Cents and Sensibility

How to Collect Thousands in Scholarship Money

Closeup of a graduate looking at cropped dean with female friend via Shutterstock

College students are passing up thousands of dollars in scholarship money every year. While most students tend to start looking for scholarships during their freshman year of high school, too many unfortunately wait until the last minute.

Let’s be clear: Scholarship dollars add up and it’s best to start your search as early as possible.

Throughout the years, organizations such as Chicago Scholars have worked with students who have won multiple awards by being organized, diligent and determined. According to Meseret Negash, senior vice president, external affairs at Chicago Scholars, following these simple tips can help you collect thousands of dollars in scholarships:

B- Be passionate about why you should be selected for the scholarship. Most scholarship applications ask “why should we select you as a scholarship recipient.” Utilize that opportunity to expose all of your great talents, gifts, and character traits.

E- Examine your life experiences (successes, challenges, academic, personal, etc.) to outline a compelling essay that is customized for each scholarship. Make sure to save all of your accomplishments throughout high school so you will not forget to mention them on your essay.

L- Leave a positive, lasting impression with the review committee. Remember, they are likely reviewing hundreds of essays. What topic/theme/angle will make yours stand out from the others?

I-Identify the list of scholarships that you plan to apply for; then, get organized by creating a spreadsheet with deadlines and qualifying criteria. Note: deadlines matter. So be sure to pad enough time to obtain additional items such as letters of recommendation, transcripts, etc.

E- Express your character, determination, and unique qualities with each essay submission. Where possible, this information should be reiterated in the application, during interviews and throughout recommendation letters.

V- Value and understand why the scholarship was established. Often scholarships are created to service a specific purpose. Your essay should express the linkage between why you would be an ideal candidate to fulfill the mission of the scholarship. Use examples of community involvement, extracurricular activities and academic curiosity.

E-Establish a support system that you can use as your team that keeps you accountable for preparing and proofreading essays, and helps you prepare during mock interviews.

Other great sources to help with your scholarship search include the National Association of College Admission Counseling, Cappex, and Fastweb.

About Dr. Karen Ratliff

Karen Ratliff
Credit: Dr. Karen Ratliff

Dr. Ratliff is a certified life coach and professional educator, assisting many people in accomplishing financial, career, and educational goals.  She is also the author of “Tightening Your Bootstraps: 104 Tips to Kick Your Debt to the Curb Now.” Keep up with her budgetary advice via Twitter @drkarenratliff and her website at