by VEJAY STEEDE
The seasonal phenomenon we all affectionately refer to as “Back to School” means many different things to many different people. Students meet this time of year with emotions that range from deep existential dread to unbridled glee; while parents are – more often than not – very happy that the business of intense, focused academic learning will recommence for their child. Teachers and school faculty refer to the same range of emotions that students feel.
One specific group, however, must meet this season with considerably more thought, and purpose, than any other. These are the students who are entering their last year of high school; the seniors who will be expected to either enter the adult work world, or embark on a path of higher learning in nine to 12 short months.
Whatever the expectations are, these students must plan more strategically than they have ever found necessary in the past. This is a year that can, and probably will affect the rest of their lives in truly profound ways.
For many senior year students, scholarships will be necessary to move on to higher education, as the cost of tertiary tuition is often prohibitive. Scholarship applications should, therefore, be just as high on their priority lists as university applications. Here are some tips for how to navigate this important season:
Any high school counsellor worth their weight in salt will strongly advise senior year students to start searching for scholarships as soon as they can. If a student is already sure of what they want to study, or where they want to study it, they can go online and search for scholarships that award funds for their concentration, or for students of the specific institution they want to attend.
Learning about these scholarships is important, as they will have requirements, and prerequisites for successful scholars. Things like minimum grade point average (GPA), SAT score, or GCSE grades will give students an idea of what they need to do to successfully earn the scholarship they want, while things like age limits, socio-economic considerations, and nationality may indicate that a student does not qualify for certain awards.
Do the research, and do it early. The scholarship hunt is very much an engagement where the old adage, “The early bird gets the worm” applies quite often. So, as the kids used to say: don ’t sleep!
Compile a list of scholarships that fit your needs, that your requirements and prerequisites match, and that will accept you as a qualified candidate, and refine your list as the school year advances.
Remember to include scholarships that don’t specify areas of study, or named institutions of higher learning. There will be several ‘non-specific’ scholarships available also, and you will likely qualify for some of them; so, keep an eye out.
Use the search engine on www.bermudascholarships.com. This will allow you to create your shortlist, and find the perfect scholarships for you.
Draft essays that highlight your writing ability or technical proficiency. Scholarship boards want to feel like they have given their money to a competent, reliable candidate; make them feel good about choosing you! A great way to save some time is by making a few quick edits to your school admission essays and submitting them with your scholarship applications. Time, and energy, after all, will be at a premium.
Always work on your profile, and keep a portfolio of your outstanding work, extra-curricular activities, community service efforts, creative output, or evidence of achievements you are personally proud of; these things can present you in a very positive light, especially if scholarship board members, coincidentally, share a few of your personal interests.
It’s very important to be as organised as possible when it comes to scholarship applications. Always keep application deadlines in mind, and aim to have everything you need to apply – test scores, reference letters, profile samples, admissions/scholarship essays, school acceptance letters (where available) – all together and ready to submit within two weeks of the published application deadline. Remember: late applications will almost always be ignored.
Make this an ongoing project. Commit 15 minutes each day to ensuring that your scholarship application process is on track; make it a part of your daily homework, or study regime. This is important! Don’t let it sit and fester; the future you will truly appreciate your vigilance during this vital season.