As most high school students can attest, finding and applying for scholarships can feel like a job. You can spend hours preparing applications and writing essays, all in the hopes of winning some free money for college. After a while, it can start to wear on you, especially when your friends are out having fun and you’re stuck behind a computer screen. Well, guess what? There’s no reason why you have to be alone while working on scholarships. In fact, it’s a lot more fun when you have some company. To make the process more enjoyable, I’ve put together a few suggestions on how you can increase your chances of finding more awards, which should increase your chances of winning, and have a great time, too.
1. Start a Scholarship Club
Colleges love to see students branch out and take initiative. One way to do that is to start your own campus club. First, check with your guidance counselor, as he/she may be willing to act as an adviser and will probably be grateful for the help. Next, recruit a few more friends to act as officers, put together the club’s bylaws, and determine how often you should meet (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly). After you have a plan of action in place and have set your first club meeting date, post fliers around campus inviting students to join. For each meeting, it may be a good idea to focus on a specific type of scholarship, such as merit-based or creative writing contests, as this will make it easier for you get others involved with the search process, too. Be sure to document your steps and track your success (how many applications submitted by members, how many winners, amount won, etc.), as this will come in handy when you need to brag about yourself on college applications.
2. Host a Scholarship Scavenger Hunt
If creating a campus club seems like too much work, another way to get others involved is to host a scholarship scavenger hunt. You can find forms online that can be easily converted to suit your needs or use this scholarship scavenger hunt PDF I created for my daughter. I suggest having no more than 10 questions, as you want it to be fun and not seem like work. Go big and host it at school, or use it as an ice breaker for an academic club meeting. You could even partner with local businesses to offer prizes for your game, such as ‘first to finish’ or ‘most unique scholarship.’ Just be creative and have fun!
3. Sponsor a Scholarship Marathon
A great way to find new awards and get everyone involved is to sponsor a scholarship marathon at your school, club or church. First, you’ll need to find a location that has wireless Internet access, so students can access online applications and other materials they may need during the event. Next, choose a date and time for the event; weekend afternoons or evenings usually work well, but you could also host a morning marathon. You’ll want to have a variety of mini-activities throughout the event to keep everyone alert and motivated. For example, each time someone submits an application, ring a scholarship bell or place a token in his or her piggy bank. At the top of each hour, do the ‘scholar’ shake (aka Harlem Shake) to give everyone a break from working. It’s also a great idea to encourage participants to seek sponsors, such as parents and other family members, to pledge money for each scholarship they submit during the event. That way, students still walk away with something for their efforts, even if they don’t win a scholarship.
4. Get Social
Want to try the scholarship marathon, but on a smaller scale? Consider hosting a Google hangout or using Skype to spend a few dedicated hours searching and applying for scholarships together with your friends. If you want to tackle applications in smaller doses, but still want to encourage others to share opportunities, consider creating a scholarship Facebook page just for your school or club. Make it open so anyone can join and post opportunities to the page. Just be sure to update it weekly and share success stories.
5. Start a Scholarship Chain
Remember those annoying chain letters that used to come in the mail and now flood your email? Well, this is similar to that premise. Start by sending one scholarship listing to five friends. When they receive the email, they’ll be instructed to forward it to five more friends, but also send you a scholarship in return, which you can then send to five new people. If nobody breaks the chain, you could have new scholarships in your inbox on a regular basis.
The old saying, ‘The more the merrier’ definitely applies to scholarship hunting. You can’t possibly find every scholarship on your own, so why not join forces with your fellow students and do it together? You can bounce ideas off each other, help edit each other’s essays, and keep each other motivated. Don’t forget to share all those scholarships with others, too. Create a monthly flier and ask your guidance counselor to post it on the college bulletin board at school or have him/her send it out in an email as an attachment. Even if you don’t win a scholarship, your efforts may help others and will look spectacular on a college application.
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