And the Award Goes to… Students that APPLY for scholarships!

By Theresa W. White

Its awards season in Hollywood, from the Golden Globes, Grammys, Emmys, and Oscars, it seems that now is the time to celebrate the achievements of actors, directors, screenwriters and musicians. Now is also the time that both parents and students start thinking of acceptance letters, FAFSA, and scholarships!

For students, the scholarship search is like the Oscars. It’s a chance for students to share their accomplishments and “body of work” with various associations, organizations, corporations as well as the colleges and universities themselves. This is the time for students to not be afraid to brag about their accomplishments! There are scholarships for writing, athletics, academics, special needs and learning disabilities, volunteering, ethnicity, art, and the list goes on and on!

As a student, you’re probably wondering when and more importantly, where do I start my scholarship search? As with most accomplishments in life, you need to first form a plan. Make a list of steps you’ve taken to reach your goals throughout your life. Be sure to include: classes you’ve taken, extracurricular activities, jobs, volunteer efforts, books you’ve read, portfolios of art or written work that you are proud of, videos of your athletics, organizations and professional groups that you are a part of, and major or job interests. Ask for letters of recommendation from people that have gotten to know you over the years. Your interests and passion can also be topics for the numerous essays that you will write for both the college application process and for the various scholarship boards and sponsors. There are no rules that state you can’t recycle your essays.

Once your plan is made, begin your search at your high school website or counselor, parents’/grandparent’s employer, local businesses, associations, church or religious organizations, service organizations, admissions office at colleges or universities of interest, and professional organizations. Students can also search online and using social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and most recently LinkedIn.

For instance, if your student has aspirations of joining the directors, actors, actresses, and screenwriters in Hollywood, look no further than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at www.oscars.org. The future filmmakers and writers can apply for the Student Academy Awards or the Don and Gee Nicholl Fellowships in screenwriting. Let’s not forget television at www.emmys.org, students who produce original films or videos can apply for the College Television Awards.

Not interested in the limelight? Is community service your passion? Visit various websites such as www.kohlscorporation.com or www.hitachifoundation.org. The Kohl’s Kids Who Care Program each store selects a winner based on the student’s commitment to volunteerism. The Hitachi Yoshiyama Award requires a nomination from a community leader, teacher, or principal or member of clergy and give recognition to exemplary service and community involvement. Did you know that there’s a scholarship for Angus Beef? Visit www.angus.org, but you have to be interested in raising Angus not just eating Angus Beef!

If you feel lucky, there’s free money based on contests. The SuperCollege Scholarship (www.supercollege.com) awards a $1,500 scholarship through a random drawing, all students have to do is register to win. CollegeAnswer (www.collegeanswer.com) awards $1,000 scholarship monthly to one lucky registered user. Registration is free and the website also give you tools and resources like a free scholarship search!

Remember any successful scholarship search should include ALL scholarships that you may qualify for, even if the award is small! Students also need to make sure they pay attention to deadline and keep applying for scholarships even if you’ve started college. When asking for letters of recommendation, be sure to include your resume so that the person writing the letter is reminded of your strengths. Be mindful of the time and effort it takes to write a letter of recommendation, so please be sure to also THANK them for writing a letter on your behalf.   A good old-fashioned “Thank You” note will go a long way.

When writing your essays, be sure to use your OWN voice and be sure to stay within the word limit. Don’t forgot to use proper grammar, spelling and organization. This will help you once you get to the interview process.

For the interview process, you need to PREPARE, PRACTICE, and RELAX. Prepare by learning about the scholarship sponsor and their mission. Practice by reviewing potential questions and answers. Have a friend, parent or mentor practice the interview with you. Then you can finally, RELAX. The more comfortable and conversational you are, the more likely the interviewer or panel will connect with you.

So, be patient and prepared and your time and effort will be rewarded with other people’s money paying for your higher education! Good luck in your search and to quote the most influential movie of all time (in my humble opinion), “MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!”

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