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Monday, December 31, 2012

Write concise scholarship essays (or you'll be replaced by CGI)

In my book, I give you a list of bullet points of everything you should include in your essay. It's a long list, believe me. You may be wondering how you can possibly include all that in five pages, much less 100 words.

My answer: be concise. No matter how concise you think you are, you can always be more so. In fact, you can get a novel on a single page if you really try, and the more concise you are, the more information you’ll be able to pack in to explain why you are the best candidate for the scholarship.

Don't be redundant. You may be replaced.

If you don’t believe me about the novel thing, click here to go to “Book-A-Minute Classics” and prepare to be amazed. Learn their lesson, and by it, write amazing concise essays that will help you fund college through scholarships.

Monday, December 10, 2012

In which you get to brag (kind of)

Scholarship essays should impress the scholarship providers. So you know all those times you bit your lip and didn’t tell the world all the awesome things you’ve done? Here’s your chance to spill it all, and it’s not bragging—it’s just not hiding anything.

Bragging is what sounds prideful, pompous, and like you've got it all together. That doesn't impress the scholarship providers at all -- never have that “I’m-so-amazing-you-can’t-believe-it” feel. Scholarship providers won’t want to fund that sort of person.)

This actually isn't bad advice for a scholarship essay! (But I wouldn't necessarily call it bragging, then.) (Image courtesy of

So don’t be shy! You can't be if you're funding college through scholarships.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Writing multiple scholarship essays (with Star Wars dolls)

Most scholarship essays want to know about your life plans and dreams. (A few are random and ask about mosquito breeding in Antarctica, but you can skip those for now.)

Usually, the length of that "generic scholarship essay" can vary tremendously, anywhere from 50 words to five or more pages. For this reason, the first time you write your scholarship essay, write several versions of your generic essay so you’ll always have the perfect one ready.

Have essay within essay within essay. Like epic Star Wars Russian dolls. (Image courtesy of

For example, have both a 500-word and 1000-word version of your essay. That way you'll be ready for more than one essay prompt.

Monday, November 12, 2012

How to make scholarship search engines work for you

You gotta love scholarship search engines -- FastWeb,, you name it. They promise to match you instantly to the scholarship of your dreams, and why not? They have hundreds of scholarships in their database and can match you to them.

Or can they? Or perhaps the question is -- will you let them?

The problem is, most students don't carefully fill out their profile. There seem to be a million questions on a thousand pages, and pretty soon you start clicking through, barely glancing at the questions.

I know. I've been there.

You may be tempted to do this on your scholarship profile. Don't. Just don't.

The thing is, that profile is the only way scholarship search engines will be able to match you to scholarships. So fill it out. Make the search engine work for you and help you fund college through scholarships.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Why summer is the perfect time for scholarships

It's summer. That means ice cream, beaches, frivolity, and working 60 hours a week.

It also means scholarships.

Never stop looking for scholarships just because it’s summer! Many scholarship applications are due throughout the summer or early in the fall, and it’s important to find and apply for them when most other applicants are tanning on the beach (or, bring your laptop to the beach and tan while you apply—how many jobs combine great pay and a great tan?).

I'm sure you'll find a perfectly idyllic place to work on scholarships. Go to Hawaii. Convince your parents the trip will pay for itself in all the scholarships you'll apply for there...

In fact, summer is the perfect time to ramp up your scholarship search. Once school starts, you’re going to be busy with the two hundred activities you’ve overcommitted to, and it will be a lot harder to carve out time to work on scholarships -- and fund college through them.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Elementary school college scholarships

You've heard of college scholarships.

What about elementary school scholarships?

No, I didn't think so. Some of the most overlooked scholarships are ones given out to students in elementary school, middle school, and junior high, to be held until the student goes to college years later.

You don't even have to be a child prodigy to get scholarships young! (Image courtesy of

Now, if young students do win one of these scholarships and don’t know where they want to go to college yet (understandable, considering most 5th graders haven’t even decided if they prefer macaroni and cheese or hot dogs), how the money is distributed is up to the scholarship provider. Some send you a check directly, and others will hold onto it until you decide to what college you’re going to attend.

The advantage of finding and applying for scholarships so early is that there are very few applicants for those scholarships, because no one thinks of looking for them that early. So that means getting them is best started early!

Monday, October 1, 2012

What are the odds? Why scholarships are better than the lottery.

I know what you're thinking.

"I'm not going to apply for scholarships. I'll apply for 10 and not even get one. That's terrible odds."

You're both right and wrong. You're right -- not every hour you put in will get you a scholarship, but wait a second. Imagine if there were a $100,000 lottery you had a 1 in 5 chance of winning being advertised in your hometown. Of course you would buy tickets! You'd probably buy 10 or 20 or even 30 tickets, just because even if only one worked, that would be $100,000!

Thankfully, this isn't true. Sometimes it feels like it, though. (Image courtesy of

That is how it is for scholarships: with strategic planning, you could potentially win one in five scholarships you apply for. Even if it’s 1 in 10, that’s still great odds, and add scholarship to scholarship to scholarship, and pretty soon you have a college education paid in full—that’s a pretty good lottery.

(And you don’t even have to spend money on tickets while funding college through scholarships!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

How much time should I spend on scholarships?

How much time should you spend on scholarships?

Probably more than you think.

Just because scholarships are an efficient way to pay for college doesn't mean they're an easy way. You're going to want to dedicate a solid chunk of time to find, choose, apply for, and follow up on scholarships.

It helps if you schedule specific times for scholarship hunting-applying: For example, two hours on Saturdays, or every Thursday night. I can’t give you a specific time you should allot in your schedule, but when I was funding college through scholarships, I would generally spend a full day searching for scholarships online once every month or two, and then a several hours each week after that putting together applications.

If this is your schedule, you might want to stuff "scholarships" somewhere in there. (Image courtesy of

But really, I didn’t limit myself. Every time I had some free time, I’d usually find myself looking for scholarships.

So put on iTunes, play some Disney music, pop in a movie, and get scholarship hunting on your calendar! It's worth it -- paying for college is worth it.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Scholarships from the past: Are old scholarships still available?

Sometimes, when I'd go to a scholarship site, there'd be a bad sign. Actually, it'd be a bad statement, usually along the lines of:

"CLICK HERE to apply for our 2009 scholarship!!"

And it was 2010.

Even scholarship providers can be a little late in updating their website!

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean the scholarship was a scam -- not everyone gets around to updating their website. But it's something to remember: To help decide if a scholarship is worth your time or valid, check out the website and make sure it's up to date, or even e-mail the scholarship provider to see if they respond and are still hosting the scholarship if you're in any way concerned it's invalid.

This will help you find out whether it's still going -- or whether it's a dud. And finding out will put you ahead of the other scholarship applicants who will probably just assume it's no longer being held -- and that'll help you fund college through scholarships.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Smoke Signals and Keeping Scholarships Organized

I know you may barely be able to keep your jeans organized by color, but if there’s one thing you’re going to need to fund college through scholarships, it’s organization. I did it through Excel spreadsheets, but you can do it in any way that fits you: spiral notebooks, three-ring binders, Word documents, scrapbooks, smoke signals.

If this is you, you might want to change your game plan for scholarships. Just sayin'.

What are some things you might want to track? Start with scholarship names, college expenses, and references. 

After all, the more organized you are, the less time you’ll have to spend searching for and applying for scholarships. And the less time you spend, the better return on your investment you’ll have—and the closer you’ll be to making $1,000 an hour and funding college through scholarships!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Gladness, Hunger, and Writing Amazing Scholarship Essays

There is one part of the scholarship application more critical than anything else. You get this part clear, and scholarships will start raining out of the sky into your lap. What’s that part?

It’s you.

You have to know why you're passionate about your life so you have something to write about in your essays.

Theologian Frederick Buechner wrote this: “Vocation is where our greatest passion meets the world’s greatest need.” Or he once put it another way: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.” Find your deep gladness, your greatest passion: that is the most significant service you can ever give the world—and knowing this is what will help you fund college through scholarships.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Taxes are a College Scholarship's Best Friend

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Whoohoo, right?

But they're awesome! Because first, the IRS gives both education tax credits and education tax deductions, both of which can help you fund college (check out this link).

And second, scholarship money that goes directly to fund your tuition, fees, and other required expenses is not taxed! This is very different from your job, where you lose a lot of money to taxes. However, there are limitations on this, so again, go to the IRS for more specifics, starting here).

He wants you. And your money. But thankfully, not as much when you fund college through scholarships!

The important thing is to look through the IRS site if you have any questions -- links like "Scholarship and Fellowship Grants" will be extremely helpful to you. Find a mentor, or even a personal accountant, who can help you through this process. It might be a bit of a headache at first, but it's worth it, because you're funding college through scholarships!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Love Scholarships and You'll Get Scholarships

What are you going to be better at: something you love, or something you hate?

Love scholarships, and you'll get scholarships.

If you go into funding college through scholarships with a lousy attitude about how it’s the most miserable thing you’ve ever done, that’s going to come out in your applications. But really—why do you hate it so much? Take a look at these pictures:

Really, scholarships are not so bad. What $1,000-per-hour job lets you eat this...

...while doing this...

...and drinking this...

...while listening to this? Maybe this whole scholarship job is not so bad after all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Five Fabulous Things You Can Do With Money Saved by Scholarships

I don’t know how much your dream school costs. Maybe $10,000 per year. Maybe $100,000 per year. Regardless, what could you do with all that money you’re not spending on school because you’re funding college through scholarships?

1.     $20,000 (a $5,000/year school) = 40,000 Krispy Kreme doughnuts (and a stomachache)

2.     $40,000 (a $10,000/year school) = $1,256,376.80 if you invest it at 9% annual compound interest for the next 40 years until you retire (not only did you fund scholarships through college, you became a millionaire because of it!)

3.     $60,000 (a $15,000/year school) = 0.92 nights in the Royal Penthouse Suites in Geneva, Switzerland (What’s 0.92 nights? I don’t know. It’s kind of like having 2.4 kids.)

4.     $120,000 (a $30,000/year school) = a nice little uninhabited island in Fiji (in case you went to college to be a hermit)

5.     $200,000 (a $50,000/year school) = 5 minutes in space aboard Virgin Galactic (do you realize that’s $667 per second?!)

Okay, so even if you don’t do any of those things, you have to admit—it’ll be nice to have the extra cash you’ll get from funding college through scholarships.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Making Deadlines, or, the Sure-Fire Way to Disqualify Your Scholarship Application

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There is one sure-fire way your scholarship will never get chosen. 
Miss the deadline.

There is a caveat, however. You need to know the deadline. “Well, that’s silly,” you cry, “of course I know the deadline?” Fine.

Postmark or arrive-by?

Yeah, I thought so. There is a tremendous difference between the two. Some scholarships have a postmark date, meaning, if it’s to be postmarked June 1, as long as the office slams its little stamp on there on June 1, no matter how many days it takes to actually arrive, your application is safe.

However, some scholarships have an arrive-by deadline, meaning, if it’s June 1, your application has to be in their hands by June 1. This is harder for you to plan for, because what if the post office is slow? What if it gets lost in the mail? What if there is a holiday on the day you were going to send it? What if your car runs out of gas on the way to the mailbox? 

Indiana Jones may have been able to speed across continents in a matter of seconds, but your mailed scholarship application is not nearly so cool. Or fast.

So know the deadline, because you want all your applications accepted if you’re going to fund college through scholarships.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Communication with Scholarship Providers Gives You an Edge

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This is Joe. 

In case you didn't know, you can always tell a school is good by looking at its brochures. If all the students in the pictures are smiling, it's for sure a great place.

Joe is a very nice young man who wrote quite a lovely scholarship essay. He was involved in volunteer work with his school, plays basketball all the time, and likes fluffy little puppies. He is a fabulous candidate for Astronauts Anonymous Scholarship.

This is Sally. 

She's really smiling. She must definitely go to an awesome school.

Sally is a very nice young woman who also wrote a lovely scholarship essay, travels around her state speaking about the dangers of drunk driving, and likes Chipotle and living green. She is also a wonderful candidate for the scholarship.

So who gets it?

Well, what if I told you when Joe sent off his application, he sent Mary an e-mail stating how much he enjoyed writing the essay about anonymous astronauts and how he wished her all the best in choosing a qualified candidate for her scholarship.

Joe will probably get the scholarship, if all else is equal. Not because he’s tremendously better than Sally, but because Mary has to make a decision on who to choose somehow. And why not choose the student who is most motivated, respectful, communicative, and passionate about the scholarship?

The moral of this little story? Don’t be shy, because people who don’t communicate don’t fund college through scholarships.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The mountain is calling...

I have spoken a lot about the freedom funding college through scholarships gives -- and now I'm living it! Being debt free, I'm off on my own adventure for the summer -- I will be gone from now through late August in Israel and Europe. I don't want to abandon you, though, and so have still written a bunch of blog posts and scheduled them to go out once a week. Don't forget to keep looking for scholarships!

Have a wonderful summer!

Image by Leah Flores (

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Role Playing: Give a Scholarship to Get a Scholarship

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What are you doing when you apply for a scholarship?

“I’m getting money,” you answer.


You’re inspiring someone else to give you money—to fund your life and dreams.

One of the best ways to understand this is to do a bit of role playing. Imagine, for a moment, you’re going to host a scholarship. Actually, you’ve probably done something similar—have you ever hosted any sort of contest? Judged a class? It’s not that different.

After a lot of discussion with your peers in your music business, you’ve determined you want to help other students who, like when you were in college, wanted to study music, were very talented, but didn’t have the finances to do so.

If you're funding someone's college education, chances are, the top student has a better shot at your scholarship.

So you read every essay very carefully. You specifically chose the prompt, “How has music changed your life?” so you could really see the role music played in the applicants’ mental, emotional, and spiritual lives. Some of the applicants clearly weren’t passionate, naming things like, “it was a fun extracurricular,” or “I made money teaching piano.”

However, as you’re flipping through the essays on your kitchen table at midnight, another essay stands out. Even though this girl’s grades aren’t that great, she clearly loves music with all her heart. Not only has she volunteered at the community center (“Wonderful,” you think, “she likes music enough to not even get paid for it!”) but she is doing everything in her power to be a music teacher in the inner city of Los Angeles. From the list of jobs she’s had, you can see she’s trying hard, but ends just aren’t meeting. Clearly she’s dedicated to her goal: she just needs a little financial help.

There you go. She’s the one.

You see how this works? Your application isn’t just going out to a machine. It’s being read by people who care about you and your future. And speaking to them—that’s how you fund college through scholarships.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fighting Aliens with Your Scholarship Essay Opener

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Imagine you’re a scholarship provider for a moment. You have a stack of 106 essays in front of you, you’ve gone through 48, and it’s 11 p.m. You pick one up:

I want this scholarship because…


My name is Sally Jones and…

Yeah, whatever.

If I get this scholarship, I will…


Fighting aliens with lightsabers changed me into Jason Bourne.


Never underestimate the power of a wild, fascinating scholarship essay opener. Make it you. Use a story, movie reference, bizarre quote, radical statement. Be professional, but be risky—playing it safe does not get you scholarships.

Go on. Fight some aliens.

So say something radical. The boring things have all been said too many times, anyway. Besides, if you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space. (And you won’t fund college through scholarships.)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Top 10 Most Bizarre College Scholarships

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You think there are no scholarships out there for you.


Be prepared to have your mind blown. Here are the top 10 weirdest scholarships I’ve found, and they’re proof there are scholarships out there for even the most out-of-the-box person ever.

And neither do the following scholarships...

1.     Tall people

Are you a girl and above 5’10”? A guy taller than 6’3”? There you go.

2.     Short people

Don’t feel left out if you’re not tall, because if there's a scholarship for you, too.

3.     Left handers

You can finally get some payback (literally) for always getting pencil smudged on your hand when you write. And considering only about 10% of the world’s population is left handed, you have a pretty good chance at this scholarship, provided you attend Juanita College.

4.     Vacuum coaters

If you like to vacuum coat, this is your chance. If you’re like me and have not the faintest idea what vacuum coating is (fashion design for vacuum cleaners?), then maybe skip this one.

Stop complaining you have no specific skills. You have the specific skill of common knowledge. Get money with it.

6.     Klingon speakers

No kidding. See it to believe it. romuluSngan Hol yIjatlh. He'So' QIchlIj.

This just keeps getting better and better.

I think I’d rather be a part of Starfleet.

9.     Bagpipe majors

Considering only Carnegie Mellon University offers a major in bagpipes, if you qualify for this, you really qualify.

You never knew annoying your mom with your quacking could come in handy, huh?

There are a lot more weird scholarships out there, too, so get out there, find a couple, and start funding college through them!