Scholarships can help students in need of money pay for college

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By Adriana F. De Leon

Thinking about how to pay for college is a hassle for every college student.

However, there is a solution, if students take the time needed to apply for scholarships, they could have money to pay for college.

So, where does an applicant start when seeking to apply for scholarships?

“The best way is just for them to come see me. I am designated as the scholarship coordinator, so all I do is assist students with scholarships,” scholarship Coordinator Carmen Velasquez of Palo Alto College, said.

Students who attend any Alamo Community College can contact Velasquez.

Scholarships are free and students should take advantage of this free money and see how easily accessible scholarships can be found, she said.

Scholarship applications are based on a point system and the more information the applicant attaches, such as a letter of recommendation or a resume, the higher the points an applicant will have.

“I always tell the students, find a professor that you feel comfortable with that you can talk to, that you have a good rapport with,” she said.

If possible ask a recent professor and give the professor a two-week advance notice to write the letter of recommendation.

“Make sure if you have an essay for the scholarship itself, give them (the professor) a copy of that essay because that essay will probably say some things about you that you know the professor probably doesn’t know about you, so they can incorporate that,” she said.

This allows the individuals who are selecting the applicants to learn more about each applicant and make a final decision.

Some scholarship applications also require résumés.

For example, if a student is applying for a specific scholarship that focuses on seeking a degree in nursing and the applicant has previous work experience in a doctor’s office, the n a résumé would be required, she said.

“This gets us to understand that yes, they’re really truly wanting to go for that major and their likelihood of succeeding is that much greater because this is something they have been doing for a while,” she said.

Most applications ask questions about the applicant’s background or life experiences and request a response about why they are seeking financial need.

Another question is what a degree means to the applicant.

“Nine times out of 10 they’re asking about their career goals. What their career goals are? Where they see themselves in five years, also what their financial need is?” she said.

When responding to these questions, the best way is to rewrite, rewrite and rewrite answers because the more drafts, the better the essay will sound, she said.

During the spring semester, two workshops are held to teach students how to write essays.

Scholarships are renewed during the spring, and this workshop is beneficial for students applying for scholarships because it helps focus on writing skills.

“Try to focus on what would make the student unique. What would make their essay different than anybody else’s essay? What would make their story different than anybody else’s story, so it kind of zones in on them personally and giving them ideas,” Velasquez said.

If the essay sounds good and is well-written, the applicant has a good chance of receiving the scholarship.

Some common mistakes students make are in not answering the essay question to their full ability.

“They don’t answer the essay question. A lot of times students will just…The essay question will say something about what is your career goal and then they will just write one little sentence and then they’ll go off on something totally different. Concentrate on what that question is,” she said.

All scholarships have rules and guidelines, and all applicants must follow those regulations.

If the scholarship requests a one-page essay, make sure it is only a one page essay, she said.

Review the entire application and sign it.

“A lot of times they bring me the applications and I’ll look at it and make sure everything is signed off before I send it off,” she said.

Be aware of deadlines for each scholarship.

Students interested in locating scholarships, internships, grants and loans that match the individual’s education level, talents and background can also visit the College Board Website, www.collegeboard.com.

As students research scholarships, they will learn about what each scholarship requires and requests from each applicant because each person is different, according to the College Board.

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