A few nights ago, scholarship applications blanketed my desk, but I hoped to put them to bed soon. I wasn't able to sleep, though. Once my desk was clear of paper, there were more applications to do online.
By the beginning of second semester, most high school seniors like myself have pretty much finished their college applications. Time to kick back and relax, right?
Wrong. If you want to be responsible and make sure you can afford your college education, it is time to get serious about applying for scholarships.
I started my journey into the world of scholarship applications by picking up a monthly scholarship bulletin that my high school puts out. There usually are up to a dozen or so scholarships listed. Many of them are locally sponsored, and our counselor says we have a better chance of winning them than the national scholarships.
Sounded good to me. Then I took a closer look at the bulletin. Since I was not going to Fresno State, applying for ROTC, enrolling in MJC agriculture classes, or willing to read a 900-page book and then write an essay about it, I had to eliminate a number of local scholarship opportunities.
I circled the ones I might qualify for. Definitely making progress, right? Well, maybe. There is the problem, however, of actually completing the paperwork.
One weekend, I settled down to the exciting task of applying for a few scholarships. Many required me to write essays. I'm a writer, so I began to write. However, after hours of working away, it felt like I had filled out dozens of applications and labored over numerous essays ...when really I had completed only two or three!
I did get a shot of adrenaline, however, when I found out I was a finalist for one of the scholarships I had worked on. Yes! I went to school feeling like a million bucks until I overheard two girls whispering in class about how they were finalists for the same scholarship. Was everyone a finalist? Hmmm.
After a few more weekends spent working on a couple of scholarship applications, I reached the conclusion that it is worthwhile to apply for a scholarship only if it has narrow requirements and you fit them. I also found it helpful to have a résumé put together. Often, you can work from it when filling out applications rather than trying to track down the same information over and over again. Sometimes you can just attach the résumé to the application and save yourself a lot of time.
In addition, counselors and colleges emphasize the need to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid.) A friend who graduated last year explained that it is sometimes surprising how much financial aid students get through filling out a FAFSA alone.
Many assets, such as a family's homeownership, are not considered when filling out a FAFSA. There is no essay to write and FAFSA has nowhere to list extracurricular activities.
However, there is a lot of personal and financial information necessary. However, it is the way to obtain Cal Grant money if you are going to school in California. Also, schools throughout the country evaluate your eligibility for financial aid.
My high school college counselors also suggested starting a FastWeb account. My FastWeb online account sends me e-mails about scholarships, based on questions I answered when I started the account.
While helpful, I have found that some of the FastWeb scholarships turn out not to be applicable to me. Also, most of the time, I just do not have the time to look at all the e-mail FastWeb sends. I am beginning to think that students could make a career out of applying for all the scholarships out there!
I have to admit, however, that FastWeb may have helped me out a bit a few nights ago. I don't know what caused me to look at one of the old FastWeb messages in my inbox, but I did look. It was a reminder about certain University of California scholarship applications that happened to be due that night.
Helpful? Only time will tell. I got the paperwork for one UC scholarship done that night, then managed to fill out the online material for another. In all, I finished two large applications and five essays ... and had two minutes to spare! Maybe not my best work, but they were done before the deadline.
So, high school juniors, enjoy your evenings. Next year, you too may find that when most of the world is sleeping, you could be at your computers, busily tapping away and hoping you can put your scholarship applications to bed, even if it means you won't be getting too much sleep yourself.
Katie Mussman is a senior at Davis High School and a member of The Bee's Teens in the Newsroom journalism program.