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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Roadmap to Getting Scholarships

Some of you think about this topic all the time! A lot of you stress about it. I was fortunate to have received an undergraduate and graduate education fully covered by scholarships. I think that it is very possible for others to do so as well if you are really motivated and have the time to dedicate to finding fitting opportunities and applying properly. The truth of the matter is that the process can be long and discouraging.  Some of you may end up getting loans to go to school like many people do and that is fine too. It is just something you should understand and prepare yourself for as much as possible while still being able to enjoy high school. Last year, I did a meeting about scholarships and college prep and got an email from a nineth grader asking me how she can get started. Here was my response to her and I think this could be helpful to other nineth graders. For those of you further ahead in your studies, I will post the tips sheet I created last year about resumes, interviews, tracking your applications, scholarship searching, etc.

Part 1
There are quite a few ways to get started and the approach I would recommend is called Starting with the End in Mind (kudos to author, Steve Covey). That basically means that you are going to design your remaining three years of high school based on a desired result (getting scholarships to go to college). As a nineth grader, you still have a while to go before you can apply to many scholarships, but it will make Junior year a lot easier if you already did a few things now.

1) Start considering a few fields of interest for the future. It doesn't have to be a specific position or career track, but just imagine yourself in fields that may work for you.

2) Identify a few potential colleges that someone interested in this field might attend. Don't forget to add Montgomery College or an in-state school to your potential schools because Maryland colleges tend to give Maryland residents more money to attend their schools.

Part 2
Once you have done these things you will have a basic idea of what kind of student these colleges are looking for, and what kind of college might get you to your future career. Ex. if you decide you want to be in the field of medicine, you may identify a school like Johns Hopkins University as your target. By looking through their website for "prospective students" you may find out they prefer students with GPAs above 3.6, have had some volunteer/internship in medicine, and taken honors/AP courses in chemistry and biology. Having this information, you can do the following:

1) Start volunteering at elderly nursing homes, adult care centers, hospitals, etc., join a science club, and gain some volunteer/internship or work experiences in that field maybe every summer to build your resume and for you to see if that's really where you want to go. A resume is basically just where you are going to start keeping track of all of the things that you do that show you are a great student. You'll want to have a section for:
a) Academic achievements- keep track of semesters where you get high GPAs, honor roll, or straight A's. Also keep track if you submit a paper for any competitions or anything like that.
b)Extracurricular activities- keep track of every single group you are a member of and if you hold any kind of leadership/officer position for any of them. You will want to be in at least one school club while you are in high school. Not only will this make school a little more fun for you while learning more about others, but it will also give you a chance to show your social skills and leadership capabilities.
c)Volunteer/internship- every time you do an SSL activity keep track of it. Especially if its doing something that is close to your field. I would ask your career center coordinator and counselor for any opportunities to work in something close to what you are interested in. Also, if you have time, do community service even if it isn't in your field because it's important to give back, and it shows you are involved in your community and can balance school with life.

2) You will know what kind of grades you need to get in your classes so that you can get in to whatever school you really want and will stay focused on that goal.

3) You can look for scholarships for people with your profile that want to work in that field. For example, there may be scholarships for women to study medicine, for black people to study medicine, for people from low-income families to study medicine, for people that live in Maryland to study medicine, etc. Google can give you a starting place by typing things like "Scholarships for medicine or health". Fastweb.com is also a good start. Look at the applications and familiarize yourself with what they ask for so you'll be ready when you apply junior year. You can look for scholarships from major companies like Coca Cola and Pepsi, large government agencies, nonprofit foundations, churches, etc. in any section of their website where they talk about Giving to the Community.

4) Start locally. Look at what clubs, churches you go to, places your parents/family members work and check out if those places give scholarships. Even McDonald's gives scholarships so you'd be surprised.

Feel free to email me if you have more questions. Now go and forge your path to success!


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