College Connect: Scholarship searching is serious stuff

Posted By David Wilhite

@kimrapanut

By Kimberly Rapanut

Throughout my entire life, education was always stressed as a priority. When high school graduation came and flew by within the blink of an eye, I didn’t hesitate or second guess my decision to apply to college.

Pursuing higher education and a college degree was something I felt my whole life, especially my academic one, had led up to. For me, it was simply just the next step.

However, something I did not see coming was the hefty price tag that came with each acceptance letter, each email, each welcome packet. It only took a few minutes of middle school addition at my kitchen table with papers scattered everywhere to make my dreams harder to achieve. After that, something I once saw as my ticket to the real world and stepping stone to countless opportunities morphed into the burden of thousands of dollars of student loans on my shoulders.

I always knew college would be expensive but I never thought its cost would be high enough to make me reconsider the plans I had in store for me for as long as I could remember.

As the days until high school graduation dwindled down, I developed a game plan to help make my dreams a reality.

I began applying to every scholarship I could qualify for. I searched for hours online for scholarships specific to the university I was attending, the major I was selecting and any organizations I was a part of.

While all the searches seemed tedious and all the applications seemed dull, knowing that I was trying to make paying for college easier made the whole process worth it.

Soon, I began to find these scholarship hunts as part of my daily routine and yes, on some days something I even looked forward to. After perusing for hours and hours and seeing the options students had for free money to fund their education, I found it crazy that so many people miss out on free money for school just by neglecting to apply to all the scholarships they can.

Additionally, I took advantage of filling out the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The FAFSA is a free and relatively simple way to apply for federal aid in the form of grants, work-study eligibility and federal loans and completing it gave me an extra sense of security when it came to piecing together my college financial plan.

Once the deadlines began to pass and the hours spent on intense scholarship searching began to shrink, the waiting game began.

As a natural pessimist, I didn’t expect to receive any of the scholarship money I applied for. While I was partially correct and did receive several “We regret to inform you” emails, knowing that I tried made the rejection sting less.

However, much to my surprise, I did receive a small bit of aid here and there and while it didn’t seem like much, when added up it helped make paying for college easier.

Finally, I came to realize the countless hours I spent in front of computer screens filling out applications weren’t for nothing and my effort had paid off.

Too many people pass up on chances for free money that goes straight to their education — don’t be one of them.

Kimberly Rapanut is a student at Arizona State University.

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