If your college journey is starting anything like mine did last year, then you absolutely love Patrick Henry, but you are trying not to get your hopes up too much about enrolling for one simple detail:
It is the necessary evil we might tend to avoid during our higher education search and application process. Sure, we all at least look with dread at the prospective college’s tuition cost, but beyond that we usually just settle for the college we can currently afford, or, if possible, we may turn to loans. This was the disheartening obstacle I encountered during my senior year of high school. After touring PHC, I knew it was the college I was called to attend, but even with this confidence I couldn’t will into existence the thousands of dollars I still needed. Even after working and saving for over a year, I realized my best remaining option for financial assistance was scholarships. Now, I am thrilled to share some of the best tips and tricks I have as you prepare to apply for scholarships in hopes that you can achieve your financial goals too.
Create A Master List of Your Accomplishments and Experiences
The actual type or source of scholarship you intend to apply for barely effects the proactive steps you can take to be better prepared. One of the most helpful strategies I implemented while applying for scholarships was to simply sit down and type up a master document of examples and experiences that most scholarship applications always request. This includes any and all community service opportunities, club and extracurricular memberships, leadership positions, honors, awards, professional experiences and more. By carving out the time to combine all your most impressive accomplishments into one source you are setting yourself up for success even at this early stage in the application process. Not to mention, it will save you an impressive amount of time when you copy and paste well worded versions of the answers you will have to complete anyways. This strategy is often used by career driven individuals when they create a master resume; its thoroughness makes it a success-bringing tool for more than one faculty of life.
Identify Individuals to Refer You
The second step you should take when getting started is to identify and communicate with adults who would be willing to either write reference letters for you or have their contact information submitted to be contacted and questioned that way instead. For this step, I personally approached my work supervisor, debate coach, and pastor to request their help by referring me for the scholarship opportunities I found. Essentially, you should carefully contemplate which authorities and individuals (not related) in your life have an accurate and albeit flattering perspective of who you are. This includes your character and not just your accomplishments. Then, wait to approach them until you know which scholarships require referrals and their specific referral process. Some of the scholarships I applied for had my supervisor and coach fill out a questionnaire and rating system, others were a free-handed opinion of me. Nevertheless, the types of referrals did not ultimately change who I requested to complete this step in the process.
Talk About Scholarships with Alumni: Make Connections!
Oftentimes, there are programs and opportunities that are intentionally not of public knowledge but still available to you. The best way to discover these is to talk to current college students, graduated ones, and faculty at the college you want to attend. Don’t hesitate to ask them if they are aware of any other financial assistance programs or scholarships that you would be eligible. A handful of my peers have recounted their personal experience with finding an amazing scholarship they never even knew existed until after talking to someone as an inside source. Networking is fundamental to the college experience, but it is not limited to gain the “ideal internship:” you can start networking now to obtain your financial goals.
Take the SAT or ACT
Most, if not all, scholarship applications will ask for either your SAT or ACT scores. It is often a preemptive requirement, alongside your GPA and high school transcript. Which test you take is entirely up to you and the academic strengths you have. I took the ACT twice and would have taken it at least once more if I had the time and opportunity. I would recommend finding a test prep program when preparing if you are like me and wholeheartedly dread tests, there are a slew of great ones available that can really make a world of a difference. PHC administration usually recommends that you take the standardized tests as many times as you can to qualify for their highest possible bracket of academic scholarships.
Start Your Scholarship Search!
The last step I would recommend to you as you prepare to reach your financial goals is to research for scholarships and create a list of the ones you’d like to apply to. How do you begin? Initially, look up the scholarships your respective college offers. A college often has major-related scholarships, academic scholarships, and merit scholarships. Another great resource to examine is your local community foundation and non-profit clubs/organizations. I found several great organizations that specifically designate some of their resources to award scholarships, including the Elks Foundation, American Legion, my local Lions Clubs, 4-H (county and state level), the Coolidge Cup, and Voices of Democracy. For half of these scholarships, I had to build a resume, apply, and occasionally meet in person for an interview. The other half of these scholarships, however, are purely competitive. Finally, I downloaded or saved as many scholarship search engines as I could get my hands-on. These scholarships were more random and can feel like you are entering into a large, pooled lottery, but every single application is one step closer to your goals. For me, that made all the hard work worth it.
I remember how stressful it was to try and figure everything out while preparing to start my college journey, the logistics of financing my tuition was by far the largest source of this stress. Over time, however, it turned from an overwhelming sense of unease to something attainable. The Chinese proverb couldn’t be truer when it said a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so take these first few steps - trust me, you won’t regret it.
Exploring for third-party scholarships is important, but don't forget to check with PHC's financial aid options! We encourage you to speak with an admissions counselor; you may be eligible for an aid package. Click below to learn more!