Practice Makes Perfecter*

In my last post, I suggested three areas you should be working on to prepare yourself for when the time comes to be sending off your college scholarship applications – even if you haven’t even set foot in your high school yet. And just in case you already think you’re on top of things, here’s a couple more to keep you busy!

4. Essays

Essay writing is a part of nearly every scholarship application, so it’s in your best interest to learn how to do it well. If you want to “just get by” with a passing grade in mathematics or art, be my guest, but chug an energy drink and walk into your English class prepared to pay attention and learn!

Chances are that you will be required to write many essays throughout your high school career. Embrace this opportunity and take to heart any corrections or criticism that your teachers provide. Feeling confident about your ability to compose an effective essay will take much of the trauma out of the most painful component of your scholarship application packet. If you plan correctly, you may not even need to write a fresh, new essay when the time comes to “wow” the scholarship judges. Read up on common essay topics and use those questions as subjects for your English assignments whenever possible. These essays will be thoroughly critiqued and evaluated, so you will know how to improve them for submission with your scholarship applications.

5. Careers

It really is good practice to consider what you want to do with your life as early as possible, but don’t worry that the decisions you make as a high school freshman will lock you into a single, non-negotiable career. Remember in kindergarten when you swore you wanted to be a ballerina or astronaut? I bet nobody held you to that promise! The same leniency applies later in life. You can always change educational paths, even if you’ve already begun studying a specific subject (with or without a scholarship).

When I was a freshman in high school, the thing I wanted most was to make a career for myself in television production. That was one dream that never became reality. It wasn’t that I failed in my mission; I just changed my mind during the course of my college education, and enrolled in a different program of study that I found more interesting and useful. Still, despite the end result, my passion and dedication for television production served me well as I applied for college scholarships. The judges like to see young people with achievable goals and strong commitment, so just pick a career and go with it. If the choice turns out to be the wrong one for you, switch gears later.

Once you’ve decided on a career to experiment with, look for ways to practice the skills you’ll need for that particular job through part-time work, community service, or internships. This will serve as an example of your dedication, and help you out considerably when applying for scholarships that are offered to students entering that specific course of study. Let’s say you’ve decided that you’d like to teach elementary school as a career. When you apply for scholarships open only to future educators, you want to be able to say more than just, “I want to be a teacher because I love children and I think it would be fun to be around them all day.” It will be far more impressive if you can list the actual EXPERIENCES that you’ve had working with kids, such as teaching swimming lessons during the summer, or volunteering your time to help underprivileged grade-schoolers with their homework. The scholarship committee will feel more confident about awarding you money if they have evidence of your success and happiness in the career field of your choice.

Okay, now you have a few new ideas for how to prepare yourself for entry into the scholarship game, unless it’s already too late for that (yes, seniors, I’m talking to you!). But whether you are an eager freshman/sophomore or a desperate junior/senior, I’m guessing that you’re getting anxious to hear about the good stuff. Keep checking back for more tips on how to hunt down those scholarships that will help you to achieve your dreams!

*Perfecter isn’t a word

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