Now that spring break has come and gone, I have a little more time to sit down and get back to business. Let me start my giving you an update on what I've been doing in the past few months.
I am a senior in high school, which means thinking about my future. And man they weren't kidding when they said it was a lot to think about. I've been spending the last few months applying to colleges (I live in Hawaii and want to go to the mainland to study) and scholarships. In fact, today I am anxiously waiting to hear back from my "reach" school--USC. Currently I have acceptances to University of Washington, Santa Clara, Boston College, and Boston U. I'm also waiting to hear back from a few local and national scholarships. The costs of a year at these colleges is anywhere from $46k-60k, so yeah, I'm more anxious about getting some scholarship wins.
As I went through this process, I did a lot of research and got better and better with every application. I thought I'd share some pointers that might help future students with this arduous challenge.
Get a head-start:
Many of the really great scholarships that I came across are actually for Juniors or even Sophomores. What?! If I had known that scholarships were available for all grades of high-school I would have applied a long time ago. For all you younger students out there, take advantage of the head-start. It will save you stress in the future because you'll figure out how the application process goes (they're all basically similar).
There are thousands of scholarships:
There really are scholarships for everything and anything. The tedious part is finding them and making sure you're a right fit for it. Check out websites that I've found helpful like Zinch, or Fastweb. These websites connect and match you to scholarships specifically tailored to you.
PS. Don't ever pay for a scholarship finding service.
You should even triple check your application before submitting it. About 60% of students make a mistake in their app and still submit it. Making sure you have a flawless application instantly puts you ahead of 60% of your competition. Peer editing is a good way to avoid errors. Also many of your apps are dependent on your school (transcripts) and others (letters of recommendation) so double check that those things are on time and done correctly. It's up to you.
[I learned to double check the HARD way. I got into Santa Clara University with an early application, but they emailed me later. Apparently I got my own birthdate wrong! I put 1998 instead of 1995 and for a few days I worried the only reason they let me in was because they thought I was graduating high school at 14. All fixed, but it was a headache.]
Make a checklist:
Creating a checklist for each scholarship has saved me so much time and confusion. Its crucial to organize all your applications and make sure you have exactly what you need. If you forget something, you could get DQ'd. Trust me it happens, I got disqualified for including an unofficial transcript instead of an official one. And on that note, YOU need to check and do so early. They won't notify you a lot of times if you're missing something or disqualified, so contact them. If you do so with time left, you can sometimes amend your application and still be considered.
Get materials ready in advance:
It took me a few close calls to see the importance of this one. I still struggle with time management and am infamous for turning things in minutes before deadline. Planning ahead will help you get things done before the deadline. When a deadline nears for an online app, students from around the world will try and submit their work all at the same time, often crashing the website. It's the worst feeling ever, finishing an application and not being able to turn it in. Just be smart, don't do that. Also, remember that you should ask well in advance for letters of recommendations. Teachers and advisors are swamped at this time and a good letter requires time. Do everything possible to make it easier on them. They're really doing you a favor.
While I know all these tips could seem like simple common sense, for many students they aren't very easy to do. And it's usually the simple things that we overlook when we're trying to find an edge. By following these steps you will have a much greater chance of translating all that hard work into actual success.
For all you seniors out there, keep working. Graduation is nearly here.
Here are a couple of good scholarships with deadlines coming up. If you have some good ones to share, hit me up and I'll include them. Good luck!
Doodle for Google
Viral Video Scholarship Contest
Emerging Scholars Award