So, You Didn’t Get a Scholarship… Go To College Anyway!

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Round about now you might be receiving some bad news about some of those scholarships you applied for this year. But just because you didn’t win the first few scholarships that you applied for doesn’t mean you should automatically hurl yourself into the ocean of blue-collar employment. You’re still perfectly eligible to compete for award money, and some of the activities that you are doing to pay for your college education in the meantime may even give you a new edge over the competition.

I remember one particularly nerve-wracking scholarship competition that later helped me to believe in the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Because my mother belonged to this specific teachers’ union, I qualified to apply for a scholarship offered by the Classroom Teachers Association. I was so excited when I got called in for an interview after submitting my application, because I figured this was easy money. I’d hit them with a smile, then I’d answer the typical questions about college, life goals, and my community service work—considering my life-long experience in manipulating a very smart teacher (my mom), I convinced myself that I could win this scholarship without so much as breaking a sweat!

As soon as I walked into the waiting room, I was handed a piece of paper and instructed to pick two questions from it that I wanted to answer. My interviewer would also pick two questions. At first glance, I thought maybe the sheet had been written in a foreign language! The list of questions included things like “What are your views on the inclusion policy?” and “Would you describe your political beliefs as conservative or liberal, and why?” The difficulty of the topics had me all dazed and confused! What the heck was I going to do? I decided to make a mad dash to my only refuge, good ol’ Mom.

Although I was probably breaking about a bazillion rules, I excused myself to the bathroom and called Mom on my cell phone. As I stood whispering the list of questions to my mother, I felt almost certain that she would be able to help me ace this interview and sound super intelligent, but even a seasoned educator with a Ph.D. could not answer such tough questions off the top of her head. I left the bathroom stumped. Was that really my only chance at a Who Wants to be a Millionaire? lifeline?

I returned to the room, sweating bullets as I waited for them to call my name. My knees were knocking as I sat down in front of the two judges, but I sucked it up and went through my usual elevator pitch with a big smile on my face. I spoke enthusiastically about my community service, my life, and my goals, but none of that mattered when it came time to answer their difficult questions. I did the best I could, but my stammered, uninformed answers were far from good enough win that scholarship.

The next year, as a freshman at Lynn University, I gave the Classroom Teachers Association scholarship a second try. This time, I studied up on the topics in advance (yup, they asked the very same questions), and I aced the interview like a superstar! I walked away with 500 bucks to buy my textbooks for the next semester.

Remember that not all scholarships are limited to only current high school students. Never stop looking for the next opportunity to win college money, and never give up on your future!

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