College #003: How I won $40k+ In Scholarships!

This post hits home. I will be giving some tips on how to win more scholarships! I’ve won 7 scholarships worth over $40k to use towards my college studies. It has been one of the hugest blessings on me and my family.

Without the scholarships, a stressful amount of financial pressure would have been placed on my family.  I wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of pursuing a post graduate degree. And my grades probably would have been way worse because I definitely would have had to taken up more jobs.

To be transparent, one of my scholarships was really big. It was for $30,000. However, I still won 6 other scholarships for $10k+ for which I was overjoyed! I did not have to pay for any of my undergraduate OR my graduate tuition!! And almost all other expenses were covered too (i.e. textbooks).

I know that so many more people could receive the help they need, if they just tried. It’s just that most people don’t even bother.

Here are some tips I used, and tips I freakin’ WISH I knew, on how to get more scholarships!

Just don’t be lazy

I know, “Duh, Emily.” But really, let me explain why!!

  • Freshman year, I barely applied to scholarships.
  • Sophomore year, I didn’t apply to ANY
  • And my senior year, I missed the due date to apply for any lol

Do you see the problem? I was lazy. But do you see the opportunity? Just by submitting your essay, you truly have a high chance of winning a scholarship because the rest of us do not apply.

People don’t apply because they are either unaware of the scholarship(s) and/or are lazy to look them up. Of those people who do find out about scholarships, many of them are then lazy to do the work (i.e. write an essay, get letters of rec) or they simply forget to apply. Honestly, the pool of contestants is SO much smaller than you think.

Junior year, I told myself I was going to apply to scholarships. I waited till the last minute, thinking they were due 11:59 PM Friday. During my lunch break at work, around 2:45, I decided to just look at the scholarships page. I face-palmed so hard because the scholarships were due at freakin’ 3:00PM!!!! I had 15 minutes to whip up a general essay and submit to just a couple of scholarships before the portal closed. I almost didn’t apply to any, again!!

Get my point? Nobody’s applying. Don’t let the fear of “Ugh, I have no chance against the smart students” get in the way of you applying for scholarships because they aren’t applying lol. Whenever I ask my classmates, “Hey, did you apply to the XX scholarship?” They always say no!

Look at your school’s scholarships

In high school, they tell you to google scholarships and to try to be specific. You can narrow it down to an extent – I might google, “Chinese Business Scholarships” – but even then, I’d still be competing with students nationwide. It’s very difficult to win these.

I highly suggest first applying to school-hosted scholarships. Many colleges have huge funds from grants and endowments (even more so if it’s a private school $$). These alumni and businesses want that money to specifically go to the students of the university! And they are normally broken down by majors.

This is great because the pool is greatly reduced (from nationwide) and secondly you have the opportunity to let the sponsors get to know you (discussed more next)!! My tip for school scholarship essays are to A) explain what you’ve contributed to the professional community and B) how you’ve contributed to your university.

Befriend your professors

Guess who’s on the school’s scholarship committee to give out money? YOUR PROFESSORS! You get the chance to really prove that you deserve the awards: get good grades, tell your professors your accomplishments and ambitions, and participate/ask good questions in class to show that you really know your stuff. There have been several times where professors have whispered to me at the beginning of class, “Hey, I gave you a scholarship over the weekend (; ”

This is kind of off-topic, but this goes back to my life motto that you want to be the best representation of yourself – be nice to everyone and always do your best. You’ll never know who can help you out in the future (but I mean, you shouldn’t even really need a reason to be nice and do your best anyway).

Look at your parent’s employer

This is a similar idea to looking at school scholarships, but with an even smaller applicant pool! A LOT of businesses will offer scholarships because they want to invest/encourage the future of their industry (us students) or simply as a form of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).

My mom, even though she works a very humble position, works for a large company that offers the children of employees a one-time scholarship if they meet certain requirements. So tell your mom/dad to ask around!

Wait till your junior year

If you aren’t considered a student in “financial need,” it is pretty hard to win a scholarship your freshman (or even sophomore) year because the rest of the scholarships are merit-based. I applied to a couple my freshmen year and didn’t win any. It was pretty discouraging, but it also makes sense. The merit-based scholarships are looking to see your achievements – but as a freshmen in college, what have you done?? Nothing! You don’t have anything to show why you deserve the scholarship.

Most people start doing internships their junior year and so that is the prime time to apply to scholarships. By now, you’ve finished your prerequisite classes so you can show like, “Yea, I earned an A in all my accounting courses.” And you’ll hopefully have other accomplishments under your belt, like awards, internships, or certificates to further argue your case.

Lastly, while I say wait till your junior year – be sure not to miss this window. It’s kind of your last. There are not many scholarships available for seniors because most scholarships that you apply to now (ex: 2017-18) will finance your studies in the next school year (2018-2019). There aren’t many scholarships that will give you the money right now or even next semester, so don’t wait till your senior year.

State grant

Lastly, look at state grants. There’s the Cal Grant and Pell Grant here in California and there might be others. I didn’t look too much into them because, again, I didn’t qualify for such items. But luckily they’ve recently implemented the Middle Class Grant for mid-class Californians. So take the time to do those long FAFSAs (if you need help, the university often has hired staff who will fill it out for you!). You won’t get much, maybe a couple hundred – but hey, that’s a parking permit.

Follow these tips and if you’re lucky, many scholarships will let you pocket any excess money!! 

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