How To Go To College For Free: How I did it


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            From a young age we all begin to envision what we wanted to do when we grew up. For example, as a child you might have pretended to be a doctor as you played with your younger sibling while you took their temperature. Whatever we envisioned ourselves doing, we knew it would take much work and education. As the first in my family to get an education beyond third grade, receiving a free college education through the Gates Millennium Scholarship and an academic scholarship from Hofstra University, I want to share with you some of the things I learned along the way. There are several, very involving steps that students need to heed very early on in their high school career in order to acquire a free college education. It is not easy and it takes a deep commitment not only to your studies, but also to yourself.  It will require much time and energy. However if you follow these steps, you will enjoy college without the stress of financing your college education.

            Maintain a strong high school transcript. So how and when do you begin to create that strong high school transcript? Well, you have to start in your freshman/sophomore year. I know that may sound too early, and many of you may think that colleges only look at your junior and senior year but that is only a myth. When college admissions are looking at the applicant, they look at the whole high school transcript. No matter what college you want to go to, it looks best if you maintain A’s or B’s on your transcript. Colleges do however, like to see an increase in your grades because it shows hard work. Furthermore, if a student shows a decrease in grades from year to year, the college admission will infer that the students lost interest in their schoolwork. Ultimately, the goal is to try your best, do not fail a class, and achieve that highest grade in your classes. Thus, grades are not all that will make an impressive high school transcript. Have you ever considered challenging yourself by taking some AP or college credit courses even if you think you won’t get an A? Well, I did not get all A’s in the AP and college credit courses that I took but I did show the colleges that I wanted to go above and beyond my fellow peers. Getting a B in one of those courses is like getting an A in a regular high school course. Also, take more than the minimum required courses that your high school may require you to take in order to graduate; it shows that your are motivated and that you challenge yourself.

            Become a well-rounded student. When I say become a well-rounded student, I am not saying that you must try every sport or club. When I speak about being a well-rounded student, I am saying that you should try new things that will expose you to new people and learning new abilities that you might not know other wise like playing instrument or learning some skills in a sport. For instance, you might want to play a sport even though you are not an athlete, but you want to try it.  Even if you are not an athlete, it shows that you are a team player. Additionally, you should join various clubs throughout your high school career.  You might start out with just one or two clubs in your freshman year such as I did. In my freshman year, I was part of band and the Peer Mediation club.  But as you go through your high school career, get more involved in your school clubs. Try something new each year. Also, when you stay in a club for more than one year, it shows that you are committed. Besides just staying in a club for more than a year, take on a leadership role. It is not until others start seeing you or have confidence in you as a leader that you begin to see yourself as a leader. By taking on leadership role, it shows that you can take on responsibility outside of your academics. Although sports and clubs are great ways to become well rounded, you should consider getting involved in your community through community services.  There are so many ways in which you can help out in your community. When you get involved in community service, it shows that you care about your community, you give back and you are doing your civic responsibility.

Apply for as many scholarships as possible.  If you follow the previous steps, you have become a desirable candidate for many scholarships.. Nowadays, there are scholarships for just about anything. No matter what your interest are, there are scholarships for you. So where do you find the scholarships? Fastweb.com, scholarship.com and the app called Scholly. Other ways to learn about scholarships is to ask your guidance counselor, teachers, and previous graduates. The first step to get a scholarship is to know the requirements and make sure you meet them. Also, make sure you are aware of the deadlines and required documents. I would suggest that you note the deadlines in a calendar to keep track of time. Next, you have to invest a great deal of time in writing. Although most scholarships may just require a small writing portion, the most competitive and financially worth scholarships require one or more essays. For example, the Gates Millennium Scholarship requires 8 essays. Yes, I know 8 essays seems as too much, but you must also consider that it is a full-ride scholarship to any university or college of your choice. If you are not a writer, make sure that you get teachers to proofread and edit the essays. If a scholarship seems too competitive, just go for it, you never know if you are what they are looking for. In addition, when writing your essays make sure that they highlight your strengths and any struggle you have had to overcome. Finally, as part of the scholarship or college financing program application, make sure that you include letters of recommendation ( from teachers, mentors, counselors, and community leaders that know you very well) and an updated resume. When your recommender is writing your letter, make sure you provide them your resume.

As the cost of a college education is increasing, many students are coming out of college with a large amount of loans to pay back. Some students are lucky enough to come out of college loan free through a full-ride scholarship from the institution or from other organizations because they followed the steps I have mentioned. These steps include maintaining a strong high school transcript, becoming a well-rounded students and applying to many scholarship or financial assistance programs for the institution you want to go to. 

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