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Scholarships - My Method to the Madness

Have you seen the online ads touting "Free Money for College," or "Get a Grant to pay for School,"? I certainly have, you probably have too. Clicking the ad usually leads you to sign up for a college-matching service which then fills your email with spam and you with frustration. The options for scholarship sources are numerous, with over 16,000,000 results from a generic web search. Where do you start? The internet has made the process both more accessible and more confusing. All of the applications, requirements, deadlines, and follow-up can quickly become overwhelming. I can help you.

There are generally three types of scholarship seekers that I have identified in my years of college advising. The first is usually a family member with good intentions, searching scholarships on behalf of the student. They may even complete applications on behalf of the student, perhaps because of a busy schedule or even lack of motivation on the part of the student to apply for themselves. The second is a student searching on their own, often with little experience, guidance or direction from their family members or school. This was the type of student I was in high school when I began my search for ways to pay for college, so I can relate. The third type of student is a bit more focused and independent, usually better at research and writing, and may even have a family member or school staff member assisting in their search. Whichever group you feel you fit best, you probably have some financial pressure weighing in on your college decision and are looking for options. I can help you.

A bit on why I consider myself qualified to help. I grew up in rural Wisconsin and graduated high school in 1997 with a 3.8 GPA. A native Texan, I was determined to move back home to Texas for college, but out-of-state tuition My parents were supportive of my desire to go to college, but were not experienced at how to help financially. We all knew I was going to college eventually, but as is so common a story, the savings plan for it never really evolved. I started scholarship searching by trial and error the summer of my junior year of high school. I slowly recognized similarities in scholarship requirements; specific essays or letters of recommendation that were broadly obligatory. I developed a system which allowed me to simplify the process of meeting the requirements, applying, and tracking scholarships. In many ways it is a numbers game. I teach you to organize and leverage your time.

It is crucial that at least one parent be present and engaged during these sessions. Not only will this reinforce what I am teaching, but by working together a family can complete more within our time frame.

In a focused two hour session we will cover types of financial aid available and make sure you fully understand all of your options at the federal and state level. We will cover the five most common essays and how to compose them. We will cover the best types of reference letters, and how to get great letters returned quickly. We will also explore the best online resources for scholarship searching and build a strategy to achieve your application goals.

In a three hour session we will delve further into federal financial aid (including completing your FAFSA application or verification process, if applicable), register with major scholarship databases, create a scholarship calendar and completion timeline, and work together to create the essays and reference letter templates.

If you will allow the allegory, as a country boy I think of scholarships like fishing. First make sure you have bait fish want. Then find where the fish are. Now if you put one line in the water you might get a nibble, but if you put a hundred lines in the water you’ll likely catch a fish. My goal in working with students is to show them how to use good bait, find where the fish are, and then simplify the process of getting those hundred lines into the water. Let's get fishing!

To your success,

Esteban G.