In my will-be four years of college I'll have made $5,500 cash; no taxes taken out, no weekly schedule, no work involved except an initial application process. I bet I made this amount of money in less than an hour, total.
You hear it all the time, thousands of scholarships don't ever get applied for, and thousands of scholarship dollars never go to students.
That is quickly followed by high school and college students saying "Where? How do I find these?"
Everyone wants the financial means to further their education. No one wants to be paying student loans for 10 years after college. Let's face it. College is an investment. You don't want to throw away your money if you're not going to see a gain in the long run. That's why we go to college. It's not for the social responsibility, it's rarely to gain a better understanding of the world, it's always so you can live the American dream and make a decent living.
Let's be basic. The less money you put into college, the better off you are. We're not even going to talk about the prestige of a really great school's title or the amount of money your profession is going to make you. In the end, the less money YOU have to spend in college the better.
I read an article in my early years of high school about a girl who was basically your average super-genius. She was 16 starting college, and had it figured out that when she graduated college, she would have enough money from scholarships and grants that the college would actually be PAYING her to come to school. It sounded so far fetched. I wanted to be that girl.
I am not a super-genius. I did not graduate high school early. Yet somehow, I have become that girl. I go to an in-state school where I lived on campus with a meal plan for 3 semesters. I never paid for any of my oh-so-expensive books, and in the end when I graduate in May of 2011 the school will pay me $5,500. Yes, I will take a few thousand dollars with my diploma, thank you, have a great day.
I only had a total of 5 scholarships. No loans, no grants, just those 5 scholarships. Two of them were only applicable for my freshman year. I promise you that it isn't hard, it isn't time consuming and it is 100% possible.
Let's talk scholarships:
- SCREW FASTWEB - First and foremost. A waste of your overall time. I never received a scholarship that I found through a FastWeb search and I had a 4.0 GPA. The scholarships are real, but so many people apply for them that you have very little chance of winning. Sorry, it's been the reality for me too. This also goes for any large scholarship search. Most aren't worth the effort.
- Do the Hard Ones - Scholarships that are easy to apply for, again, have way to many applicants. Of course, it doesn't take much time to apply for them, so taking the chance may be worth it, but don't rely on them. Write a few good essays even if they have to be long, and let the motivation set you apart. Motivation counts for so much in the real world.
- Get a Second Opinion - For your essays, maybe you should have an English teacher read over it. Give your teacher the requirements of the essay. He/she is a great resource and they are almost always excited to assist students who care about their future.
- Hit up the Guidance Counselor - Okay, above I said your English teacher is your greatest resource, but really it's a tie between them and your Guidance Counselor. Your guidance counselor knows the insides and outsides of local scholarships. Typically they have applications in their office, or at least a website where you can find one. And those are the scholarships worth applying for. So skip lunch one day and go see what you can do to get that money!
- Interest Groups - Let's say you are on the ball. I like to believe you are. Let's say you know what you want to major in, and perhaps what kind of a career you want to go into. Nearly every field has interest groups. For Hotel Restaurant Management we have the National Restaurant Association, The American Hotel and Lodging Association and The International Ecotourism Society just to name a few. A lot of these interest groups offer students scholarships. Some will even let students join free and that's a great resume booster!
- Go for Honors - When you've decided on a school, apply for their Honors Program. Some may not accept freshman, but it's different for each school. Nine times out of ten they offer heafty scholarships. My Honors scholarship pays for my entire tuition. I know some who's Honors scholarships pay for tuition, room & board and books. Honors can be a beautiful thing.
- Get Scholarships for All Areas - The best scholarship is one that you can use for tuition, room & board and books & supplies. Trust me. Read the details.
- My Newest Secret - Story Time! I was sitting in the computer lab the other day listening to some people talking about scholarships. In college, the best way to stay informed is by talking to other people. He said that he (note: he) had been getting a scholarship from Women of Engineering (can I drop names?) . Now you see it all the time. Scholarships inteneded for only minorities or women or people of such-and-such decent. APPLY EVEN IF YOU AREN'T IN THAT CATEGORY OF PEOPLE. It's perfectly fine to do so. And here's the best of it: they can't discriminate against you because you aren't of that category. So if you need a little "Why America is Great" reminder, there it is. If you're still a little apprehensive, many times on applications for Race and Gender there will be an option "Do Not Wish to Specify" or something of that nature. Check it. Get out there and fight against reverse discrimination.
- Do Your FAFSA - It's a pain. They pry. They ask too much personal information. They aren't going to give me any money anyway. I know. Do it though. Many scholarships require that you do.
There's your dose of Erica love for the day. Please, get out there and get some money to go to college.
If you're from Maryland a great scholarship website is http://www.mhec.state.md.us/financialAid/descriptions.asp
If you're from the Eastern Shore, Bennett High School has a great scholarship database for local ones. http://jmbscholarships.wikispaces.com/