Free College Education Through Scholarships
The first day of my freshman year of high school, my mom sat me down. She lovingly said, “You have four years to figure out what to do with your life, because you’re on your own financially after graduation.” Our family had lost my father to brain cancer several years earlier, causing us to slip below the poverty line. I knew finances were tight, but I had no clue what that would mean for me after high school.
My mom’s statement that day was hard to swallow, but it turns out she did me a huge favor. By alerting me to what I’d be up against and giving me plenty of time to prepare, she motivated me to set my sights on winning scholarships to get a full ride for college. I spent hours in the library researching how the college scholarship process works. I’d look up what it takes to stand out, and which scholarships were the best fits for me. I then applied the information I learned, working hard at the activities and experiences that would let me stand out from other college applicants.
It wasn’t easy. But the great news is, I was having a blast. Every day that I was investing in myself and building up my application credentials, I was also doing things I loved. I was doing cross-country, track, coaching gymnastics, various clubs and lots of volunteer work. Scholarship programs reward commitment and achievement, but I was doing what I love, so dedication and success came naturally.
When the time came to apply for college scholarships, my mom was right by my side, supporting me through each late-night hour in the library, encouraging me when I wanted to give up, and making a potentially boring process feel like our own little party. What my mom couldn’t give me financially, she made up for in love and support.
Over and over again, I’ve heard college graduates who are drowning in student loan debt say, “I wish someone had told me there was another way to pay for school!” I will forever be so grateful for her honesty and for her unfailing support. I truly couldn’t have done it without her.
Does the world of scholarships still look the same today as when I was applying?
Organizations long to invest in students who demonstrate promise and the potential to make an impact in the world. This is the cornerstone of scholarship success. The building blocks vary from student to student and program to program; however, the foundation for standing out to scholarship committees will always remain the same.
The technology has certainly advanced since I was in high school. But it has also produced some great changes, including more simplified applications, easier scholarship searches, and vast amounts of online tools to help. Many of the sponsoring organizations themselves have gone to great lengths to simplify the college scholarship application process for students and parents alike, creating a win for everyone.
There will always be hours and effort required—good things rarely happen without preparation and passion. Still, students today have an unprecedented opportunity to receive big payoffs for the time they invest in applying for college scholarships. From someone who has lived it, this is time well spent. Because ultimately, it can make your dreams come true.