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How to find and earn scholarships 

When you consider the amount of student loan debt that the average American is in these days, it will inspire you to search out the maximum number of scholarships you can apply for. College is expensive, and the costs are only going up. While you may know that applying is smart, you may also wonder where you can even find the right scholarships. How do you know you’re not wasting your time, and which ones you qualify for? That’s where today’s tips come in…here’s how and where you can find awesome opportunities to offset those hefty student loans:

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

  1. Figure out how much your deficit is. This should be step one for anyone applying to college. You need to know how much financial need you really have, and to do so, you’ll need to sit down with your parents or guardians and make a budget. You can request quotes for tuition, dorm life, and food from any prospective colleges that should help guide your numbers. You need to also factor in any travel costs (driving, car upkeep), things you’ll need like sports equipment or uniforms, and sorority associated fees, etc. Then you’ll be able to calculate how much you’ll need above and beyond what family or other assistance is already helping out with. 

  2. Brush up your resume and volunteer hours: Many scholarships are based on your community work or your extra curriculars; they look kindly on students who are well-rounded and efficient with their time. Obviously, you should also be striving for excellent grades in all subjects at school, and of course, keeping up with any other obligations like a part-time job. You should begin to take these things very seriously as early as freshman year, in order to keep your resume as strong as possible.

  3. Use scholarship search engines: You may be surprised at what scholarships you actually qualify for. If you have family members in the military, you may qualify for additional college assistance as well. Scholarship Owl is one that works similarly to a job search website, and matches you with the ones you best meet the criteria for. Fastweb is another one that is excellent and speedy with finding scholarships that you are already able to apply for. Using the web services helps prevent wasted time.

  4. Speaking of time: view applying for scholarships as a part time job…one you really want! If you earn scholarships, you will save yourself not only money, but time. You will have to take on less part-time work and stress if your school finances are more squared away. If you are really on a time-crunch, consider scheduling one hour a day to work on applications and essays, and block out the time just like any other activity.

  5. Stay organized: It is best to make a binder or dedicated area for all of your scholarship copies, forms, deadlines and essays. Make a master spreadsheet or calendar with all of the deadlines so that you don’t miss any of them. If you are asking for letters of recommendation from teachers or friends, be sure to get more than one copy of each one so you don’t need to bother them again. Try to make a master copy of your basic essay, so you can merely tweak and change it up for each application to save time. 

With these simple tips, you can devote your time to finding scholarships, and also increase your chances at winning them! Good luck!

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Five Ways to Protect Your Mental Health

Mental health isn’t an easy topic. There are so many reasons why, and it’s a multi-factored issue, that I’m not sure we will ever have the answers to. But, I think it’s actually important to begin addressing mental health in our lives in high school (or even earlier!), because high school and college are when the rubber really meets the road. Stressors begin to take root, you face deadlines and new friendships or relationships, and you can feel new emotions like anxiety or worry for the first time in your life, or at a new level. Here are five things you can do to practice self care and protect your mental health as you navigate senior year and college:

Source: Pexels

Source: Pexels

  • Exercise: Easier said that done, but the endorphins released when working out or even walking are important for your mental health, and can also improve other things like digestion, clarity, and focus. If it’s hard to find time to get to the gym, try walking with a friend during your lunch break, or getting on a treadmill while listening to an audiobook. It might take some creativity, but exercise is key to a healthy and happy life.

  • Give of your time: It sounds counterintuitive to give your time away to others, but serving the needy actually is shown as a marker of healthy people. Some ideas for high schoolers or college students would be: tutoring children, reading to children (like in a SMART program at a low income school), holding babies in the NICU (many hospitals have volunteer programs, but you may have to be 18 or older), serving food at a soup kitchen, or working with animals at a shelter. You may find that just a few hours of your time really helps you feel connected to other people and can fend off depression and anxiety.

  • Eat healthy: Filling your body with junk not only can make you feel yucky, but it can also increase depressive or anxious thoughts. Sugar in particular can cause emotional swings. We recommend juicing as an easy way to get liquid nutrition if you’re on the go, or smoothie bowls which you can consume in the morning. If you or your guardians are unable to cook at home, or don’t have the time, you can opt for healthier choices even when eating out, such as grilled chicken instead of fried, or subbing out fruit instead of fries. Small decisions can really impact your health.

  • Find a therapist or mentor: Did you know therapy is valuable even if you feel great? It is important to have someone you can talk to, even when things are going well. It will help keep you more stable when crisis’ hit and can help you learn valuable coping skills for obstacles in your life. If you cannot afford a therapist or counselor, and are struggling, go to your high school counselor and let them know. Often they will have resources in place, and professionals that they can refer you to. Even your high school guidance counselor can offer a listening ear. Don’t be afraid to reach out.

  • Let things go: do you have toxic people in your life? Don’t be afraid to be straightforward with them, gently explaining that right now you need to focus on other things (schoolwork, admissions, college), and make healthy choices that are empowering. Then, once you have politely ended or declined certain people or activities, go forward in confidence and follow through. If you have parents or guardians in your life, be sure to fill them in on what’s happening, so that they can help keep you accountable and help you move forward in your life.

Mental health is crucial to success in all of our lives. If you are struggling, we encourage you to reach out for help, or call the national suicide lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Never hesitate to ask for help when you need it, or to get help for a hurting friend.

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