Scholarship dollars, the great motivator

It’s scholarship application season for one more week in my corner of the world.

What this means is that until March 31, students in my region can apply for local scholarships to help them pay for college next year. The scholarship application window runs from the middle of December or first part of January (depends on the scholarship) and closes in the middle or end of March (again depends on the scholarship). Students wishing to seek national scholarships follow the deadlines for those scholarships, but most of the students I interact with shoot for just the local stuff.

It’s certainly a busy time of the semester for me, as I go to classrooms and talk to students about scholarships and help them apply and review their essays. And of course, the students are busy doing this work too. I work at a two-year tech school that costs just under 20K for the entire degree for many of the associate’s degrees offered. When I tell high school students that with the aid of a Pell Grant and a few scholarships they could get college paid for, some of them are quite motivated to figure out how to get this golden ticket. However, this week I read an article about Daya Brown, a senior who has been accepted to 54 colleges and has received more than one million dollars of scholarship offers. I am not sure any of the students I talk with are as motivated as she was. And no judgement– I was not this motivated as a high school student!

This accomplishment took some serious dedication. Not only did Brown spend much of the last three years applying, she’s spent much of her life working toward the goal of being the best college applicant possible. Good Morning America also has a piece on her success, and in that interview, she talked about what this required of her:

“’No, it wasn’t easy. Yes, you have to stay up many nights to get the work done if you want the GPA, but at the same time, it wouldn’t feel like such a burden, if it’s your passion,’ she said. ‘I wake up every day, happy about what I do.’”

I enjoyed high school, but I didn’t know how to prepare for college as much as Brown clearly did. I started receiving marketing materials in the mail my sophomore year, and by my junior year I knew I wanted to go to Augustana College, in Sioux Falls, SD. (Since then, my alma mater has become Augustana University.) I applied, I got in, I applied for some scholarships through Augie and some provided by entities in my Northwest Nebraska community, and off I went. Today, having been in higher ed for more than a decade, I know infinitely more about the process than I did then, and students like Brown amaze me. I’m excited to share her story with the high schoolers I’ll talk to next fall, the juniors and seniors who should be starting the process. Some will no doubt skip this process–and skip college all together–and some might go all out in applying, getting a boost of excitement from the story of this motivated senior.

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