Welcome to La Vie En Lavender! If you’re reading this post, you’re probably wondering how you can earn some extra money to afford a good college. The college decision making process is difficult enough without worrying about where your tuition money is going to come from, and chances are your top choices are also the most expensive ones. Mine certainly was. Luckily, by following the same steps and strategies that I did, you’ll be able to maximize your possibilities for scholarships!

First of all, let’s break down where my money is coming from:

  • $18,000 – President’s Scholarship
  • $10,000 – S-Stem Scholarship
  • $4,000 – Science Honors Scholarship

As you can see, the largest chunk of money comes from the President’s Scholarship. This is a merit based scholarship, which means it’s awarded based on GPA and test scores. My most important tip for seeking scholarships is to look at merit based scholarships first. The vast majority of schools will have a group of merit based scholarships that award a set amount of money to each of 3+ brackets of GPAs and test scores. By knowing what scores will get you what amounts of money, you can set your goals accordingly and work towards them throughout high school. At the time I that I submitted my college application, I was only eligible for the Trustee’s Scholarship, which was $14,000. This was because, while GPA was high enough to be in the top bracket, my SAT score was 120 points too low. Luckily I knew that (1) the college would superscore if I got higher scores in different categories at different times, (2) I could retake the test as many times as I needed until the first semester began, and (3) Khan Academy had free online practice SATs that I could use to get my score up. By March I had a 760 reading/writing score from one test and a 710 math score from another test, surpassing my goal after four attempts.

The second largest scholarship is called the S-Stem Scholarship. This is a scholarship my college offered to 10 students in the STEM field who agreed to add a computational science minor to their major and who fell into the category of high financial need. I didn’t expect to receive this scholarship because I didn’t fall into this category. While I had some unmet financial need, I did not meet the college’s standards to be eligible for the scholarship. However, I applied anyway, because it wouldn’t take too much time for me to write a kick-butt essay on the given topic, and, who knows, maybe no one else would apply. Well, I’m guessing they didn’t have too many applicants, because I somehow ended up getting the scholarship! This is why I highly recommend applying to scholarships you don’t think you would qualify for as long as you think you can do an extraordinary job on the application. You never know what might happen.

Finally, let’s look at the Science Honors Scholarship. This one was quite the ordeal. First, science majors with high GPAs and test scores were invited to apply for a chance to attend an event called Science Honors Weekend. A board would then select about 35 applicants and pay for their travel and lodging for the event. The weekend consisted of learning all about the science program at the college, concluding with interviews for a $4,000 scholarship. Now, it was a miracle that I was even chosen to attend the weekend, but at that point I really felt like I had the potential to be one of the select few receiving this scholarship… Even though I wasn’t terribly experienced with being interviewed. Here are my tips for interview-based scholarships:

  1. Make yourself memorable by including personal information when answering questions – not like your deepest darkest secrets, but personal information like how you always played make-believe as a doctor as a kid, or how your favorite uncle went to the school and just adored it. Get the idea?
  2. Try to relate to the interviewer on some level. For example, one of my interviewers grew up in Texas like me and we were able to bond over that.
  3. Show off your potential. I made sure my interviewers knew that I aspired to get my PhD in the future.
  4. Ask thoughtful questions. This shows your interest and makes you seem more engaged in the conversation.

I left both of my interviews feeling really confident. About a month later I was notified that I was on the waiting list. I was pretty discouraged that I wasn’t one of their top choices, but that did mean I still had a chance. Finally, I was notified that a couple other people denied the scholarship, which meant I would get it after all! Competing for scholarships can be a tough process, but never get discouraged. With hard work, you will receive the scholarships that are right for you.

Finally, I just want to point out that all three of my scholarships are through the school I’m going to. There are countless outside scholarships out there, and even services to help lead you to them, but those never really worked for me. They’re definitely something to consider, but I firmly believe that your school will be the best potential source of scholarships.

I hope this makes things a little easier in your college journey! You can find more posts about college in the “school” category at the top of my blog.