As of this morning, I’ve succeeded in my goal of 5-in-28 [See Who, me? for more information about this endeavor] and had my fifth publication!
Hoorah! Woohoo! Yay!
Well, that was easier than I expected. That just means it’s time to update my goal to make it more of a challenge. More to come on that later – right now, it’s time to CELEBRATE! =)
Full Sail University’s school news blog, Connect, picked up an article I wrote regarding tips for finding scholarships while attending school.
Since I cannot provide a direct link, here is a copy/paste of the article:
Tips and Tricks for Finding Scholarships!
For most students, going to college is a big investment. Whether you’re fresh out of high school or returning as an adult, chances are you’ve had to do a lot of financial preparation in order to start this journey towards your future career. Well, who said you cannot continue to research scholarships while you’re attending school?
One of the first things people do when they decide to research scholarship programs is hop on their computer and open a search engine. While there’s nothing wrong with researching online, in many cases you’re overlooking a lot of opportunity in your own backyard. Before you power up your MacBook Pro, start at your local public or county library. In many states, libraries keep a directory of local nonprofits and businesses that offer scholarships, grants, and contests. These often occur annually.
By starting in your area, you dramatically reduce the competition for most programs. Outside of the library, inquire with your local bank or credit union to see if they run any scholarship programs for their members. If you’re a member of a church or synagogue, find out if they have any programs for college students within the parish.
And if you’re working full-time while attending college, inquire with your company to find out if they offer any type of tuition reimbursement or scholarship program to their employees. These programs typically require proof of attendance and successful completion of your courses, so you’ll want to request a letter of verification from your Student Advisor before you apply. You can request one through Connect by clicking here: https://orgsync.com/50056/forms/54270.
While many scholarship programs are based on academic merit [aka, GPA!], there are several programs that look at more exceptional qualifications. Did you know that there are scholarships specifically for left-handed people? You’ll be surprised what you find out there! So when you move your search to the Internet, pinpoint some of things that set you apart from your peers. A few examples of distinguishing facts to look for would be:
- Are you Native American? Many tribes offer scholarships or tuition assistant programs if you can prove 1/8 bloodline or higher.( Inquire with your tribe to find out more!)
- Did you have any members of your extended family serve in historical wars? (For example, the Daughters of the American Revolution offer a scholarship that involves an essay and proof of genealogy annually: www.dar.org.)
- Can you play an instrument, sing, or have any talent that makes you stand out?
These are just a few suggestions to get you started with your research. There are programs out there for just about everything [red hair and freckles? Probably!] Figure out what makes you stand out from the pack and research it!
Broaden Your Search
When it comes to helping you pay for school, you do not have to limit yourself just to scholarships and grants. Especially if you’re going to research online, expand your horizons to include literary competitions, video contests, and other opportunities. Many small literary magazines run contests quarterly, with prizes ranging as small as $10 and upwards of $10,000! These contests can be for poetry, flash fiction, short stories, screenplays, and many other genres. Internet Marketing Master’s Certificate student Melody Austin stumbled across this incredible social media-writing contest with a $5,000 grand prize.
Visual artists can find contests for short films, music videos, and even commercials. There are also photography contests, graphic art competitions, and many other opportunities to show off your artistic skills. In addition to potentially winning money, you might get to enjoy the added benefit of having your work published.
Read the Fine Print!
Since these companies and organizations are giving away money, chances are there will be some rules, policies, and regulations attached to the process. Most contests require a submission charge – it’s how they cover the cost of the staff members that review the piece as well as to cover the prize itself. From my research, I see that these can average anywhere from $2-$75. Typically, the smaller the piece you submit, such as a poem, the lower the submission charge. Big pieces, such as feature length scripts, often are on the higher end. So before you enter any contests, make sure you are comfortable with the potential financial investment on your end.
Outside of that, many scholarships and grants will have specific rules for applicants. Some programs are reserved for residents of a specific region, at a particular grade-level in school, or meeting certain qualifications. Some scholarships may set restrictions on the majors you can be studying in college and/or the school you are attending. Make sure you read the rules before investing your time in the application process.
Finally, pay close attention to the rules for the submission itself. If you’re entering a writing contest with a word cap of 1,000, do not submit a piece with 1,500 words – it will only lead to an auto rejection of your work and potentially the loss of your entry fee. The rules are outlined for a reason and most organizations do not allow multiple entries after you’ve received a rejection for a specific contest. So don’t waste an opportunity because you skimmed over the terms.
Here’s an important disclaimer for anyone doing the majority of their research online: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. There are a lot of scams online, and you need to be wary of what companies you supply your personal information to. If a website is boasting a very large scholarship that requires little to no effort on your part, chances are, it’s not a legitimate program. Many of these so-called “scholarships” are actually taking your personal information and sharing it with companies, which will lead to a deluge of telemarketing calls and unwanted advertising.
When in doubt, it’s better not to apply. Especially with contests where you are submitting original work, research the company to make sure that it’s a legitimate contest and that you’ll retain the rights to your story/poem/artwork at the end of the contest. Many literary journals will maintain first publishing rights, but the ownership reverts back to you in the end. If you’re very protective of your work or hope to publish it through another avenue in the future, make sure to read over all of the fine print before you submit.
Let’s Get Started!
So, there you have it! You have a baseline of tips and tricks to get you started on your research. B e patient, be detail-oriented, and to be prepared for rejection. The larger the audience for the contest or scholarship, the more competition you have. Don’t take rejection personally and look to see if you can make adjustments to your entry for use in a different competition instead of scrapping it all together.
Most importantly, have fun with it! Chances are, you’ll find a lot of surprising opportunities out there and may even stumble upon a company you’d like to apply for in the future. Researching contests and scholarships is a form of networking within the industry, so keep your communications professional and your energy level up. Who knows where a connection may lead you?
By Victoria Webster-Perez
Hopefully this article is received well by the student body – I tried to be as honest as possible regarding the research necessary to find programs and the likeliness of winning at contests. I follow these tips myself, so I wasn’t making it up!
Although… now that I think about it… I just probably doubled my competition for all of the contests, scholarships, and grant programs I’m applying for. Oh well. May the best man/woman win!
The power of positivity,
~ Victoria Elizabeth Ann