How to Be a Scholarship Boss
I’m starting a second blog – a real, honest-to-God not-Tumblr blog, about money and saving and getting out of school debt-free. A lot of the content there is going to be similar to this post. Keep an eye out for more information, coming soon!
Scholarships are some of those things that no one – NO ONE – ever values enough. A scholarship, no matter how small, is usually going to be some of the best value-for-time-spent that you’re going to get in your life. Even if the only scholarship you get is a little $500 dollar thing from a local business, and you spent 50 hours applying to as many scholarships as you could, you still ended up making $10 bucks an hour. Plus, I guarantee, if you spend that long applying to scholarships, you’ll get more than one. The trick is doing it well. Here’s how to rock when applying to scholarships!
Do your research.
There are WAY more scholarships out there than you think. My local area has something like three dozen scholarships available through a single, area-specific web portal thingy, available only to people who live in my county. Find opportunities like that! If you’re not a Straight White Cis Man, there’s likely a scholarship specifically for you – and if you are a SWCM, then I bet there’s one for you, too. There’s scholarships for tall people (I applied!). There are scholarships for cymbals, and for being handy with duct tape, and for being of Welsh origin and singing really well (in Welsh). If you’re really good at something, there’s a scholarship for it.
There are plenty of sites to find scholarships, but I recommend just Googling stuff. A search like “scholarship [your city/zip code/state] music” can turn up some useful stuff. Using other keywords, like LGBTQ, or the name of the school you’ll be attending, or the high school you went to, or any clubs you have been a part of can also work. Just do your research!
Do as many as you can.
Some people like to apply to like, five total scholarships, and justify it with “But they’re all like $30k! Getting even one would cover my tuition and stuff for ages!” That is the wrong way to go about it. The BIG scholarships are the ones that everyone applies to, okay? You want to apply for the medium- to piddly-sized ones, too.
There’s a good chance that you won’t get any scholarship larger than $10,000. But getting a couple $5000 scholarships will cover all your costs for an entire year of school, if you do it right. Even a $3000 scholarship should cover half your tuition for a semester. (If your tuition is more than about $10,000 a year, and you do not have a trust fund or an AMAZING scholarship/grant already, then you are doing your music major wrong).
So apply to as many scholarships as you can. You’d be shocked at the number of scholarships that get like, five applications total. Put in more than the minimum amount of effort necessary, and you’ll stand out and get that scholarship.
Do more than the minimum.
Sure, you can bang out a 500 word essay in no time. But will it be good? Find a friend or a teacher or parent or heck, even me, and get someone to proofread it. Unless the application is due IMMEDIATELY, write the essay and then come back a day or two later, to make sure it still makes sense and flows well. Do a little research on the organization giving the scholarship, and tailor your answer to fit their mission. Basically, just do ANYTHING beyond slamming out the minimum word count and going on your merry way. It will show compared to the other applicants.
Other tricks include: using nice paper for any applications that need to get mailed, taking the time to find the name of the person in charge of scholarships at the organization you’re applying for and addressing them in any cover letters, and writing about topics that you actually, really care about instead of something that feels generic.
Scholarships can feel pointless, boring, or like a lot of hard work. However, any tuition you can get covered now is loans you won’t have to pay later. Loans are the Devil – avoid them at all costs.
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