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How to Earn College Scholarships – All Over the Road



How to Earn College Scholarships

When I was a high school counselor, it was common for parents of seniors to come to my office and ask how their kid could find scholarships for college. Almost always, the question came too late. They often said they’d read that millions of dollars worth of scholarships are out there unused because people don’t apply for them. Not true. There is a lot of scholarship money out there and sometimes it’s not used. But, that’s not for a lack of applicants. It’s because of a lack of qualified applicants.

The two primary types of scholarships are athletic and academic. In both cases, scholarships are awarded to students with truly outstanding credentials, and students can’t start working on those during their senior year in high school. It starts a long time before that.

Athletic scholarships, especially at the Division I level, are extremely difficult to obtain. During my thirty years as a counselor in one school system, we had two students earn Division I scholarships. We had a bunch who signed scholarships to other levels, but most of that financial aid was a combination of grants and small bits of aid. Very few were full ride scholarships.

Also, know this: Division I football programs send, literally, thousands of letters to student athletes expressing interest. At most, they’ll be offering twenty scholarships. Over the years, I’ve sat with a whole lot of parents whose children received those letters, so they assumed their college was paid for. When no offer came, they often blamed coaches and teachers. Coaches and teachers had zero to do with the lack of offers. It’s all about the extremely tough competition and those thousands of letters that create false hope.

Academic scholarships are a different story. In almost all cases, athletic excellence depends on inborn skill as a base. Any student with at least average intelligence can earn an academic scholarship if they focus on two things early in their school life: make great (not good) grades and get involved in extracurricular activities, especially leadership.

Making great grades begins from the first day in kindergarten, but for scholarship purposes, students can begin excelling in the ninth grade.

Parents, do you ask your kids if they have homework when they arrive home after school?

That’s the wrong question.

Instead, you should ask, “How are you going to spend your study time tonight?” High school students who excel and earn scholarships spend some time every night doing academic work whether specific homework assignments have been assigned or not. I suggest a planned hour a night. They review that day’s biology class notes. They read the chapter in U.S. History before it’s discussed in class. Their deadline for term papers are weeks before the teacher’s, so they start working on them immediately after learning of the assignment. They spend the time between their deadline and the teachers’ deadline, making the paper perfect. Do that, and 4.0 averages, and scholarships, will come.

Grades are not enough. Scholarship committees are confronted with hundreds, if not thousands, of applications from students with 4.0 averages in challenging AP and IB classes. How do they decide who gets the money? They look at extracurricular activities, especially those including leadership roles. Students don’t have to be president of their class. A list of leadership positions such as chairperson of the banquet clean up committee works just as well.

Students can’t start making great grades and be leaders in extracurricular activities beginning their senior year and expect to earn scholarships. Their record begins the first day a student enters high school. And, to be successful the first day, students need to have been working hard since kindergarten.

If students have great grades and strong extracurricular backgrounds, then the rumor is true. There is truly a whole lot of money out there for the taking.

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