Expert Advice on Finding & Applying for Scholarships
The money is out there. You just have to go after it.
You don’t necessarily need to have the highest GPA, or be in every organization at your school to be awarded a scholarship--but you do have to be willing to look for, and find the money.
How do you do that?
We asked Megan Griner, College and Career Counselor at Durant High School in Plant City. She says there are several steps every high school student can take to increase their chances of getting a scholarship:
- Be present in your guidance office. Make sure your school counselor knows your name.
Griner says hundreds of scholarships pass across her desk. Many of them she puts up on Durant’s Edsby account especially for scholarships. (Check with your school. Many high schools will have a social media account especially for scholarships.) However, if she sees one that’s more specific, and she knows of a student who fits in that category, she will make sure to seek that student out. Additionally, many local companies will offer scholarships JUST for a specific school. These are valuable opportunities that your school counselor will know about first.
- Write your essay early and make it great.
Most scholarships ask applicants to write an essay describing themselves, what makes them special, or a challenge they’ve overcome. Griner says write an amazing essay the summer between your junior or senior year, or the first few weeks of your senior year. Then, ask your English teacher to proofread it and help you make it dynamic. That way, the hardest part of the scholarship application process is over and that will entice you to apply for more.
- Make solid relationships with teachers as early as possible.
Most scholarships ask for teacher recommendations. It’s important to have solid relationships with a few teachers who know you and know what kind of student and person you are. This is something you can start working on your 9th grade year. Ask your teachers EARLY to write these recommendations. A letter of recommendation is MUCH better if the teacher has more than a day to write it.
- Community Service is important.
Community service makes you stand out. So, if you don’t have the extremely high GPA or the perfect SAT score, being involved and giving back to your community can be that “something special” that helps give you the edge. There are also some scholarships based ONLY on community service.
- If you struggle your freshman and sophomore year, you can still redeem yourself and get scholarship.
If you didn’t get great grades during your first couple years of high school, or had some behavior issues you can still get some really great scholarships ESPECIALLY if you’ve turned things around. In fact, according to Griner, that can often provide some really great life experience for college admissions essays.
Obviously, the summer before junior and senior year, and the first couple months of senior year are the most CRUCIAL points in the scholarship process. Griner says in November and December, the number of scholarships really explodes and that is the key time for seniors to be applying for this money. She stresses the importance of applying for as many as you can. “Think of it like a marathon,” she says. “If you apply to 30, you may only get 5. But if you only apply for 5, you may not get any.”
Lastly, there are two websites that every high school student should check out.
- Raise.me—This website helps students earn money for good grades. Students can begin as early as 9th grade.
- Floridashines.org—This website helps students measure their progress toward earning a high school diploma.
Again, do not wait until the last minute to find scholarships, write that essay or make solid connections with teachers. That will make the process go much more smoothly and help ensure you earn some solid scholarship money toward college!
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