Preparing for the Payoff: How to get ready for scholarship opportunities starting your freshman year

Do you know how to calculate your GPA? Are you a member of a club or sports team? Have you ever received an academic award? Each of these things can help you be a scholarship recipient, but it is important to start preparing your freshman year in high school, rather than waiting until it is too late. Many scholarship programs, colleges and universities are looking for students who are involved in their communities and have received recognition for their interests, talents and abilities. College costs include rent, food, transportation, tuition, books and more, and scholarships can help you pay for all those things. You need to start writing down all of your activities now though (such as the time involved and what you did) so that you don’t forget by the time you need to fill out your scholarship applications.

Your time spent now, can turn into money to help you pay for college later!

 The scholarship preparation process begins today:

                1. Prepare academically. Take courses that are challenging and prepare you for college (think the A-G Coursework and AP classes!). You can also do dual enrollment classes with your local community college! Also be sure to get good grades. A 3.0 GPA or higher will make you competitive for the scholarships that pay the most.

                2. Get involved. Take advantage of leadership opportunities like Student Government, FFA and sports teams. If you don’t know what you want to do, think about what your interests and hobbies are. What is something you would like to learn about? What types of careers are you considering? What types of people would you like to meet?

All of those questions can help you narrow down some ideas for ways to get involved. Don’t forget that volunteer hours are also great on scholarship applications (Tutoring? Church activities? Mentoring?). Plus, working during the school year and the summer is also important to keep track of, especially if you are able to get a job related to your career interests.

Besides wanting to apply for free money, why get involved anyways?

  • It feels good.

  • You can help your community.

  • To meet people and have new amazing experiences.

  • To develop skills (You know, like nunchuck skills, bo hunting skills, computer hacking skills…)

  • To put on your resume to help you find a job!

So what will you have to do when you actually apply for scholarships?

 For many scholarship applications you will have to write about the stuff that you have been doing. So, what should you include? Interesting information about your family, activities and talents is always good. Maybe you can talk about how you have overcome challenges during your life? Talking about your future educational and career goals can be a great topic as well. Just be ready to write! Plus, if you spend 2 hours filling out a $500 scholarship application, just think, you could be paid $250 per hour for your efforts!

 Do you need to do anything else? Yep! Start thinking now about who you would like to ask to write you a letter of recommendation. Teachers, counselors, coaches and employers can all be good people to ask for letters of recommendation. Just don’t forget to be nice, maintain your relationships with them and always make the request EARLY so that they have time to write them before your application is due. Additionally, request that the letters are generic so that you can use them for multiple applications, and make sure you keep copies of the letters you receive to use in the future for other applications.

 Also, don’t forget to send them a thank you note after they write your letter! Want more tips for requesting letters of recommendation? Visit for some additional ideas and recommendations.

 So what can you do NOW?

  • Brainstorm a list of local places that you can volunteer at.

  • Think about some clubs and activities both on and off your high school campus that you can get involved in.

  • Start tracking your activities and hours today, and keep your list in a safe place that you will be able to locate again in the future! Visit the College OPTIONS Scholarships page and click on “Student Involvement Chart” to download an editable template for you to help keep track of your activities.