Approaches for Looking For/Getting Scholarships: Part 1

It has been a few years since I graduated high school and looking back, one thing I don’t miss about “Senior year!” is applying for scholarships. It was a nightmare. Stressful like there was no tomorrow- and then there was, along with more scholarship deadlines. However, I managed to get enough money to pay my way through college.

What you need to do is take action. Be very active in your scholarship search and you will find a multitude of opportunities for scholarships.

First, check in with the counselor’s office and see if they have an updated scholarship list. This list should be updated frequently with new scholarships. Ask your guidance counselor how frequently, every week, every month? And if you haven’t made friends with your guidance counselor (If your high school has a head guidance counselor of some sort, it’s good to make friends with them, as much if not more so than your regular guidance counselor. Mine was excellent. She had a lot of resources for me, and she helped me out tremendously), it is a good idea to do so, which is the second item on the list. A way you can build a report with your guidance counselor is by asking if they have a scholarship list and how frequently it is updated. After that, keep visiting him or her for advice on senior year or college admissions, whatever is relevant to your academic life. You can talk to your counselor about outside scholarships (which will be discussed shortly), which you’ve found, or how to approach a college application, what to do about standardized tests, what are the best ways to score high on the SAT or ACT, which test should you take, etc. Just keep visiting your counselor from time to time, so he or she can get to know you and realize what a good student you are.

There are many benefits to developing a report with your guidance counselor: one- it is good to visit counselors regardless, because then you can get advice about your academic endeavors and aspirations, two- your counselor will get to know you, and will keep you in mind, so when a unique scholarship or award comes across his/her desk, you will be one of the first student your counselor tells, or if you’re that suited for the scholarship or award, and your counselor thinks you’re the best candidate he/she might only tell you. It can happen. In high school, my guidance counselor was told about this award and she wanted to nominate me for it (I think I was the only one she told). I ended up filling out all the necessary info, and before I knew it, I was attending the awards ceremony, smiles and all. The third benefit is that you can get a letter of recommendation from your counselor, and getting to know them (and this works for anybody from whom you ask a letter of recommendation) means that they can better personalize your letter of recommendation. Meaning, that they’ll be able to say more about you than what’s on your resume. The fourth benefit, and this kind of goes in the advice category, is that your counselor can help you so much when it comes to your scholarships and other applications. One time over winter break, my counselor actually met with me at school to help me with one of my applications. Not many people, at least in my opinion, would do that.

The other thing you should do is make friends with your principal. There is a scholarship out there called the NASSP/Herff Jones Principal’s Leadership Award. The scholarship award money ranges from $1,000 to $12,000. When I applied for it, you needed recommendation from your principal. I’m assuming that’s still true since the award is called the Principal’s Leadership Award.

Not many people get these awards. I got one of these awards. I’m not saying that to give myself a pat on the back, I’m saying that because the main reason I got that award was because of the recommendation from my principal, and I never would have gotten that recommendation, if I hadn’t developed a report with my principal. A little secret: my principal and I didn’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but I still managed to get along well with him, which was important, because it won me a scholarship. My principal also knew I was a good student, so make sure you demonstrate that to your principal. You do this by, of course, getting good grades, but also by making connections with your guidance counselor, as said above, your vice/assistant principals, your teachers, any school faculty or staff. When you have that much support around you, people can’t help but know, because it’s right in front of their face, what a good student you are.

The third thing on the list for getting scholarships is: look for scholarships like there is no tomorrow. Look outside the list that your school gives you. If you can, try and look at other schools scholarship lists, because sometimes they list scholarships you didn’t find on your own school’s list, that you may qualify for. See if the different schools post the scholarships on their websites. Also, see if the scholarships are listed on your school district’s website, or see if any scholarships are listed on your school district’s website. Look for any local scholarships you can get, most of them should be listed on your school’s scholarship list, but there could be more out there. Look on fastweb.com, apply for the Ayn Rand essay contests. There are three essay contests available for seniors in high school. If you’re a junior, there are contests available for you too. The essay contest eligibility ranges from 8th grade to grad student depending on which contest. Also, look at major companies like Coca-Cola and see if they have essay contests or scholarships. Apply for the Gates Millennium Scholarship. Every scholarship is worth a shot, and if you get the Gates Millennium, it pays pretty nicely. See if your school organizations have scholarships. See if there are scholarships for being in the specific organizations you’re in. Google like there is no tomorrow. Just keep looking everywhere, you will find scholarships. And apply for the smaller ones too! A thousand dollars doesn’t seem like much for a fifty thousand dollar cost of attendance, but the smaller scholarships add up. You could get a thousand here, two thousand there. You never know, so apply!