One of the best ways for families to be financially savvy is to secure scholarships to help defray the high cost of their child’s college education. But for many students and their parents, the process of winning scholarships can be a mystery.
The Center for Financial Empowerment partners often with experts in financial instruction. This month we are pleased to highlight our community partner, Rhea M. Watson, aka The Scholarship Doctor, an expert at helping students plan and prepare to maximize their scholarship potential. In fact, she’s helped thousands of students obtain more than $200 million in scholarships so they can attend the college of their dreams, debt free! Read on to learn her best tips for scholarship success.
By Rhea M. Watson
Hey everyone! Right now it's all about Back to School, right? New outfits, new subjects, new friends, new opportunities. Well, let’s not forget about “Back to Scholarships” in this exciting time of returning to school. See, scholarships are available to anyone regardless of one’s educational level, ethnic background, economic status or the like. Honestly, the scholarship and college preparation processes should begin in Kindergarten or before whenever possible. Now, you may be a little bit surprised to hear there are scholarships for Kindergarten students. Yes, they do exist. So your excellent elementary student, magnificent middle schooler, and your terrific teen are all eligible to apply for and win college scholarships.
You may be wondering what it takes for a Kindergarten and beyond student to apply for college scholarships. Well, let’s break it down in these few easy yet highly effective steps:
1. Earn A and A Grades
From day one, express the importance of strong grades/marks. We should encourage our children to earn A’s and A’s and compliment and celebrate their accomplishments in this regard. Setting this precedence is not a pressure point but rather an expectation that can be met and exceeded when proper planning and consistent academic support is in place. “A” grades are not the only variable in achieving scholarships but strong grades must not be ignored.
2. The Power of Passion
Passion projects are so important in relationship to scholarships. Young children see need in the world and have incredible, brilliant, and brave ideas which can make eternal changes. Take the time to listen to their dreams and ideas so you can help them change a fantasy into a fantastic project. Be unafraid to help them cultivate creativity and character. Their dreams can become their passion projects which can set a pathway to scholarship winnings and debt free college degree(s).
3. The Love of Leadership
Leadership is a driving force in earning scholarships at any age. Children should be encouraged to work toward being elected or appointed to an office, whether it be in their first grade classroom, Girl or Boy Scouts, the church choir, or being the CEO of their own business. Involvement in extracurricular activities and having a leadership position will help students secure scholarships. This is the beginning of building their resume, to include leadership experiences, which will set them on a trajectory of success, security, and scholarship acquisition.
4. Think SMART, Take a STEM, and Feel the STEAM
Science Math and Research for Transformation (SMART), Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) are important avenues to earning scholarships. In fact, those with SMART, STEM, and STEAM areas of study are 3.5 times more likely to receive a scholarship than students who have other college and professional aspirations. Therefore, start introducing students to SMART/STEM/STEAM education and extracurricular activities now. With organizations and programs like 4-H, Girls Who Code, Lego Life Clubs, NSBE Junior, and more, the opportunity to grow children’s experiences, exposures, and education in these areas are endless. Find SMART/STEM/STEAM focused groups and clubs for your children and get them involved in these majors so they can gain access to scholarship dollars early.
5. Standardized Test Preparation
Although college entrance exams are introduced in the early part of middle school, elementary school children should be introduced to PSAT/ACT/SAT. When children have early and regular exposure and experiences with these exams, the less intimidating and ill-prepared they will be when it is time to score high on these tests.
Specifically, students ages ten and older should be taking these exams and properly preparing for them through test prep courses and regular regimented study plans. When they are properly prepared and very well practiced, they are able to secure the important test scores of 1350 PSAT, 1400 SAT, and 30 ACT. These scores contribute to large scholarship rewards and college acceptances. Additionally, when the proper planning, programming, and progressions are in place, students have secured the score they need and desire far in advance of senior year, helping their last year of high school to be smooth, stressless, and strong.
6. Tackle Tough Subjects with Tutoring
Please understand this: “Tutoring is for smart people, too!” The misconception is when a child is struggling, he or she needs help from a tutor. However, the best approach is to work with a tutor to gain and maintain strong A grades and to assist with subjects which may be challenging. This should be done for students far in advance of them needing help to survive a class or master a concept.
Furthermore, it is important that every child has an academic dream team composed of a Scholarship Coach, an Athletic or Artistic Coach, a Test Prep Coach, and an Academic Coach or Tutor. When this dream team is formulated and everyone is working in concert, the student is better positioned to soar academically and can easily achieve the goal of earning scholarships and attending college debt free.
That’s the winning prescription to earning scholarships and doing so at any age. I’m hopeful that after reading this information you are empowered and ready to forge your student’s scholarship path.
Now that you have the “how to” for applying, here is a starter list of scholarships.
Debbie's Dream Foundation Essay Contest - Grades K-12 (Up to $1000)
Doodle 4 Google - Grades K - 12 (Up to $30,000)
Eco Hero Award - Ages 8 - 16 (Up to $500)
Stephen J. Brady Stop Hunger Awards - Ages 5 - 25 (Up to $5000)
Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - Ages 0 - 100 (Up to $2000)
This is a small yet significant sample of attainable scholarships for which children of all ages can apply. You have plenty of time, so don’t delay - apply today!
Let’s get Back to Scholarships and APPLY, APPLY, APPLY and WIN, WIN, WIN!
Rhea M. Watson, The Scholarship Doctor is a dynamic and energetic presenter who has earned over $300,000 in scholarships. Through her 1-2-3 of Going to College Debt Free, she has provided 1000s of students with the prescription to help them attend the colleges of their dreams and win more than $200 Million Dollars in scholarships. She is an international speaker and trainer who has been featured on the TODAY show and in Black Enterprise and Forbes Magazines, just to name a few global news outlets.
Ms. Watson can help you and your students get debt free degrees. You need her on your scholarship and college “Dream Team''. For more information on how she can help your family secure debt freedom, please visit her website at www.myscholarshipsolutions.com and follow her on all social media platforms @scholarshipdr.