The other day, we came across a blog post where the author actually encouraged students not to apply for scholarships. Why? She claimed scholarships are a waste of time based on the low percentage of students who actually receive scholarships for college. One thing she neglected to consider was that maybe more students would actually receive scholarships if they would just take the time to apply. Far too many students overlook private scholarships, believing they are either unqualified, the competition is too high, or it takes too much work to win one. It’s a shame that so many students are missing out on the scholarship application experience. Even if they don't win the scholarships, there are certainly skills and lessons to be learned along the way. Don’t believe me? Here are five reasons why we think scholarships are not a waste of time.
1. Beats Working in Fast Food
Would you rather work your tail off for minimum wage, or stay at home and get paid? We know what our answer would be, but let’s crunch some numbers to see which may have the best return on investment of time. If you spend 20 hours searching and applying to scholarships, and win just one $2,500 award, your hourly rate of pay would be $125. Not too shabby. Twenty hours at a fast food job ($8 an hour), on the other hand, would net you less than $160 after taxes. Although the part-time job is guaranteed money, it definitely pays to spend some time on scholarships whenever you have a free moment. Another bonus, if you win, is saving yourself from smelling like tacos or cheeseburgers after work!
2. Improves Your Writing Skills
Do you hate writing essays? You’re not alone. Many students don’t apply for scholarships because they have poor writing skills or they are simply overwhelmed with a lot of writing assignments in school. Here’s the thing, though. Writing is a lot like riding a bike: the more you do it, the better you tend to be at it. The first few essays may cause you some frustration, but seeking the advice of your teachers, mentors, and parents can help you overcome writing weaknesses. Once you start to develop a style and find your voice, you may even find writing to be enjoyable. And by the time you graduate, you may even be a master at writing the persuasive essay.
3. Helps Prepare You for Job Applications
Have you ever noticed that many scholarship applications require a cover letter or personal statement, as well as a listing of your accomplishments? Some even require an actual résumé and personal references. If you think that’s a lot of work for something you may or may not receive, get used to it; you’ll need many of the same items when submitting job applications. Thankfully, you’ll be ahead of the game if you’re smart and keep copies of these documents and update them regularly. A well-crafted cover letter and résumé can be the key to not only winning potential scholarships, but also landing your first real job.
4. Boosts Your GPA
Successful scholarship hunters have three traits in common: determination, good organizational skills, and the ability follow instructions. It should come as no surprise that these traits are also common among top students. First, you can’t win a scholarship if you don’t apply, but you may need to submit more than one application before you find scholarship success. In fact, it could take 10, 20, or even more applications before you receive that coveted ‘congratulations’ letter or email. The same may be true with your work at school or college. It may take a while for you to grasp a concept or meet the expectations of your professors, but those who refuse to give up eventually find success. Next, good organizational skills are a must. Whether you are juggling scholarship applications or school projects, you’ll need to keep track of upcoming deadlines, be aware of required documentation, and learn to give yourself enough time to review your work for errors. This will ensure you are submitting only your best work for consideration. Finally, learning how to follow instructions is a definite must for scholarships and school work. If you disregard the directions or forget to submit a required document, it can be a costly mistake. Once you learn to master these skills, you should find success in both the scholarships application process and your academic work.
5. Lowers Your Student Debt
Have you ever heard someone say that they would prefer a student loan over free money? I don’t think so; with the average student now graduating with nearly $30,000 in student loans, its’ more important than ever to start applying for scholarships. It may seem like you have plenty of time to deal with those student loan payments, but when graduation approaches and you realize how much you’ll have to pay back each month, you’ll be kicking yourself for not applying to more scholarships. Let’s say you have $20,000 in student loans at six percent interest; your payment over 120 months would be around $222. If you had won a $1,000 scholarship each year (over four years), that payment after graduation would drop to around $177 per month. That’s a savings of about $6,000 over the life of the loan. It really does pay to apply for as many scholarships as possible.
We know it can be discouraging when you keep applying to scholarships and don’t see any instand rewards for your efforts. It can be difficult to stay positive and press forward, especially when others around you seem to be finding success. Remind yourself that you are gaining valuable experience and honing skills that will make you more competitive at college and in the workplace. You may not realize it right now, but scholarships are not a waste of time. The only ones who are losing out are the students who never apply.
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