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Get a system!

10 Sep

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As you are amassing stacks of brochures, applications, and other paperwork relating to your college search and financial aid process, you will quickly find you’ve got a giant mess!

The following office supplies can help you create a simple system:

  • File box (with hanging files) or large accordian file
  • Box of file folders

Then organize your materials like this:

College info:

  • Create a separate file folder for each different college.
  • Write passwords and other important access info on the inside of the file folder.
  • On the COVER of the file folder, write the due date of the application along with a checklist for every item you need to complete the application.
  • When  you have completed the application, print out a copy and keep it in the file.

Scholarship info:

  • Create a separate file folder for each scholarship.
  • On the COVER of the file folder, write the due date of the scholarship along with a checklist for every item you need to complete the application.
  • Keep a hard copy of all scholarship applications and responses.

Financial aid info:

  • Create separate file folders for any financial aid paperwork: FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and state grant info, as appropriate.
  • Write login info and passwords on the inside of the file folder.
  • Keep hard copies of all paperwork.

Order the files in the box, according to due date. The nearest due date should be in the front, followed by the next due item and so forth.

Then, check your file system on a daily basis, so that you stay on top of what needs to be done. You can also calendar these deadlines in your planner or on a calendar on your phone.

It’s not rocket science, senior — but this simple system will keep you on track!

 

How to access scholarship money

9 May

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Yay! You got a scholarship! Congratulations!

I know what you’re thinking: “Now how do I get the MONEY?”

If you have received notice of a scholarship other than from your future college, you will want to make sure you keep track of how to access the money.

If you have more than one scholarship, make a chart (or separate file folders) with the following information:

Name and address of the organization.
Contact name at the organization and a phone number for that person.
Email address for the contact.
Amount of the scholarship
Requirement(s) to access the money
Date (if needed) to write for the funds

Typically, organizations require one or more of the following:

  • Proof of admission — a letter (or email notice) that you have been accepted to your college.
  • Proof of registration in a college or trade school — an official letter or online acknowledgement that you have committed to attend that college.
  • Proof of enrollment — online list of your courses or official notice from your college that you have enrolled in classes (most require full-time attendance, typically 12 units).
  • Official transcript of your completion of your first semester or first quarter.
  • A letter from you requesting the funds, with an indication of where to send the check.

Do not expect the organization to remind you to request the funds. That’s your job! Some organizations may actually CANCEL your scholarship if you do not request the money on a timely basis.

Additionally, while some organizations continue their payments from year to year, others may require that you reapply annually. Don’t expect the organization to remind you of the process or deadline.

And most importantly . . . handwrite a sincere thank you note on nice stationery and mail it as soon as you receive the initial news of your scholarship . . . do not even wait until you get the money.

 

 

Writing Contests Are Moneymakers

26 Nov

Hit the mark dead center when you focus your essay for a writing contest.

How long would it take you to earn $500? Sixty hours after deducting taxes and such?

High school students often overlook a great moneymaker — writing contests and other kinds of writing competitions. High school counselors and teachers frequently get flyers and email notifications about essay contests, but it’s the rare student who enters them. With a little research and a focused essay, you can win $500 or $1,000 or more for the effort of an hour or so — nice pay for a relatively short investment of time.

Here are some tips about writing contest essays:

  • As you research contests choose topics about which you can write passionately, so that you are vested in your essay.
  • Read all the material provided by the organization. “Listen” to what the organization is telling you about how the essay will be judged.
  • Make sure you understand the actual topic.
  • Outline the question. Often there are several areas of focus the organization would like you to address. Make sure you — as the illustration above indicates — hit the mark of what the contest creators want.
  • Research the issue thoroughly, choosing reliable sources. Make sure you have the latest information, as often these are news driven. For example, if you are being asked to discuss solutions to solve a university system’s budget crisis, you need to know the current issues. Go to creditable sources, such as several news organizations that will give you varied perspectives about the issues.
  • Organize your essay appropriately, according to the essay type. For example, a reflective essay is organized differently than a persuasive essay.
  • Get feedback from a trusted adult, and revise your essay carefully.
  • Proofread meticulously — make sure there are no errors.
  • Follow all the specific directions for submission. It would be sad if your entry was thrown out simply because you didn’t, for example, put your contact information in the correct spot.

One current example is the annual John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Essay Contest (http://www.jfklibrary.org/Events-and-Awards/Profile-in-Courage-Award/Profile-in-Courage-Essay-Contest.aspx). Each year the JFK Library challenges high school students to write a focused essay about an elected official who has risked his or her career to demonstrate political courage. The website offers many links to help students about the elements of a strong essay, guidelines for citations, and other information. This is a very prestigious contest — one that could provide you with $10,000, as well as an exciting trip to Boston.

At the time my oldest child was applying to colleges, affirmative action was an issue regarding college admission. Colleges had been admitting quotas of minority students, relaxing standards at times so as to achieve ethnic diversity on their campuses. One statewide organization sponsored an essay about this topic, and my daughter entered the contest. She worked hard to get the latest news information — which was breaking almost daily — and wrote a strong persuasive essay arguing against quotas. She was one of a half dozen students who won a $400 award, which the organizers presented to her and the other winners at a stunning reception at the top of the Transamerica building in San Francisco.

Winning that award was a huge confidence builder for my daughter, who went on to get her master’s degree in education and to teach high school English.

My theory is that someone has to win these contests — and that someone might as well be one of my students . . . or even you!