Read the skinny on the ins and outs of applying for college scholarships in my article that was published on 126+ media sites.
College Scholarships: High School Students Should Apply Early and Often, Says Career Coach and Award-Winning Author Tamara Raymond
NEWPORT NEWS, Va., Oct. 1, 2019—Whether you are at the top of your high school class or have barely “hung in there” academically due to personal circumstances, there is a college scholarship out there for you. That’s the word from Tamara S. Raymond, a certified career coach and the award-winning author of Careering: The Pocket Guide to Exploring Your Future Career.
“If you are an A student with a zillion extracurricular activities or a C-minus student with only after-school jobs and a desire to change your life through higher education, research scholarships and apply early and often,” advises Raymond. “Yes, there are college scholarships without GPA requirements just as there are scholarships that require outstanding grades.” She adds that it’s good to start looking for scholarships even before your senior year and notes that application due dates vary.
You can find thousands of scholarships online or can visit your school guidance office for scholarship information. She also advises that you look to your community, where local businesses, places of worship, and professional associations, among others, may offer awards.
“To apply for a scholarship, typically you’ll need letters of recommendation, high school transcripts, and to write an essay,” says Raymond. “And when scholarship applications specify a postmark or online-submission due date, take that seriously. If your application is sent even one day after the due date, it may never get opened. Due dates are serious business—as are all other application instructions and requirements.”
Raymond urges the need to heed essay word counts and other requirements too. “If the application states that an essay should not exceed 500 words, and yours does, or if it requires two letters of recommendation and you only send one, or if you flout any other requirements, your application will probably go straight to the rejection pile,” she says.
So, as you get ready for this scholarship-application season of your life, Raymond advises that you be in compliance and get the following ready:
- Several letters of recommendation from a combination of: a) at least two high school teachers, b) a sports coach, c) a mentor in an extracurricular program or a program outside of school, and d) a boss you have worked for in an after-school job. Make sure that the letters are generic (addressed “To Whom It May Concern”), and make multiple copies for print applications. For applications requiring non-generic letters, request that your letter writers keep a copy of your letter on their computer and readdress it accordingly.
- Multiple print copies of your up-to-date high school transcript. The scholarship committee may require an actual copy generated by the school—not a photocopy—so be sure to read the fine print.
- A personal essay about what you want to study and why. Make sure to note the word count the scholarship application requires for the essay and edit it, as appropriate, to meet the word-count requirement. Get help with the essay from an English teacher, guidance counselor, or other qualified adult who can assist you with putting your best foot forward, making your points and your case without typos.
- A budget for postage. Send print applications via tracked mail. Scholarship applications are serious business. You don’t want to put all that effort and energy into an application that never makes it to its intended destination. Tracking the application also serves as proof that it went out on or before the postmark due date.
- Interview practice. If your application makes the first cut, you may be called for an in-person or phone interview. You want to be prepared for this. Set up an appointment with your guidance counselor or other qualified adult to do a mock interview. The interview is where you can plead your case and be compelling and more than just the two-dimensional person in the essay or on the transcript. The interview may make the difference between getting the scholarship or not.
“There are many college scholarships for people from all walks of life with many interests and talents, great GPAs and poor GPAs, tons of extracurricular activities or few,” Raymond says. “Wherever you are on the spectrum, if you want to go to college and need financial help to do it—who doesn’t?—apply for scholarships early and often.”
Says Raymond, “You can’t win a scholarship if you don’t apply.”