I think there’s this myth out there that you need to be a perfect student or a star athlete to receive a scholarship at a major university. And I think that’s a bunch of crap. In a previous blog post I talked about the different ways I graduated debt-free but I didn’t specifically discuss how I received my scholarships.
There is so much free money out there to fund people’s education but I see so many people not taking advantage of it. Yes, scholarships are competitive to get. But are they impossible to get if you’re just a regular person? Nope.
WORK ETHIC IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN TALENT
I honestly don’t think I’m a naturally “smart” person. I never was able to skim through a book and pass a test. I just work extremely hard for every little thing. In school I was the first one in my class to take advantage of my teacher’s office hours. I would schedule tutoring classes before the semester even started for all my classes. For every paper I was assigned I went to the writing center to have it proofread. Work ethic shows. My teachers and counselors would notice this and were able to write me raving recommendations for the scholarships I applied to. So despite the fact that I struggled in some classes, my dedication was more important than my final grade.
WRITE AN ESSAY FROM THE HEART
Every major scholarship I’ve applied to has required an essay component. You don’t need to have a sad story or go through a traumatic incident to get the attention of a scholarship committee reading your application. I wrote about how I worked as a clown in high school on the weekends. I talked about how much I hated that job and the life lessons it taught me. In another essay, I discussed how being a military brat shaped my world views and exposed me to true diversity. The essay is your way to show off your personality, so take full advantage of it.
DON’T ASSUME ANYONE WILL OFFER YOU A SCHOLARSHIP
Let me be very clear here: Just because you have a high grade point advantage, are a minority or studying STEM, it does not mean anyone will hand you a scholarship. There are many people out there that think that just because they check off a lot of boxes, that a school will offer them a scholarship. Maybe this was the case in the 1980s and 1990s, but times have changed. I’ve sat next to young Black women studying Engineering with 4.0 GPAs who were $50k in debt. If you aren’t actively and consistently applying for scholarships or grants, don’t expect free money.
RESEARCH LIKE IT’S YOUR FULL-TIME JOB
Google is great but it should not be your only resource to find scholarship listings. I frequently searched Twitter with the keywords: November scholarship apply. So much information would come up. I would do change the keywords every month because there are different deadlines.
The students who receive large scholarships from colleges, typically have other requirements to meet besides keeping up their grades. They normally become college ambassadors, have to do community service, perform tutoring, etc. Track down these students who received a scholarship a year or two before and talk to them about their experience. They can typically point you in the right direction in terms of what the scholarship committee wants to see. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
I hope these tips help you and remember to meet those deadlines!