The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid By Zachary Freeman

The Top-Ten List

In honor of Halloween, today I put on my David Letterman costume to bring you my first and probably only “Top-Ten” List.  Obviously, I am not as funny as David Letterman, but hey – I can dream.  The world of scholarship applications is painfully boring and dry, so here is your inspiration to pick up the pen and finish strong.  Without further delay, I give you:  

 The Top-Ten Reasons You Might Want to Finish All of Those Boring Applications So You Can Move On With Your Life:

 10.  Asking for Free Money is far more productive than being on Facebook.  As I grow older, I realize just how valuable time is.  As a college student and a social butterfly, I struggle with time management just as much as anyone else.  Most of my time crunches are due to a lack of good time management, which can almost always be attributed to social media or social events.  Learning good time management during your senior year and college transition will pay dividends once you actually get into college. 

 9.  It sharpens your writing skills.  Coming out of high school, I hated writing.  And to an extent, I still don’t like it.  BUT, college English classes are very demanding and time consuming.  Writing good essays in your applications will not only sharpen your writing skills, but maintain them as well.  Trust me, when you walk into your English class on the first day and you can write a well-organized essay right off the bat, your professor will be shocked.  Get as much writing experience as you can while you are in high school. 

 8.  Procrastination only decreases your chances of succeeding.  Procrastination is another word for lazy.  Very few people possess the ability to make money while doing nothing.  Being proactive in searching for and completing applications is the first step in learning how to budget time effectively in college.  Procrastination was a habit I had to break, and the only thing that really kept me going was the prospect of getting a LOT of money. 

 7.  Missing out on Free Money sucks.  I have done this many times already.  Learning about a scholarship the day before it is due is like hearing that someone is giving away free Taco Bell in the cafeteria and by the time you run down the stairs someone has just eaten the last steak quesadilla.  I find it extremely depressing when I miss out on free money – if I had only taken that extra thirty minutes to go ‘money hunting’, I would have seen it and had more time to fill out the application.  Scholarship application is never something to rush.  It requires meticulous effort and concentration, as well as planning – before the deadline.  Give yourself at least a week to complete and make changes before you submit. 

 6.  You may lose track of your deadline.  I would say that one of the most important aspects of any job is being on time.  Scholarship applications are like jobs; if you are late, you might as well not even show up.  Your application WILL be thrown out if you do not have it complete and on time to the committee. 

5. “On to the next one”.  Thanks Jay-Z.  But we don’t need your song to motivate us to get on to the next scholarship.  Finishing an application is like experiencing that moment when you realize that its summer break.  That big sigh of relief comes, but unlike summer break, there could be thousands of dollars tied in.  Realizing that scholarship hunting is your job for the time being, think about the potential amount of money per hour you are making while applying.  Just a morsel of information to wet your whistle – I made almost $800 per hour that I spent writing essays and applying for scholarships.  The time that you put into it will be greatly, GREATLY rewarded if you put in good effort. 

 4. Mom will quit asking.  This one needs no explanation to speak of.  Mom and Dad are worried about how you are going to pay for college, so if you get the applications finished, next time they ask you about applications can tell them to save their breath!

 3. Your desk will become a sea of applications, scattered and unorganized.  The more involved you get with this process, the more paper will be flying around your desk.  Keep applications organized, and just do one at a time.  There is no need to confuse yourself with more than one.  Keep your desk and your mind clear and work smart.  Some scholarships are submitted electronically, which means no paper, but most (especially local) scholarships will require you to submit paper applications. 

 2.  The sooner submitted, the sooner seen.  The sooner you mail in your application, the sooner someone who has the power to pay you is going to see it— simple as that.  That being said, make sure that your final application looks professional and crisp.  No errors equal extra attention and attention is what will get you money.  I always sent my applications with a professional presentation folder and fresh, clean, PRINTED pages. 

 1.  People will give up on scholarship applications that require essays.  When someone else gives up, your chances at winning money improve.  Every scholarship that requires an essay has a serious decrease in participation when compared to a scholarship that does not require an essay.  Finish strong, get that essay written, and send it in.  Like I have said many times, if will pay off if you try.    

 Have some feedback?  We would love to hear it!  Please post comments to the blog and get your opinion out there!


3 responses

  1. Pingback: UTC student pens scholarship advice book for students ~ Blog ~

  2. susan

    How soon before graduation can you start applying for scholarships? My daugheter is a sophemore right now.

    January 10, 2011 at 2:34 am

    • Zachary Freeman

      Hi Susan,

      Typically, a student will be eligible to apply for scholarships that begin during their senior year of high school. However, students are encouraged to apply for colleges beginning in their junior year of high school. More information on this can be found in Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid at

      Thank you!


      January 12, 2011 at 5:42 am

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