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Monday, May 28, 2012

Top 10 Problems From Funding College Through Scholarships

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Funding college through scholarships is great right up until it isn’t. Here are the top 10 problems you’ll have if you fund college through scholarships:
  1. You never go more than a few weeks without braving the depths of the tunnels and catacombs of your college to enter the financial aid office to drop off a check (fighting off all zombies and skeletons who were trapped down there a decade ago). 
  2. You thought you were done writing thank you notes after high school graduation? Ha. Haha. 
  3. You have so many bookmarked tabs from hours of Internet scholarship searching that you consider dedicating a separate browser entirely to scholarship searching. 
  4. People assume you’re on Facebook all those hours you’re spending on the Internet and get mad that you’re not accepting their little FarmVille requests. 
  5. You forget what spring breaks are. What? Break? What is this of which you speak? Haven’t I been applying for scholarships every break since elementary school? 
  6. When people ask your life goals, you freak them out by spouting off a 1,000-word dramatic and polished speech precisely what you’re doing, why, how, and end with a persuasive appeal as to why they should give you money to support you in that endeavor.
  7. Your financial aid counselor is ready to ban you from the school for how many times she’s had to change the amount of loans you get. You’re kind of afraid to make eye contact with her in the hall in case she thinks you’re about to make another appointment. 
  8. You no longer have a good reason to not go to grad school or get a double or triple major because you know you could stay in school for as long as you want. 
  9. You can rattle off the definitions of subsidized loan, unsubsidized loan, Stafford loan, expected family contribution, and tuition subsidies in your sleep even though you still can’t remember your own best friend’s phone number. This makes your best friend annoyed.
  10. You are spoiled forever for “real” jobs because they’re not giving you $1,000 per hour. 

Thankfully this one doesn't have to be true!
So, I’m sorry if funding college through scholarships causes issues for you. I hope you’ll manage. It’s worth it, after all.

Monday, May 21, 2012

6 Tips to Get Amazing Scholarship Reference Letters

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The right references can make or break your scholarship application.

Look at it from the point of view of the scholarship provider: they know you’re only using references who will give you a positive review. That teacher you hated in 10th grade math who gave you an F in that scary red pen? You’re obviously not asking him.

Even if your teacher gave you a D, not an F, you maybe should find a different reference.

So it comes as no surprise that all your references will tell your scholarship provider how great you are. That your references say how great you are is of zero help to your application: the key is to make your references paint such an amazing picture of you the scholarship providers would feel totally stupid not giving you the scholarship. How do you make sure your references write unbelievable referrals for you?

Start with these tips:
  1. Make sure they’re good writers. Do you like their writing?
  2. Consolidate. Tell the reference in advance if you need multiple letters so he or she can do all your letters at once.
  3. Give them your information. Provide each reference with an impressive list of your awards, honors, and activities, particularly as they relate to that scholarship, for the reference to include in his or her letter. 
  4. Give them scholarship information. Tell them what the scholarship is judging you on ( so they can customize the letter to exactly fit what the scholarship providers want. 
  5. Give them specifics. Is the letter supposed to be one page? Addressed to the scholarship providers? Give them all the information they need in a clear bullet-pointed or numbered list. 
  6. Give them time. Three weeks, minimum!
Finally, remember to thank your references profusely, tell them if you won the scholarship, and bring them chocolate and cookies at every possible opportunity. After all, they’re helping you fund college through scholarships.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Naming Your Scholarship Essays to Save Time Later

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This one little secret will make your mounds of scholarship applications a whole lot easier:


After four years spent funding college through scholarships, I had literally dozens—if not hundreds—of versions of scholarship essays clogging up my poor computer’s hard drive. They were in dozens of folders scattered between “Scholarships 2010” and “Scholarships 2011 summer” and “Scholarships Rejected” and “School and Career,” and finding the right one made me feel like I was eight years old again struggling through those interminable Where’s Waldo? books.

Really, Waldo, needed a life. Or maybe, I needed a life after spending hours looking for him...

You see, when you’re applying for dozens of scholarships, you’ll find a lot of overlap. Some common essays prompts would be:

  1. Using no more than 500 words, tell about your life goals. 
  2. Write 750 words on an experience that changed your life. 
  3. In 1,000 words, say why you’re the best candidate for this scholarship. 

Unless you enjoy broken records and writing like one, it will save you hours of time if you can just use the same essay repeatedly for different scholarships, merely tweaking it a little to fit the scholarship requirements.

For example, I might name my essay I’m working on, “500 word life goals scholarship essay for FFA, version 6.”

This way, in a month from now, when I need another 500-word life goals essay, or even a 1,000-word or 200-word life goals essay, I’ll have my template right there and ready to go.

This will streamline your application process, because after all, you should be funding college through scholarships—not letting scholarships consume you.