent grades, high test scores, and are special in other ways.

3. Athletic Scholarships are awarded to students who are unusually good athletes. It doesn’t need to be football, basketball or baseball. You can win an athletic scholarship in tennis, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, field hockey, swimming, gymnastics, golf, etc. if the school competes in these areas. You must continue to participate to keep the scholarship. An injury that prevents you from playing can mean you don’t get to keep the scholarship.

4. There are Music Scholarships for talented singers, band members, orchestra members, etc.

5. There are Scholarships for students with other talents including art, theater, photography, film making, etc. If you have a talent, look for scholarships in that area.

6. There are Scholarships for students showing exceptional leadership. Just being the president of your senior class isn’t good enough. Every school has a senior class president.

7. There are scholarships for those involved in exceptional volunteer work.

8. You are part of an ethnic minority group that generally has difficulty getting into college. Asian students generally do so well that there are few scholarships for Asian students. There are many scholarships for African-American, Native American and Latino students. Even Women are sometimes treated as a minority. If you are a woman, check out scholarships for women.

9. Handicapped Students are special. If you have a physical handicap or if you have learning disabilities, you might find scholarships that are for people like you.

10. If you are a veteran or if your parent is a veteran, or if your parent died while in Iraq or Afghanistan, there are scholarships for you.

11. Where do you live? Your guidance counselor will help you find scholarships for people who live in your town, your country, or your region. Where are you thinking about going to college? Some colleges offer their own scholarships.  Who do your parents work for? Ask them to find out if there are scholarships for children of their employees. What are your hobbies? You might find a scholarship for people who play chess or who collect fossils or who enjoy bird-watching. You might find a scholarship for students who enjoy cooking,  working on websites, riding horses, or training dogs. You might find scholarships for students who have been in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts,  4-H or participated in the YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs, etc. There may be scholarships for members of your religious group, locally or nationally.

12. There are many scholarships for students who know (or think they know) what they want to study and what career they are planning.

  •   Are you going into nursing or medicine?
  •   What about journalism (especially if you were editor of an outstanding school newspaper).
  •   Do you want to be a teacher, maybe a special education teacher (and you have helped in the Special Olympics)?
  •   Do you want to be a scientist? What sort of Science Projects have you done? original research?
  •   Do you want to be a social worker?
  •   Have you started your own successful business?
  •   You want to be a poet or writer… and have published poetry or short stories already, won contests.

Check Scholarships books and look at all the scholarships available in certain fields. It is to your advantage to make a tentative choice now, even if you change your mind later.

Why should you start early?  If you are going to be a good athlete or student or whatever it might be, you need to begin working on it when you are young.

What is the Second Secret to Winning Scholarships?

Some people say that to find your prince, you have to kiss a lot of frogs. This secret is …

To Win Scholarships, you must complete and mail in a LOT of APPLICATIONS mailed on time – done neatly and well – with well-written and memorable  essays -and strong letters of Reference.

Ten Steps to Winning Scholarships

1. You should do serious scholarship research, preferable in grades 9 or 10. Set a high goal. Will you make a list of 50 scholarships, 100 scholarships, 200, or more?  You might list them on 3×5 cards with the name, what they’re looking for, deadline dates and more. You  could use a spreadsheet on your computer. There will be books in your library for this information and many sources of information on the Internet.  DO NOT PAY SOMEONE to do this for you. You can do a much better job doing it yourself.  They want your money. They don’t care if you get a scholarship.

2. The next steps are similar to narrowing down your choice of schools. Know who you are. Which of the above categories is your strongest? If you are an African-American, Native American, or Latino, this might help you narrow the list quickly. Certainly you should apply for other scholarships, but you might have a better chance with less competition in this area. You probably have strengths in several areas. If you are a  member of an ethnic minority,  the first in your family to attend college, a musician, or a member of a certain religious group, you may be eligible for special scholarships.  Look for scholarships in all areas that describe you.

Collect any interesting evidence of your accomplishments: newspaper stories of your and your group working on a Habitat for Humanity house, newspaper pictures of you winning a trophy for a sport, an essay contests, or debating. Pictures and newspaper articles are always a very helpful addition. School newspapers are fine. You can take one copy of the story and make many copies. You can include many articles on a single page to copy.

3. Arrange the cards into several groups starting with the 20-40 scholarships you think you have the best chances of winning. Your first group might be those that fit you 3 or more ways, your second group fits you in two ways, your next group fits you very well in one way, then those that fit you but not so well. You might also break them into the ones where your chances are good, fairly good, not quite as good, a long shot, etc.

4. Make lists of what is required, especially in the first several categories.  If you need to have done volunteer work and you haven’t done this, get started. Better late than never.  If you need to be a member of the youth group or choir in your church, you can do that. If you need to have work experience, start looking for a job. you haven’t published any stories or poetry, start submitting them.  While you can’t do everything, you can increase your chances when you start early enough.

5. After considering what the top level scholarships are looking for, think carefully about what should be in your letters of reference and who would be the best people to write these for you. Talk to them about it early. If they are willing, give them 3-4 weeks to write the letters. Give them a sheet with the accomplishments you want them to write about. Provide stamped addressed enveloped if needed.  Many times you can make copies of these letters and include them in your envelope of materials.

6. Start working on learning how to write a great essay. Consider what sort of essay will be most impressive for each of your top scholarships. Ask a teacher for suggestions on how to make it better.

7. Get copies of the applications for maybe the top 100 scholarships. You can get many on the Internet. For others you need to send a letter requesting it, often with a stamped self-addressed envelope.

8. Get the dates on your calendar, starting with early dates, then the rest of your top group dates, then others from your next level that fit into less busy time periods. Remember that the more applications you send out, the more scholarships you are likely to win.

9. Send all applications in as early as you can. For some scholarships, they actually stop opening applications after receiving a certain number.  Before sending each envelope, be sure everything is done neatly. Proofread everything at least twice. Be very sure all the CORRECT materials are enclosed. Don’t send an essay meant for the Boys Scouts to the scholarship program for your church or for majors in journalism.

10. When you receive news that you have won a scholarship, send a polite letter to thank them.  When you have time, start making a list of scholarships that can be renewed the next year with the information and dates. Also add to your calendar other scholarships you can apply for during your freshman year or later.  Other students often ignore these. There will be less competition.

If you follow these steps, you will probably be amazed at how much money you receive. Remember that it wasn’t free. You had to work hard for it.

The next page is   How to choose a college that is right for me

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