The Scholarship Search
Tip #1: Start Early
One of my regrets when applying to college was that I didn't dedicate enough time on accumulating scholarships and that I didn't apply early enough. The best of the best scholarships, such as the Horatio Alger Scholarship or Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship awards, are usually available to apply for within the beginning (fall-winter session) of your senior year. I started to apply during the spring of my senior year but I limited myself by applying late in the application season. Do not become caught up in college applications, school-related activities, jobs, internships, etc. without taking time to assess the multitude of scholarships that are within your close reach and are highly obtainable. Your future self will be thankful for this wise decision.
Tip # 2: Keep an Open Mind
Approach the scholarship process with an open mind. While several scholarships are solely intended to provide aid for those with significant financial need, that does not mean you are not capable of receiving any kind of financial aid for pertaining to a different category of interest. Scholarships are intended to accommodate to your various hobbies, talents, personal characteristics, or even biological traits (seriously, there are scholarships just for being left-handed.) Therefore, you should take the time to assess your own characteristics and figure out what type of qualities certain awards look for, whether that be merit, athletic, need-based, community service, legacy, women and/or women of color scholarships, in order to effectively approach the application process. Also, be sure to use outside resources (ie; mentors, educators, siblings, friends, etc.) for scholarship recommendations and assistance. For example, I always used to visit my college guidance counselor and practically lived in the college office while on the hunt for scholarships. Educators, such as college guidance counselors, will be a valuable source of assistance because they tend to be well-informed on the application process and can help you navigate the plethora of award opportunities.
Tip # 3: Don't be Easily Discouraged
The application process can definitely be stressful and quite overwhelming at times, especially if you are like me and kick-started your search for scholarships quite late in the season. To avoid this discouraging feeling, I recommend you apply for a wide range of scholarships and to vary your options. Do not rely heavily on obtaining one specific scholarship because it may be the most self-sufficient award, but rather apply for many self-sufficient awards in order to increase your possibilities. The application process is not a matter of ‘quality’ overpowering ‘quantity’, but rather the more you apply for, the better your chances will be in winning an award. A genuine and personal response to a scholarship prompt is the best way to connect with the readers and it will certainly make you appear as a more desirable candidate. I always sought out the scholarships with essay questions because I was given more of a layout to express my academic and prospective career ambitions. I knew those kind of prompts represented my character in the most authentic manner and I highly suggest you seek applications with this same kind of structure. Not to mention that speaking about my own interests and reflecting on my sense of self was very therapeutic in the midst of such a hectic academic season.
Applying for scholarships is not a once in a lifetime opportunity. In fact, it can be a constant process. Do not feel like your high school years are the only time you can apply and obtain successful awards. For example, at the moment I am researching several scholarships that are available for undergraduate students (One of them being the Shawn Carter Foundation Scholarship … Shout-out to Jay-Z). The possibilities are truly endless and the hunt for scholarships can and will follow you as you navigate higher education. Most importantly, do not limit your options, search with an open mind, and remain hopeful because there are fantastic opportunities readily available for you to acquire.