A Bachelor’s Guide: Scholarships

By Ian DeHaven

With the end of senior year just around the corner and college decisions being made this past Wednesday, 140 or so students of James River are looking towards their exciting yet daunting future.

Many of us have the drive to succeed in these exciting futures, but lack the financial backing. That’s where scholarships come in -- symbolic and monetary support from people who believe in you and your goals so much that they would fund your life’s work.

At this point, we are well into “scholarship season,” which lasts approximately from early January to the last month before your college move-in date. Do not let that discourage any attempt to find money, though: it is still out there if you know where to look. Here are some tips on applying to scholarships that will make it like second nature.

Prepare a resume

A first step is going to be preparing a resume of all of your academics, activities, awards, leadership experience, and community service. Update this regularly as any new awards, and keep copies both digital and physical ready to hand to teachers and adults who need it for your scholarship application or for writing a letter of recommendation.

Get at least 3 letters of recommendation written

A lot of college applications and scholarship applications will ask for written references about your work ethic and character, usually through the avenue of a letter of recommendation. I recommend that you get 3 written, 2 by teachers and 1 by a non-family member of the community such as an activity coordinator for a community event.

Keep an updated copy of your transcript nearby

Many applications will ask for things such as class rank, GPA, and advanced coursework, all of which are conveniently spelled out on even an unofficial high school transcript. The guidance office will gladly print one out if you just request it from Mrs. Alphin.  

Look for career-specific scholarships for your interest

In the game of searching for scholarships, the earlier you know what you want to go to school for, the better it is. There are a plethora of scholarships specifically geared toward any career interest you could imagine - engineering, medical science, teaching, fine arts - and applying to these with a wholehearted interest in the activities they sponsor will give you a competitive edge to receive a scholarship.

Apply for institution scholarships at your top schools

A lot of universities and colleges offer merit based scholarships to students who are willing to commit a little time and fill out slightly more paperwork. For the money and financial aid that you could receive, applying to something as simple as an honors program is an amazing investment of your time that everyone should consider for their schools of choice.

Consider need-based scholarships if that fits your financial picture

There is no shame in receiving a need-based scholarship, and just like the career-interest ones, there are plenty of scholarships to be found that are based on how much money your family has. For this purpose, you will most likely need to have completed FAFSA and have your parent’s tax documents on hand (more important documents you will constantly reference).

Apply to local scholarships

Local scholarships of $500 may be less inviting than the chance to win $20,000 from a large corporation, but in a lot of cases, the local $500 goes entirely unclaimed. Local scholarships provide an opportunity to slowly but surely accumulate money towards your college costs, without the sometimes impossible odds of the larger-paying scholarships.

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

Apply to every scholarship you can, even the larger-paying ones just described. There may be less of a chance to win, but a chance is a chance at the same time. Throw your hat into as many rings as possible, and you will increase your chance of hearing exciting news from a committee or two.

Those are only 8 tips and the way I have gone about applying to scholarships, but I hope that it is valuable to anybody looking to soften the financial burden of paying for college. Thanks for reading A Bachelor’s Guide.