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Category: High School

How to Earn a College Scholarship

“Getting a college scholarship is your new summer job.”

These words spoken by my mom (Debra Bell) shaped my four years of high school and eventually landed me a full tuition scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh. She believed I could earn more money by developing a stellar transcript than by working a minimum wage job. . . and she was right.

You can design a high school plan that uniquely positions you to win a free (or almost free) ride to school. Here are the top three things you need to do to make that happen:

  1. Ace the SATs. The new SAT is harder but it is easier to prepare for. You can take an SAT prep course or just work your way through all the free material on Khan Academy. But whatever you do, make sure you give yourself at least 6 weeks to prepare. A score of 700  or higher turns heads and pushes your application into the right pile.
  2. Plan for letters of recommendation. Someone other than mom must validate your education, especially if you are home schooled. You can have a transcript full of honors classes but without an outside expert adding a stamp of approval the admissions board might question the level of rigor. The ideal candidate to write a letter of recommendation is someone with a PhD or an expert in your future field. If that fails, choose someone who is professionally accomplished or who has a connection at the school you are applying to. When you ask for the letter, type up a list of your achievements or things you’d like them to reference. And don’t forget to send a thank-you note afterwards.
  3. Study your school. Every college and university is unique. I poured over Pitt’s website and memorized their core values. I knew what type of student body they were trying to foster. That information influenced my admissions essays and helped me on my interview. As soon as you know what school (or schools) you might be interested in, start tailoring your high school program to fit their vision.

There are thousands and thousands of scholarship dollars out there just waiting to be claimed. In the end, working on all those applications ends up being a very high paying summer job.