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Tips and Tricks for College and Scholarship Applications


1. Maintain impeccable grades in subjects directly related to your major. Example: if you want to be a doctor, make sure your grades in science and math reflect a strong likelihood for success.

2. Begin volunteer community service as early as possible. Maintain a relationship with someone within the organization where you volunteer who you feel will accurately speak to your accomplishments in a future letter of recommendation- don’t let yourself get lost in the shuffle after all your hard work!

3. Participate in school activities- either sports, clubs, government- whatever you are interested in. As noted above, maintain a relationship with someone who will be able to write a strong letter for you in the future.

4. Go above and beyond and create a project/program based around your field of interest. Do this on your own, using your own initiative. Science projects (or anything similar) are for a grade and do not demonstrate your passion and desire to further your skills on your own.

5. Find a local business/organization you might be able to intern with. This will, more than likely, be unpaid work, but you will demonstrate your commitment to your field and initiative.

6. If you cannot do an internship, seek out someone to “shadow” for a day. This will give you “real life” insight into your field and provide a stronger argument/awareness for essay’s, interviews, etc.

7. Earn high GPA and test scores. You can begin taking your SAT and ACT at any age, but scores take a few months to report. It is safe to bet your last ACT/SAT should be taken in the fall of your senior year to make sure your score report is back in time for spring applications. You can report your highest scores, so the more you take these tests, the more likely you are to increase your score.

8. Make sure you have a professional voicemail greeting and email address. Consider opening an email account earmarked for scholarship and college search communication.

9. Maintain a relationship with your school counselor. They may need to write a letter of recommendation for you (on top of hundreds of other students). You want your counselor to know who you are and what your interests and passions are so they can speak to them in your letter. Don’t let yourself be “just another letter” they must to write.

10. If you will need letters of recommendation, ask early! Everyone gets busy and some of us procrastinate. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are potentially hindered because someone is too busy.

11. Start touring universities. Tour universities you don’t even want to go to. You may learn about a program/assistance/project/perk you didn’t know of before and will be able to ask the universities you are interested in about those things. Going on a tour completely unfamiliar and unprepared is not a good idea.

12. When checking out any university, remember that your guide is getting paid by that university. The information might not be as well-rounded as one would like, especially when considering a place that will have an impact on your future. Pay attention to what they are say, and what they are not saying.

13. When going on a tour, ask about the local student hang out. Go there. Find current students and ask them what they think about the school. You will probably get a fair, well-rounded opinion based on their experiences.

14. Get a job! Not just because your parents are telling you to, either. Having a job will show that you are responsible and trying to help fund your college degree. Even minimum wage demonstrates that you are not expecting  a “free ride” from anyone and want to take responsibility for some of the costs of your education.

15. Use high school to prepare for your undergraduate work, and use your undergraduate time to prepare for your graduate work. These same tips and tricks will also help with graduate school. Use your time wisely.

16. Everybody loves supportive parents. “Helicopter parents” on the other hand, will hold you back. Daily phone calls and emails to scholarship providers from parents regarding the status of their child’s “impeccable” application will not help your situation. Reign them in if need be and assure them you can handle the process of applying for scholarships. Then handle it. Write your own essays, fill-out your own applications, make the required phone calls, ask for the letters of recommendation and keep track of your important dates and appointments. Share your thoughts, listen to their advice and keep your parents in the loop. Your transition from high school to college is a process for them as well.

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