As a senior in high school, I thought my mom was delusional when she told me to apply for scholarships.
“Don’t you know I lack a 4.0 GPA?” I would ask her. “Aren’t you aware that these are my final months of being able to toilet paper someone’s house without being sent off to jail? I have to live it up!”
Now with student loans I can’t even afford toilet paper. OK, that’s an exaggeration. But the point is students give lots of weak reasons for not applying for scholarships. Let’s look at just three of them and why they shouldn’t stop you from claiming yours.
“I’ll never win one, so what’s the point?”
This was one of my top excuses. Why apply for scholarships if you’re not at the top of your graduating class? Well, because you might still win one without perfect grades.
In fact, according to the 2011 Washington Post article “Secrets to winning a college scholarship,” most high school seniors qualify for 50-100 scholarships. Sure, good grades help, but they’re not everything when it comes to scoring free money.
Not all scholarships are merit-based either. Some are need-based, major-based, talent-based, luck-based (having the right last name) and location-based. The list goes on. There are many great websites and resources out there to help you find these scholarships, such as Scholarships.com. You just have to seek them out.
“That is what Scholarships.com is designed to do: to help students find the scholarships they don’t think they can get,” said Kevin Ladd, vice president of Scholarships.com.
“I don’t have time.”
With school work, a part-time job and a Netflix account, applying for scholarships might seem like a burden or flat-out impossible. But when you realize the time you spend applying vs. the amount you can earn, it actually makes sense.
“It’s true that it is work, but even if you are only moderately successful at it, it can pay better than any job you will be able to get,” Ladd said. “It is a competitive pursuit, and those working the hardest are going to be the most successful.”
Doing the math also puts applying for scholarships into perspective, said Janet Turner, director of financial aid at the University of Portland.
“If a $200 scholarship application takes two hours to complete, and you actually win that scholarship, then that is equivalent to $100 per hour of your time,” she said. “That’s a pretty good return.”
Rationalized like that, it sounds worth it to make the time, right? I just wish my former 18-year-old self would have realized that and turned off the TV to apply for scholarships. Because now a couple hundred dollars a month of my hard-earned dough goes to my student-loan repayments, which is money I could be spending to travel or enjoy my young adult life. I suggest you avoid following in my footsteps and apply for as many scholarships as possible.
“I’m not a good writer.”
Some students fear that they lack writing skills. How do you write a sufficient scholarship essay if you think you can’t write well?
The first thing to keep in mind is not all scholarships have an essay element. You can find this out by merely Googling “scholarships with no essays.” There are entire websites dedicated to listing scholarships that don’t require an essay, such as the blog No Essay Scholarships 2012.
One fun example of a no-essay scholarship is the Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest. To win this scholarship, you and your prom date have to accessorize your prom outfits with duct tape and submit the photos. The couple with the best costumes win $5,000 each. There are dozens of weird, non-academic scholarships like this.
But non-writing scholarships aside, if you don’t have much faith in your writing abilities, then find a tutor to help you. Ask a teacher, friend or parent to read your essay and give you feedback before submitting it. With so many resources available, you shouldn’t try to avoid scholarships that require writing. If you’re a good thinker, you can also be a good writer with a little help.
When it comes to scholarships, there are billions of dollars available, according to that same Washington Post article. Don’t let insecurity, time and a lack of writing skills stop you from winning some of that free money.
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