The ideal candidate gets the money
Why should a scholarship committee give you their money? Being “special,” a “hard-worker,” or having “potential” is not the answer. Money is exchanged for value. What value do you give to the scholarship committee?
When I started my scholarship Hustle, I was clueless about the whole process, including what college was. I was the first person in my family to go away to college. My mother maxed out everything she had to send me to the best institution in the world for men of my community, Morehouse College. Morehouse was like the promised land. Being around so many successful people at Morehouse inspired me to want more out of life. I had to make it there. Every time I thought about how wonderful of an institution Morehouse was, I could not get my mother’s last words out of my head: “Baby, I hope you make the most of this, because I can only do two years’ worth of loans.” I had to find a way to pay for college. I had to. So, I fell back on what I knew and turned school into my Hustle.
Hustling means doing whatever you have to do to handle your business. You take life as it is and make something of it. When I entered college I was not a good student. I had a 2.1 GPA for most of my high school tenure, never wrote a paper over 3 pages, I hated studying, and I did not do work outside of school. But that did not matter. I needed to make money…and to make money you have to produce value…
As a student, I knew my value would be primarily judged upon how I performed in class. Moreover, I knew that scholarship committees liked community service. Therefore, I resolved to get at least 3.5 GPA and get involved as much as possible.
After two years of hustling, I built myself into a competitive candidate for scholarships. My GPA was over 3.5, I was on the executive board of a few organizations, did tons of community service, and throughout that process I impressed people with my work, which led me to having quite a few people who would recommend me strongly. Once I became a valuable person, money started coming.
After producing award-winning research on high-academic achievers, I found that all the students that received tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships were pretty awesome candidates. They built their value in four areas:
Scholarship committees give money to people to complete their education. It’s not rocket science to deduce that they want to give their money to the person who is most likely complete their education and succeed in their field. They will evaluate you using the following questions to get an understanding of the type and quality of training you received and how well you performed during it. What do you know? What degrees or certifications have you obtained? What classes did you take? How did you perform in class? Do you have any honors?
Very few scholarships focus only on your education. Many like to see a well-rounded student. Someone who is involved outside of class doing things that they like. They will ask you for your resume or list of activities to find out What have you done? Where did you work? What group(s) were you a part of? What did you do? How well did you do it?
You can be as awesome as you want to be on paper and present yourself very well. However, if your recommendations are not strong, people are going to be weary of you. People want to know what others have to say about the work you have done. Scholarship committees will ask you for recommendation letters or references to find out: What do other people say about you? Who is recommending you? What are they saying about you? How strongly are they referring you?
Each scholarship committee is looking for an Ideal Candidate. They award scholarships to the people who are closest to their Ideal Candidate. It is your job to present yourself as that Ideal Candidate. In their mind they are asking: What do you have to say about yourself? Why should we give you our scholarship? Are you speaking our language? How well do you present yourself?
These are the Four Pillars of the The Academic HustleTM.
Your number one focus when going after scholarships is to first build your value in each of these areas. Take those challenging classes and get As. Get involved and do awesome work. Build great relationships and have people who can brag about your work. Then identify what scholarships committees want and confidently tell them how you are The Ideal Candidate.
Developing yourself into a competitive candidate is the best thing you can do to increase your chance of getting scholarships. The next best thing to do is to find and apply for them!