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Get a Scholarship
Excerpt from GirlWise by Julia DeVillers
College is seriously expensive. And you have to pay for it somehow.  My advice is to try author Kelly Tanabe's way of paying for college: Scholarships--free money that you don't have to pay back. Kelly won enough scholarships to leave Harvard debt-free. Debt-free?!? Trust me. She knew what she was doing. I left college and graduate school buried under major debt. I truly thought you had to be the class valedictorian to get a scholarship so I didn't bother trying. Since I am no role model for this one, I will get out of the way and let Kelly tell you what to do:
With college costing as much as $30,000 per year, it is no surprise that you and your parents might be feeling the pressure.
 So does that mean you should sacrifice your dream college and just go to the cheapest school? Absolutely not! There is another way that an enterprising girl can pay for college, and it doesn't involve asking, "Do you want fries with that order?"
 The answer is scholarships, and there are millions of dollars out there waiting to be won. But it takes work to get your share of this scholarship pie. Here are four steps to winning scholarships and earning the life long gratitude of your parents.

Step 1: Lose the "I don't have good grades" excuse for not applying.
One of the biggest myths about scholarships is that they only go to the valedictorians.
 The truth is the vast majority of awards are based on much more than your grades. While most awards have a minimum GPA to enter, it is often low enough for most students to qualify. When it comes to choosing a winner, scholarship judges won't care that you got a "C" in Physics. What matters is that you show why you deserve to win.
And being younger than a senior is also not a valid excuse. There are plenty of awards for underclasswomen such as these:
[UL]Imation Computer Arts Scholarship (
www.imation.com)
National History Day Contest (
www.thehistorynet.com)
National High School Oratorical Contest (
www.legion.org)
Discover Card Tribute Award Scholarship (
www.aasa.org/discover.htm)
Ayn Rand Essay Contests (
www.aynrand.org)
Optimist International Essay Contest (
www.optimist.org)[/UL]
Now is the best time to get in on the action.

Step 2: Find scholarships in your own backyard.
So you've decided that you want to win some free cash for college. Next, you need to do some detective work to find awards. When looking for scholarships, most students immediately turn to the Internet or directories of national awards. However, some of the best scholarships are in your backyard: your community. 
 Before you do anything else, make an appointment with your college guidance counselor. This person knows all about local scholarships given to students at your school. Next, think about all of the clubs and activities that you are in and find out whether they offer awards to members. Don't just limit yourself to what's on campus. Look at local businesses, service organizations, politicians, and churches. Often these groups give awards to students in the community. Open the phone book and call some. Finally, have your parents ask their employers, unions, and organizations to which they belong about scholarships.
 Once you have exhausted your community, take a look at the scholarship directories found in bookstores and libraries, as well as the free databases on the Internet. Use as many resources as you can to search for scholarships since you never know where you might find one that fits you.
 Scholarships have been found on credit card bills, on television, and even on candy bar wrappers!
Beware! In your zeal to find awards, avoid paying for services that charge to find awards. Often they give you nothing better than what you can find for free. To get you started, here are some of the best free scholarship databases on the Internet:
www.supercollege.com
www.wiredscholar.com  
 
www.collegeboard.com 

Step 3: Show the judges why you deserve to win.
Imagine that you are a successful businesswoman who belongs to an organization that supports women in
business. One way your group achieves this goal is by offering a scholarship. You sit on the judging committee and must sift through a mountain of applications. How do you decide who gets your money? Easy. You look for the applicant who demonstrates an interest in business and women's issues and who has the most promise for the future. In other words you want someone who is just like you--only 20 years younger!
 Back to reality. Once you understand this, you know what you need to do to win. If you were applying for this award, you would highlight in your application your desire to major in business, your work experience, or your dedication to women's issues. On the other hand, if you were applying for an award based on service, you would highlight your community service or volunteer work.
 The key to winning is to learn who the scholarship organization wants to give its money to (Big Hint: The organization usually spells it out in plain English on the application!), and then make sure that every piece of your application--application form, essay, interview, letters of recommendation--shows them why you deserve to win.

Step 4: Don't leave money on the table when you apply to college.
Nearly every college gives money to incoming students. The good news is that you often don't need to do anything special to apply. You will automatically be considered for scholarships with your college admission application. Many colleges offer full-tuition scholarships based on your college application. Check out the Web sites of the colleges that you are interested in to see what scholarships are available. Or contact the financial aid office directly to ask. The key is to focus on your admission application.
 A well-crafted application can make the difference between getting accepted--and getting accepted with a scholarship.
 Lastly, it is true that many more students apply for awards than win. It takes time to put together a powerful application. But if you do spend the time on finding awards and applying for them, you can win.
 Still don't think it's possible? For one of the books that I wrote, I spoke with students who were fanatical about applying for scholarships. Sure, it meant less time to spend with friends, but they won tens of thousands of dollars to pay for college. One student won over $1 million in scholarships! You have to remember that somebody is going to win these awards, and it might as well be you.
Get Into the College of Your Choice

from GirlWise by Julia DeVillers
reprinted with permission from the author

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