There is always a lot of hype around scholarships. And yes they are out there, but I will try to tell you where to go and when to spend the time to fill out those applications and when it is a total waste of your time.
I have a friend who recently went back to school to become a nutritionist. Her grades were good, but not great. She was just awarded a $6,000 dollar scholarship from the 2 year community college she was attending. This more than paid for all of her expenses for the year of school. How did she do it?
With some coaching from me. Lori was concerned about how to pay for it all. I suggested she go apply for scholarships at the financial aid office of her college to start with. She hesitated and thought it would be a waste of time and effort. She said, ” I’m not a straight A student”. I told her sometimes there is not enough people who fill out the applications so there is money there.” Seriously….I have seen scholarships go untouched from the college because no one applied and took the time to fill out the forms and gather the necessary information.
First lesson, always start with local, local, local, local sources first. The financial aid officer told her that very few students applied so they had lots of money left to divide up with the few students who did apply. Why did no one apply? Because it is a bit of a hassle to fill out all the forms correctly and to turn in all the needed documentation. And that is part of the secret: finish it completely and on time.
My friend Lori was concerned that she had nothing that would give her an edge for a scholarship, no special needs, after all her husband had a great job with a stable company and made pretty good money.
I sat down with her and came up with some real attributes that those scholarship people like. They like a good story: it needs to be truthful, but it’s all in how you present the information. Look for the key phrases, terms, words used that are hot buttons for scholarships, these are what worked for Lori.
- stay at home mom now returning to work ( money available for this situation)
- lives in a rural area which required a commute to the college
- she uses sustainable resources for living ( raises chickens with eggs, gardens, recycles, composts,( the scholarship people love the term SUSTAINABLE) use it as it applies.
- volunteers to teach these sustainable skills to community groups
- husband had a heart attack a few years back so his income is not totally secure, (he could die). ( key phrases here…his income, she depends on is not guaranteed , and she gave a reason why)
- will be working in the health care field ( a very hot topic and field that qualifies you for funding not available for other career choices)
I am now coaching her on filling out her scholarships for local groups: The veterans groups, Lions service group, etc. She will change her intro letter accordingly and highlight different elements based on the group. Her father and uncle spent time in the military. This highlight will be discussed and elaborated on for the scholarship application to the veterans group and if the lions group members are all veterans then we will emphasize that part in their application.
Service organizations will be in need of lots of service ties. Everyone always undersells what they have done. Take credit for things like:
- coordinated meals for sick neighbor
- assisted with intervention of a relative who had an addiction issue( alcohol or drug, gambling, pornography)
- served as role model or mentor to a youth or neighbor….describe in what capacity and how/ counseling given/ this could be as simple as helping with homework, babysitting until mom came home….the key word is “mentor“..by spending time with them , answering some questions, and giving some advice occasionally you are “mentoring”
- provided transportation to someone in need of medical care, or other services (relatives count,)
- assistance in children’s classroom/ sports teams/school clubs or associations.
- any community involvement
Go into detail and emphasize when you had to coordinate and contribute.
It’s not so much what you did , but how you present it.
Look at scholarships even if your grades are not solid A’s. My son received a scholarship for 1500$ renewable for four years. $6,000! The scholarship was for students whose grade point did not exceed a 3.2. Some elderly gentlemen wanted to leave a scholarship fund for the average student in our area. It felt a bit wrong… rewarding my son for being average…for NOT putting in the extra effort on homework, instead of snowboarding all the time!
Stay away from those national scholarships, they will always be on the list but, for the time and effort you will be competing with a lot of other students and odds are not in your favor.
Contact your local service groups, like mentioned above….and visit your schools financial aid office more than once,.. different advisors will have more information than others and can help more than others. A student employee working the desk at the financial aid office who has worked there for 2 months will be limited in their knowledge. You are trying to find an edge. So study the people behind the counter to decide who you should approach for help.
Read the bulletin boards at your financial aid office and at your nursing programs office area. Many times local scholarships for nursing are posted there, and remember your place of employment for these scholarships too. I have advised students to quit their job and work at certain institutions only because they were known to give out scholarship money for school, almost a guarantee. I have seen some hospitals really go all out to assist aides, clerks, maintenance workers to go to nursing school….paying tuition and giving them schedules to allow it.
These scholarships could be nurse education related or just general in nature for any type of study. Forget trying to search on the internet…everyone else is doing it to and you will be competing with lots and lots of people. I could give all types of websites for national scholarships…..but unless you have a 4.0, perfect SAT, hardship story, and diversity, do not waste your time here and “go LOCAL.” Research and make some phone calls, your local nursing organization as well as all the service organizations are a great place to start…..but number one on your list should be the financial aid office of your school. This will pay off!!