- VOLUNTEERING: I'm often asked if volunteering "really" helps you win a scholarship. I will not go so far as to say that it will "guarantee" you of winning, but it CAN and DOES help. Generally, along with academic achievement and/or financial need, scholarship judges are looking for well-rounded students: students ho are active in their community and school, students who are "good citizens" and generally, the kind of person who may just make a difference to our world. Volunteering is one way of showing that you ARE that kind of person.
But don't volunteer ONLY to have something to write on a scholarship (or college) application. Volunteer because you really DO want to help make a difference in our world. Volunteer to help people, to make new friends, to do something different from your everyday life, to try something new.
Volunteering has many benefits besides giving you something to write about on a college or scholarship application... Volunteering can be placed on your resume or a job application, it can help you "network" and meet people who may be of help in your chosen area of study, you DO make new friends, and you DO make a difference, however small or large, in our world.
For college freshman who are away from home for the first time, volunteering can be a GREat way to get to know your new community and meet people outside of your dormitory and classrooms.
For high school students who aren't very sure about what they would like to study, volunteering can be a GREat way to explore different job markets. For example, volunteering at a hospital or school can help you decide if you want a career in medicine or education.
Elections are coming up, and many people are running for office... if you have an interest in politics or even business, volunteering at a campaign office can be quite a learning experience :) The American Red Cross is always looking for volunteers, with winter coming up, the need for volunteers can be high. Homeless shelters, abused women/children shelters, environmental groups, education groups, and animal shelters are also always looking for volunteers.
Some organizations do have scholarships set up specifically for volunteers and employees... you might want to ask after you have been involved for a while!
In my own life, I've moved around a lot, and I've found that volunteering helped me make new friends when I was a "stranger in a strange land" :) When I'm very stressed with my job, I find volunteering gives me a much-needed "break" and allows me to do something different. But mostly, volunteering makes me feel GOOD. That may sound selfish, but it's 'true'... I always feel like I am giving back a little to my community, and that does feel good. Even if all I'm doing is stuffing envelopes, at least I feel like I'm helping.
- SMALL SCHOLARSHIPS: "Should I waste my time applying for a scholarship that is only worth $100 or $200??" Absolutely. Why not?? Many of the smaller scholarships, BECAUSE they give out less money, receive fewer applications... on top of that, the applications they receive are often of "less uality" (i.e., have typos, etc.) because some students didn't take the application as seriously as they would have if it was worth $1000 or more.
Money is money. If you win $100, you just paid for one or two textbooks, a month of food, your parking/health/other fees... $100 may be a drop in the bucket when you are looking at $20,000 in tuition, but you still have LESS money to find now than you did before you won $100.
One thing many students don't realize is sometimes the smaller scholarships lead to bigger scholarships. Some local scholarships award small amounts of money at the local level, but all who win at the local level then go on to the state or national level, where the awards are much higher. Those higher-level competitions may be open only to the winners of the lower levels!
If you apply to a scholarship, REGARDLESS of what the scholarship is worth, take the application seriously. Spend time making sure it's neat, clean, typo-free, and shows you to be a worthy student, then don't bother with the small scholarships.
- RACE-BASED SCHOLARSHIPS: I recieve many emails complaining about race-based scholarships... the two most common topics are "Where are all the scholarships only for white people" or "I think it's unfair that the color of my skin is the only thing so-and-so scholarship requires to apply."
This is a very touchy issue, one that I REALLY do not want to start up a big debate about... I do admit I avoid this topic because I always get innundated with email about it whenever I do bring it up and I can't handle the quantity of email :)
But I DO want to correct one common misconception: Scholarships that are restricted to people of a certain race/color/heritage ARE ALSO based upon academic achievement, financial need, or another requirement - often what your major is. I do not know of *ANY* scholarships that give you money ONLY based on the color of your skin.
Most scholarships that require applicants be of a specific race/color are intended to encourage students of that race/color to look into majors they might not have before. Some race-based scholarships are also meant to increase the diversity of a school's student population.
For caucasions who are looking for scholarships that are only for caucasions... Many of the historically black universities have set aside scholarship funds specifically for white students. Most require a 3.0 GPA or above.
For students of color who feel that they are being unfairly rewarded for the color of their skin... realize that your grades and/or other qualities are also being considered. You ARE *earning* any scholarship that you are awarded. And if it really bothers you, then don't apply for scholarships that consider race.
Ultimately, I believe that ALL students who WIN a scholarship DESERVE the scholarship, based upon their academic achievement, their financial need, their community and school service, and their potential for success. Regardless of the color of their skin.