How To: Write a Winning Scholarship Essay

Want to know how to write a winning scholarship essay? If you're reading this post, chances are, you do! Perhaps one of the most daunting things about applying for scholarships is writing the essays that tend to go with them. Listen, I get it. I was in school and applying for scholarships not too long ago, and I totally agree with the fact that essays in general are just not very enjoyable to write. Despite that, they tend to be one of the most important contributors to scholarship applications, and can definitely determine whether you win the scholarship or you don’t. So, in this post, I am going to fill you in on all of my top tips for how to write a winning scholarship essay. 

Summary of tips to write a scholarship essay:

  1. Start early
  2. Do your research before writing.
  3. Think about your audience.
  4. Grab your reader's attention from the beginning.
  5. Make sure that you understand the prompt, and answer the question.
  6. Be honest about yourself.
  7. Skip the fluff and cliches.
  8. Show, not tell.
  9. Edit, proofread, and repeat!
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Tip #1: Start early!

Just like you are hopefully doing (or already did!) with your college application essays, make sure you get started with your scholarship essays as early as possible. Doing so will leave you in a prime position in terms of having time to properly edit and proofread your essay before hitting submit. 

Tip #2: Do your research before writing.

This one is important for when you’re applying for scholarships whose essay questions may ask you to discuss one of the company or organization’s values or something else along those lines. In that case, it would definitely be beneficial to have done your research on the company or organization and make sure you have a strong understanding about what they do so that you can adequately write about it in your essay! 

Tip #3: Think about your audience.

Just as for any essay you would write, it’s crucial to keep your audience in mind and tailor your tone and language appropriately. Some scholarships are more light-hearted and may encourage you to get creative with your essays, while others may be more “rigid” in their expectations for your essay. Also, be sure to read all of the directions on the scholarship application; some organizations might specify their expectations for what they want to see in your essay, which makes your life easier because you then have your work cut out for you!

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 Tip #4: Grab your reader’s attention from the first sentence/paragraph.

The best essays (in general) are ones that grab your attention from the very beginning and make you want to keep reading. This is often called a “hook” because you are attempting (and hopefully succeeding) in hooking your reader into your essay. Common examples of hooks for your scholarship essay include starting with a question, an anecdote, a statistic, or even a quote. However, don’t just limit yourself to these - get creative! 

Tip #5: Make sure that you understand the prompt, and answer the question. 

This one should be a no-brainer. Before you can actually sit down to write, or even brainstorm, your essay, make sure that you fully understand what the prompt is asking. If you only do one (or two) things while writing your scholarship essays, make sure that you understand and answer the question (or questions) being asked! Answer the question or the prompt in its entirety and with a substantial amount of detail. 

Tip #6: Be honest about yourself.

Writing a winning scholarship essay is all about being honest about yourself, your experiences and achievements, and your ambitions, while also making sure you are not plagiarizing in any way. This means that your essay should be original and not “borrowed” from anyone or anywhere on the internet. While it’s good to do your research to get inspiration for writing your essays, be sure to steer clear from copying other people’s essays in any capacity. Not only is it a million times easier to write about things and experiences that are true, but honesty is also always the best policy, so stick with it!

Tip #7: Skip the fluff and cliches. 

The people reading your scholarship essays are probably reading dozens, if not hundreds of other essays. So, it’s likely that they aren’t going to be pleased if they come across “fluffy language” where you aren’t directly answering the question being asked, or cliches of any kind, as they are reading your essay. Therefore, be sure to steer clear of these two areas!

Tip #8: Show, not tell.

The “show, not tell” writing technique is one that every student should be aware of! For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this technique, it is basically saying that you should tell your story through using descriptive words, strong verbs, and any other type of language that basically puts your reader “in the room with you” so that they can see the story from your perspective. If you need more of an explanation on how to "show, not tell", check out this article

While this is definitely a key tip, keep in mind that some essays, depending on the prompt, might prefer you answer the question in less of a “telling a story” way and more of a “straightforward and to the point” way. So, back to tip #5, make sure you understand the question or prompt adequately so that you can then determine how you will approach the writing!

Tip #9: Edit, proofread, and repeat! 

The final tip I have for writing a winning scholarship essay is to make sure you edit and proofread your essay. You should aim to edit your essay at least once, if not multiple times, depending on how much time you have to complete it. After all, if you are going through putting in the time and effort to apply for scholarships, be sure to give your essay the attention it deserves by adequately editing and proofreading it after you’ve written it. 

After writing your initial first draft, plan to read through and edit your essay for content, flow, grammar, and spelling, and then plan to proofread it over after you make your edits and again before you submit. Having someone else (think: family member, teacher, or friend) also edit and proofread your essay is a smart idea, because someone else reading it will likely approach it with a different eye and perspective. 

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There you have it -- my top tips on how to write a winning scholarship essay. With that, I’ll leave the writing to you. Best of luck! 

Looking for scholarships? Here's some recommended reading:

Asking for More Financial Aid

Introduction

You've been accepted to the school of your dreams - WOOHOO! Unfortunately, it's entirely possible, given the rising costs of college, that the price tag (think: tuition and fees) is not so nice. So, what do you do? Well, one option is to send a letter to the school asking for more financial aid.

You may be wondering how this process works in action, and what it actually looks like. And hey, I don't blame you!

Low and behold, I have created a comprehensive infographic to help answer all of your questions and to illuminate the steps of the process, along with the do's and the dont's of asking for more financial aid.

At the very bottom, you will even find a template that you can use for yourself when it comes time to reach out to your dream school to essentially say "Hey, I love you, but I need a bit more".

Without further ado, here she is in all of her glory!

Infographic: Asking for More Financial Aid

Asking for more financial aid

Concluding Notes on Asking for More Financial Aid

I hope this infographic guides you in the right direction when it comes to deciphering the process of asking for more financial aid!

A few things that I couldn't fit on the infographic that I think are also worth mentioning on this topic are:

  • Going through the process of asking for more financial aid does not have any impact on the fact that you have already been given an offer for that school. So, don't worry - your offer cannot be rescinded!
  • Don't ask for more money after you have sent in your deposit. According to Forbes article contributor Lindsey Conger, doing so will make the school less inclined to give you more aid because they can see that you are already and essentially fully committed, regardless of the cost.
  • I know that I briefly mentioned this, but it is worth saying again - be POLITE! In any situation in which you are the one asking for a boost, it does pay to be polite, nice, and thankful to the people at the school that you're communicating with.

Additional Reading

New Resource: Digital Assets eBook for Students

I have big and exciting news!

Over the last few months, I have spoken to tons of you who have requested more content and student resources related to career and professional development.

As a recent college graduate who has gone through the internship and job search process on numerous occasions, I understand how difficult it can be to find reliable, up-to-date, and fun to read student resources on how to be successful in this area.

So, rather than just creating a normal blog post that might get lost in the swing of things, I decided I wanted to spice things up.

To do that, I created a student resource in the form of an eBook!

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professional ebook

It's called "Let's Get Professional: A Student's Guide to Creating BOSS Digital Assets". My eBook is designed to walk you through every single step that you need to take in order to successfully create and/or spruce up your digital assets, with the ultimate goal being to help you become more attractive to potential employers to land those internships and jobs!

This student resource is split up into three main modules: the resume, the cover letter, and the LinkedIn profile.

Each section features the basics of how to actually create that specific digital asset, along with many personal anecdotes, do's and don'ts, links to specific resources, formatting guides, and templates, and so much more, for less than $10.

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That's right. For the cost of just two Starbucks coffees, you can snag my eBook and all of those fabulous insights for yourself!

I know how much we all love Starbucks (or maybe you're a Dunkin fan, it's all the same in my book!), but think about the long-lasting value in 75 pages of resources, in comparison to the fleeting satisfaction of two caffeinated, albeit tasty, drinks.

As I mentioned, I was (very recently) a student myself, which means that I know how much random expenses can easily add up. If you're not sure whether or not my eBook is worth the price, just wait, because I haven't even mentioned the best part!

I know that words by themselves can be powerful, but more often than not, actually having someone there by your side to help you through the process makes it a whole lot easier.

So, by downloading Let's Get Professionalyou will also receive a digital coupon to redeem a FREE 1:1 session with me to get even more help in refining your digital assets.

I believe that covers just about everything you need to know about my newest student resource release.

Ready to invest in your professional future? Click here to unlock the insights!

I promise you won't be disappointed 🙂

Sincerely,

Ayden

Here's Your Guide to Writing a Great Personal Statement

Ah, the good old personal statement essay. This essay, which colleges and universities often require for you to submit along with the rest of your application, is often considered a small but mighty contribution. 

Unlike your SAT/ACT scores, GPA, and transcript, the college admissions essay is one of the few pieces of your application where you have the opportunity to tell your story, what makes you tick, and show why you will be a great fit on campus. When reading your essay, college admissions officers generally search to answer the following three questions:

  1. Who is this person? What are they like? 
  2. Will this person positively contribute to our campus? 
  3. Can this person get across their ideas in a succinct, put-together manner?

Therefore, it is crucial to make sure that your essay checks off a few major boxes before you go and hit “submit”.

The text What's your story? appearing behind torn brown paper

Your personal statement should…

1. Be an honest and accurate portrayal of yourself 

While there is certainly never an appropriate time to bend the truth, this is even more so the case when writing your admissions essay. The whole point of the essay is that it is supposed to show admissions officers the “true you”. Officers are looking for proof that you possess the qualities of a strong and qualified applicant (think: empathy, perseverance, creativity, etc), so be sure that whatever story you tell highlights your strengths! 

2. Have a concrete theme (though you don’t need to reinvent the wheel)

One common misconception about the college admissions essay is that you need to write about a HUGE time or event that completely altered your life and the entire universe. This is far from the truth! While your topic or story does not have to be about something so big, it should be something that is personally important to you. Regardless of the topic you choose to write about, you should be writing with a clear theme and message in mind that wraps your story together. 

3. Show, not tell 

If you are writing about a certain summer job you had and how it impacted you, the one thing you should AVOID doing is plainly stating what you did and the impact it had. Be specific in telling your story, and explain the significance of the job through the details. Your goal should be to write as if you are allowing the reader to physically be in the room with you, witnessing what you went through in those moments. If you feel that this is an area you may need help with, your English teacher can likely provide some extra tips and tricks! 

4. Be free of FLUFF 

Because the essay is generally limited to 500 words, every single word counts! This means that you must be extremely careful to ensure that you are only including words and sentences that are relevant to telling your story. This is where it is important to differentiate between information that is crucial for the admissions officer to know (so that they can fully understand your story) and information that might be helpful to know but will not “make or break” the overall message. 

5. Entice the reader from the very first sentence

Although it depends on the size of the school and how many applications are received, it is safe to say that admissions officers read A LOT of essays (think: hundreds, or even thousands!). Because of the sheer volume of essays they receive, it is your job to differentiate yourself as much as possible through your style and story from the very first sentence! Starting your essay with something along the lines of “Once upon a time…” or “Five years ago, my life changed forever” is probably not going to make you stand out. Get creative with your introduction to get your readers hooked!

6. Be free of cliches 

This one goes along with the fact that admissions officers read so many essays each season. You want to avoid making your essay sound predictable, and you certainly don’t want your admissions officer to roll their eyes at a play on words you made that is corny or overused. Since you are trying to prove to your readers that you are going to bring a fresh and new perspective and ideas to campus, make this evident through your style.

7. Be well planned, edited, and proofread

Imagine you sit down one Saturday and decide to tackle your college admissions essay. You spend the next few days thinking about ideas, planning, writing a draft, and then you submit it. What is wrong with this picture? The answer is a lack of editing and proofreading before submission! You may spend a sufficient amount of time brainstorming and planning your essay, but that won’t matter in the end if you submit an essay full of spelling or grammar mistakes. Therefore, it is important to make yourself a checklist before you get writing so that you don’t forget to spend an ample amount of time planning, editing, and proofreading your essay before you submit it. 

Now that we have covered the essentials of what your college admissions essay SHOULD include, let’s touch on a few important and common questions that students tend to ask

Does my personal statement have to be exactly 500 words?

The answer is, it depends! Some prompts might specify that your essay should be “at least” 500 words, while others may say something like “In 500 words, tell us a story about a time when…”. The general rule of thumb is that if the prompt says something like “at least” or “no more than” 500 words, be sure to adhere to those borders. However, if the prompt does not specify, then you should aim to be as close to 500 as possible, but don’t worry about hitting it exactly on the dot. 

What kind of tone does my essay need to have?

Students tend to get the idea that your personal statement essay must be the most professional-sounding and seriously written piece of work in their repertoire. This is not the case! While it should sound polished and it should definitely be edited and proofread, the tone of your essay can be whatever you feel like will get the message across the best. After all, you want admissions officers to hear your voice through your writing. 

How unique does my topic have to be?

While it would certainly be to your benefit to write about something that is unique to you, if nothing terribly unique comes to mind in your brainstorming, consider writing about a pivotal event or experience in your life, but doing so with a unique or uncommon approach. 

In conclusion… 

While the 500-word essay, or personal statement, may seem daunting, it certainly does not have to be if you save yourself an adequate amount of time to brainstorm, draft, write, edit and proofread before submitting. Ultimately, your essay should be 100% unique to you, and it should help admissions officers gain a better idea of what kind of person you are and what you bring to the table. Therefore, your essay should sound like it is written by YOU, and not by a robot or third source. Remember that while there is no “correct” structure, format, or tone that you must write your essay in, at the end of the day, it should tell a true and engaging story that shows your personality and who you are. Now that you have the tools and knowledge to write a killer 500-word essay, happy writing! 

(Bonus resource: If you are looking for some inspiration to get your creative juices flowing, check out these 26 Outstanding College Essays!)

If you liked this post, check out these other articles related to college:

How to Get Involved in College

10 Extracurricular Activities that Look Great on College Applications 

Other Recommended Reading

Want to Study in the US? Read this.

I have spoken to a LOT of students (mostly through Instagram, but also through my office hours sessions) who have requested I post more information and resources for those of you who want to study in the US.

So, if you're a student currently living in a country other than the United States, and you are considering (or already planning on) coming here to pursue your higher education degree (whether it's undergrad or grad), you've come to the right place.

FULL DISCLAIMER: As someone who attended college in the US as a US citizen and non-international student, I am definitely no certified guru on all of the ins and outs of what goes into this process.

However, I have been doing a fair bit of research on this over the last few weeks per your requests, so now I want to share the wealth of my findings with you here!

Without further ado, below, I will outline the general process of everything you need to know in order to prepare to and successfully study in the US.

Preparing to study in the US

Start with some basic research

First things first, you're going to want to start by doing some research on the schools that you might be interested in attending. If you are interested in coming to the US for your undergraduate degree, it is recommended that you start this process anywhere between 12 and 18 months prior to when you would start your first semester.

You'll want to start the process by making sure that the schools you are looking at are certified by the Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). You can do this by heading to this school search.

Luckily, there are literally thousands of schools on this list, so I am positive that you will have no problem shortlisting at least a few after you've narrowed down your criteria.

Speaking of narrowing down your criteria, if you want to make this process as seamless as possible, you'll likely want to answer a few of these questions below  to help you get started and pick some schools:

*Why do I want to study in the US?

1) what type of program am I interested in?

2) will I need financial assistance, and if so, how much?

3) what are the specific deadlines for the schools I am interested in?

4) is there any specific area of the country that I want to study in?

5) what type of school do I want to attend (for example, a large public university or a small private college, a city school, or a rural campus?)

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Look into the financial aspect

After you've answered hopefully all of these questions, you can look to the next step, which is focusing on how you are going to finance your degree.

Your education, like a lot of other things, is an investment in your future, so it is of the utmost importance that you spend a considerable amount of time assessing your options financially and factoring cost into the equation as you think about what schools you're interested in.

It's no secret that studying in the US can be expensive. However, it doesn't necessarily have to be. Location is one thing you will definitely want to keep in mind here. Certain schools are notably more expensive than others because they are located in areas with a high cost of living.

If you know that you are on a budget, consider focusing your research on public universities (they tend to be less expensive than private schools) that are located in more suburban or rural areas, as opposed to bustling cities.

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Dive deeper into finances with this tool!

Also on the topic of finances, as an international student looking to study in the US, you, unfortunately, cannot apply for the FAFSA or federal aid. However, lots of US colleges and universities offer generous scholarships and tuition opportunities to international students.

This great resource allows you to search through these opportunities and offerings based on degree level, US state, and location. I suggest you use this tool to look up the opportunities that all of the schools you are interested in have to offer.

PS - the easiest way to keep track of all of this information is definitely through a spreadsheet. I definitely recommend creating one where you can keep track of all the financial information you find about the schools you want to apply to, so you can eventually compare!

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Now, onto the admissions process

Now that we've gotten some of the finance stuff out of the way, we can focus more on the actual admissions process.

Since the majority of you who have reached out to me have been high school students (juniors and seniors) asking specifically about undergraduate degrees, I'm going to walk you through some key pieces of the undergraduate admissions process, highlighted directly from the EducationUSA website:

  • Educational credentials: This is typically your secondary/high school diploma and transcripts, as well as any final national exams required in your country. Transcripts are certified copies of your educational record, courses, and grades. An original transcript or certified copy sent by your secondary/high school is generally required for each institution you apply to for admission, along with translations into English.
  • Standardized test scores: Scores (SAT, ACT, etc) may be required to assess your academic ability and English proficiency level.
  • Recommendation letters: The head or principal of your school, your school counselor, your personal tutor, teachers, coaches, or supervisors from professional experiences may write recommendation letters. Your recommenders must be able to write about your work and be able to assess your potential to do well pursuing a higher education degree. Be sure to choose someone who knows you well.
  • Essay/personal statement: This is your chance to write about your interests, long-term goals, and strengths – one of the most important aspects of your application.

One thing I additionally want to note is that each US college and university has its own specific set of application requirements, so be sure to check on each school's website to make sure you have everything you need to apply!

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Now, you're ready to apply for your visa

Once you have gone through the admissions process and you have been accepted to the school(s) you applied to, you can look into the next step, which is applying for your visa.

Along with your acceptance to a school, you will receive what's called a Form I-20, or "Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status". After you receive this form, you then must pay a fee (called an I-901 SEVIS Fee) so that you can be issued a visa. If you do not pay this fee, you cannot go through the visa process, so make sure you pay it!

The proper visa for students coming to study in the US through an undergraduate program is the F-1 visa. This page highlights everything else you will need to guide you through the visa application process.

Last, but certainly not least...

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Once your visa is fully processed, you can continue to prepare (mentally, emotionally, AND financially) to head over to study in the US! Speaking of financial preparation...

Hopefully whatever school you end up deciding to enroll in has some decent scholarship and financial aid opportunities to help you fund your education. Some schools even offer scholarships that are close to a full-ride for the highest-achieving international students!

But, I would be remiss to leave out the importance of applying for outside (private organization) scholarships from this post!

These types of scholarships (merit-based, no-essay, and more) can be a great way to help supplement any of the aid that you receive from your school itself.

If you're not sure where to get started with applying for these types of scholarships, I recommend you start by heading over to my blog post on Scholarships for International Students.

After that, take a look through my database of scholarships to find other opportunities that you might be a good fit for.

So with that, I think I have covered pretty much everything there is to know (on a somewhat high level) about studying in the US. Happy researching, applying, and attending!

What Biden’s Student Loan and College Tuition Plans Entail and How You Could Be Impacted

The COVID-19 pandemic has successfully inserted itself into essentially every aspect of our lives at this point, and unfortunately, it has mostly not been for the better, although any optimist will likely be quick to highlight those few gold nuggets and silver linings.

One particular area of the population that has been struggling to navigate these turbulent times is the area containing prospective, current, and recently graduated college students. With the costs of higher education only on the rise and the rough circumstances of the pandemic leaving millions of people jobless or furloughed until further notice, families are struggling to come up with the funds to pay for or pay off college-related expenses.

Enter all the news on newly-elected president Joe Biden’s plans and proposals to both provide some much-needed relief to those being weighed down by the burden of thousands in student loans while also lowering the costs of tuition for many current and future college students.

In this post, I will highlight several areas of Biden’s currently enacted and proposed plans as they relate to student loans, college tuition, and higher education in general. Keep reading for the tea!

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To start, an extension of student loan payment forbearance 

During his first day in office, President Joe Biden made the move of extending student loan payment forbearance to September 30, 2021, a decision made primarily due to the pandemic and its detrimental impact on millions of Americans.

Essentially, this means that the majority of federal student loan payments are on pause, and any new interest on loan balances will be waived.

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Student loan debt is getting wiped out for almost 15 million borrowers 

In addition to this push back on the date, Biden and his team are also pushing for an immediate canceling of $10,000 of student loan debt for all, a move which would “wipe out debt completely for nearly 15 million borrowers who owe $10,000 or less” (Nerd Wallet).

Along with the immediate $10,000 cancellation, Biden has also recommended that federal student debt should be completely canceled for borrowers who attended a public college or university and currently earn less than $125,000.

One important thing to note about this recommendation is that it does not apply to graduate school tuition.

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A revised income-driven repayment plan 

Essentially, Biden’s revised plan proposes that borrowers would not have to start paying back their loans until they earn an annual income of over $25,000.

Once borrowers earn over this number, their repayment plan would then cap at 5% of disposable income, a much more reasonable number than the current options, in which the minimum is set at 10% of disposable income.

Not only is Biden proposing to make monthly student loan payments more reasonable, but he is also pushing to make it so the remainder of your student loan balance will be automatically forgiven after 20 years of payments.

This is in comparison to current repayment plans, which offer forgiveness after 20-25 years of payments.

More money from Federal Pell Grants

Students whose family incomes are less than $60,000 per year are eligible for either some or all of a Federal Pell Grant, which is currently worth $6,345.

While this is a great help, it still leaves quite a bit of tuition and expenses on the table for the majority of students attending four-year colleges.

Biden hopes to increase this number while simultaneously loosening the eligibility rules so that Pell Grants can be given out to more “middle-class” students.

Source: Student Aid

Free college tuition, say what?!

Perhaps the most noteworthy part of Biden’s plan is his proposal to make undergraduate tuition-free for students who fall into the following areas:

1) if you attend a public college or university and your family income is below $125,000 (4 years tuition-free)

2) if you attend a community college (2 years tuition-free), and

3) if you attend an HBCU or a tribal college or university (2 years tuition-free).

Students should note that these free college tuition plans do not include non-tuition expenses such as room and board, textbooks, and other fees.

How do Biden's current and proposed plans might impact YOU?

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So, I’ve covered quite a bit of information regarding Biden’s current and potential future plans of action as they relate to student loans and college tuition.

I’d be remiss to end this post without quickly elaborating on exactly how these current and future plans can actually impact you! Here’s the lowdown…

If you are a college graduate and you have debt - congrats! Well, not about the debt, but because Biden’s extension of student loan payment forbearance means that if you are not currently in the position to be paying off your student loans, then you can put that worry on the back burner for a few more months.

Lots of people have been asking questions along the lines of “If I am still in a position to be paying off some of my student loans during these difficult times, should I be doing so?”.

Since I am very admittedly no financial expert, here is a little nugget of advice that I found while perusing Student Aid’s section on Student Loan Payment Forbearance:

“Continuing to make payments during the payment suspension could help you pay down your loan balance more quickly because the full amount of a payment will be applied to principal once all interest accrued prior to March 13, 2020, is paid.

You may either leave your loans in the “administrative forbearance” status (meaning the requirement to make payments is suspended) and make payments anyway, or opt out of the administrative forbearance/suspension of payments and continue to make payments.”

- (Studentaid.gov)

If you’re looking for a more in-depth answer, I highly suggest clicking the hyperlink above and reading through all of the Q & A’s on COVID Forbearance and how it all works. If you have any other questions that Student Aid has not covered, be sure to reach out to your specific student loan servicing company to get those clarified.

If you are a current college student - Now, if you are still enrolled as an undergraduate student at a college or university, unfortunately, Biden’s current plans and hopeful proposals in relation to paying off student loans don’t quite impact you just yet.

Usually, you are not required to start paying off student loans until an average of 6 months after you have actually graduated, so even if you’re a college senior graduating this May, Biden’s extension likely won’t impact you too much either, unless it gets extended again of course!

If you are a future college student - Pay close attention to the latest news and updates on Biden’s plans to hopefully expand the eligibility rules for students qualifying for federal Pell Grants as well as information on actually transitioning to making college tuition-free for students under certain circumstances.

In Conclusion...

So, quite a bit of information has been unpacked here! At the end of the day, it is crucial to ensure that you are keeping up to date with these plans (both ones that are in effect and future ones) and how they might impact you, on an immediate level but also for months and years to come. 

America Needs You: A Great Resource for First-Gen College Students

Myth or fact?: Only 11% of first-generation, low-income college students complete four-year degrees. 

Unfortunately, this is a fact, but the good news is that America Needs You, aka ANY (pronounced Ay-En-Why) has been on a continuous mission to change this statistic for the better. 

Just over 10 years ago, the organization was created after its founders identified the need to break down the barriers that prevented first-generation college students from successfully graduating and transitioning into the workforce. They realized that, while there are so many great organizations out there who work with helping high school seniors get accepted to four-year colleges, there was just as much of a necessity to help those make sure those same first-gen students completed the next milestone. 

So, if you’re a first-generation college student (or even if you’re not!), keep reading to learn more about ANY - an awesome organization helping out students all across the country

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What is the ANY Fellows Program?

The ANY Fellows Program is a 2-year program for “high-achieving, low-income, first-generation college students” that aims to help Fellows to maximize their full potential through focusing on 4 different areas: career development, networking, guided support, and 1:1 mentorship. 

What does the Program entail?

As previously mentioned, there are 4 main components to the ANY Fellows Program. 

Career Development

The Fellows Program follows a highly rated curriculum that covers a wide range of topic areas such as career exploration, college completion, and professional skills development. Throughout the 2-year course of the program, Fellows have the chance to participate in 28 full-day workshops.

Networking

Through workshops, career days, and internships/job opportunities, Fellows are given the chance to interact with a diverse range of employers to help them grow their network professionally, academically, and socially.

Guided Support 

ANY provides both academic and personal support for each and every Fellow that is a part of the program. For example, if a student is currently enrolled in community college and is looking to transfer, ANY will help guide the Fellow through that transition and any challenges that may come with it. Also, the program provides Fellows with $2,000 in grants and contributions over the 2-year program, to help them pay for things such as business attire. 

1:1 Mentorship

Finally, and perhaps the coolest part of the program, is the 1:1 mentorship that takes place. Each Fellow is matched with a Mentor Coach, who attends full-day workshops with the Fellow, provides industry insight, and helps the Fellow stay on track both professionally as well as academically.

New-York-Needs-You-Box-Background

Am I eligible?

Great question! As per the ANY webpage on eligibility, here are the following requirements that a student must meet in order to be eligible for the program:

  • Neither of my parents/guardians have a bachelor’s degree (from any country)
  • I am a U.S. Citizen, Permanent Resident, or by the application deadline, eligible for full-time and off-campus internships, as well as paid employment opportunities in the United States
  • I am a freshman attending a 4-year university or community college
    • If applying in New York you must attend a CUNY school
    • If attending community college, you must intend to transfer to a 4-year school (ANY provides transfer support)
  • I am in the process of obtaining my first associate’s or bachelor’s degree

How can I get involved?

Amazing news! ANY is currently recruiting for their 2021 Fellow Cohort! If the eligibility requirements above apply to you, or if you know someone who is eligible who may be interested in applying, head to the ANY website to learn more and apply.

Introducing Acadium, the Coolest Way to Gain Remote Work Experience

While we mainly focus on scholarships over here at Access, we love to connect you with as many helpful resources as possible.

Our team is always excited to partner with awesome companies who have a similar mission of helping you to succeed in all aspects of your life.

So, without further ado, I want to introduce our newest partnership with Acadium, the coolest way to gain remote work experience and kickstart your career. 

What is Acadium?

Acadium is a free online resource that provides you with the opportunity to find an apprenticeship across a wide range of disciplines related to the digital marketing space.

These 3-month long apprenticeships require a maximum of 10 hours of work each week and are entirely remote, which means you have the ability to expand your options in terms of possible companies to be matched with.

Acadium offers apprenticeships across a wide range of areas.

How does it work?

Start by exploring the potential apprenticeship opportunities on Acadium to see if any of them catch your interest. Then, you will create your free account and profile on Acadium and submit it to their team so they can learn a little more about you. 

Once your profile has been approved, you will have the opportunity to chat with mentors who have open positions and apply if you are interested. After you find a mentor and company that is a good fit for you, you can sign your contract and get working!

I don’t have any work experience. Can I still find an apprenticeship?

Yes! Little to no work experience is required to start an apprenticeship with Acadium. The most sought-after qualities that mentors look for in potential apprentices are strong work ethic, eagerness to learn, commitment, and communication skills. 

Plus, if you are lacking digital marketing experience, Acadium offers completely free online courses that can help to provide you with the foundation knowledge necessary to get started.

Statistics on student satisfaction with Acadium

What are the benefits of doing an apprenticeship through Acadium?

The three main benefits include getting some great mentorship from your company leader, gaining experience in the industry and role you are working in, and finally, being equipped with all of the resources (think: professional network, connections, and skills) you need to help you jumpstart your career. 

There is also the potential for apprenticeships to turn into full-time working positions once you are ready to enter the workforce. Plus, the fact that the entirety of your work experience is remote allows you to complete your apprenticeship from anywhere!

This all sounds great - where can I get started?

Ready to get started? Amazing! Head over to the Acadium site to create your free account and see what’s out there. 

5 Awesome Plugins to Install on your Browser, ASAP

Hey everyone! Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been spending a lot of time lately just thinking about all of the things that I currently use or could be using to make my life more organized, more interactive, and overall, just better. So, over the past week, every time I use something, whether it’s technology (like a plugin, for example ;)), a specific website or resource, or a product, I have been challenging myself to take note of it so that I can share all of the resources and things that help ME with all of you! Like I’m sure goes for most of you students, I pretty much spend at least 8 hours a day sitting at my desk on my computer. Therefore, it hasn’t been difficult for me to rack up this quick list of some awesome internet plugins to install on your computer! 

How Grammarly reviews your work

Plugin 1. Grammarly

This was (I think) the first plugin that I installed on my browser, and it never lets me down! If you are someone who likes to type out long paragraphs of notes or information and then go back to editing later, Grammarly is great because it automatically underlines all of your grammar and spelling errors so you can easily go back and check. It’s also great for when you’re sending emails because you don’t have to worry about sending something off with a typo or grammatical error. Also, if you write something and you’re not sure how it sounds (maybe it’s a bit too wordy or just sounds awkward) Grammarly will suggest options for words to switch out to make it more succinct and professional. 

Grammarly has a free version and a premium version. The premium version, if you’re interested, offers features like tone adjustments, plagiarism detection, word choice, and a few other cool things. I have been using the free version for the entire time I have had the plugin and it is perfect for what I need it for.

Teleparty synced up in action!

Plugin 2. Teleparty

This plugin is awesome. It used to be called Netflix Party, but even with a new name, it still has the same awesome features! Basically, it allows you to sync up your Netflix with your friends so you can watch shows or movies together. Now, it has been updated to Teleparty, which is great because you can sync up with your friends and watch shows or movies on multiple platforms, including Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO. When you use the plugin (which by the way, can host up to 50 people in one “room”), your screens all sync up with one another so you don’t have to worry about someone ruining that intense scene or plot twist for you. Some might find this a bit distracting, but I also love that there is a chat feature on the side of my screen so I can talk with my friends about what’s going on as we’re watching.  

Teleparty has been an absolute lifesaver for my social life, in general, but especially during lockdown when it’s been difficult to meet up and spend time in person with friends. I highly recommend it! 

StayFocusd allows you to temporarily block distracting websites

Plugin 3. Stay Focusd

This next plugin is one that I cannot say I’ve used, although I have a similar program downloaded onto my computer called Self-Control which does the same job. BUT, in this article, I’m focusing on plugins, so here we are! This plugin helps you to stay focused and productive by allowing you to temporarily block or limit the amount of time that you spend on distracting websites. 

For example, the websites that tend to distract me the most when I am supposed to be sitting down and WORKING are Facebook and Reddit. So, what I would do is allow myself only 30 minutes a day combined on both of those websites. Then, once the time is up, I will be forced to focus on my work! Think of it like Screen Time on an iPhone but for your browser. 

Stay Focusd has 600,000+ users and over 7,000 reviews on Google Chrome with an average rating of 4.5 stars. Pretty good, in my opinion! 

An example of what one of my daily Momentum pages looks like!

Plugin 4. Momentum

While I can’t say that Momentum is the most helpful plugin out there, it’s still a must-have for your browser. It replaces your “New Tab” with a gorgeous photo accompanied by a motivational quote, all of which is guaranteed to do one or more of the following: 1) daydream about where you want to travel to next, 2) feel a sense of calm, 3) get you inspired. Also what I love about it is the ability to make it personal by adding your name. When I wake up in the morning and shuffle over to my computer with literally half an eye open, usually the first thing I see is “Good morning, Ayden” which feels both personal and professional. 

Another feature of Momentum that I sometimes use is the to-do list, which is just a little popup tab on the screen that allows you to keep track of the tasks you want to get done for the day. It’s definitely good for jotting down mini reminders, but I definitely prefer to stick to my physical journal (and Google Calendar and Any.do) for more in-depth and weekly planning.

How Tab Snooze allows you to literally "snooze" your tabs

Plugin 5. Tab Snooze

The final plugin that I want to highlight is one called Tab Snooze. If you are anything like me, you probably have multiple different browsers up at any given day or time, each with their own set of tabs. Even if you aren’t like me (meaning you actually have the ability to close tabs instead of keeping them up for weeks and weeks on end), this plugin is still a great way to help you stay organized and make sure that you don’t accidentally X out of something important. 

Tab Snooze allows you to save articles, videos, and todos for later on. And when I say later on, I mean that you can specify if you want to be reminded about said article, video, or to-do later that day, tomorrow night, over the weekend, repeatedly, or you can pick your own date. Once the time or day that you have specified has come, the plugin will ~gently~ remind you that it’s back for when you need it. 

So, those are the 5 plugins that I highly recommend every student (and person in general) have downloaded onto their browser! They are a perfect mix between helping you stay productive, organized, inspired, and distracted (when you need it)! 

ICYMI: Top Tips, Tricks, & Takeaways from the Access x Hallo Instagram Takeover

Hey everyone!! Ayden here. Since I’m sure that not all of you were able to tune into my recent takeover of Hallo’s Instagram, I figured I would sum up everything that was discussed to keep you all in the loop (the FOMO is real, I know ????). So, here’s the recap! 

About me…

My name is Ayden! I graduated in May from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I majored in marketing and human resource management. Soon after graduation, I hopped on the opportunity to help create Access Scholarships! One of my favorite things about the work I do with Access is that I get to talk to and help students every day, which is extremely rewarding considering I was literally just a student myself and I know how hard it can be! 

On the topic of job searching… 

In a recent article I wrote for Hallo’s blog, I discussed the difficulties of balancing trying to find a job during the pandemic with trying to live up to my own high expectations for myself. I was constantly getting frustrated with my lack of success and spent a crazy amount of time stressing out. 

My tips and advice for you when it comes to job searching:

  1. Don’t underestimate the importance of networking throughout your college career! Whether it’s with professors, people at your internship or part-time job, or anyone else you meet, make sure to stay in touch! These connections and relationships you form are crucial when it comes to branching out in the professional world and can even help you get your foot in the door when you’re looking for opportunities
  2. Cut yourself some slack! I know it can be difficult to do at times, but it’s so important to remember that, especially considering everything that’s going on now, you deserve a break. Take time to do the things you enjoy, whatever they are. All about the balance! 
  3. When applying to jobs, be sure to tailor your resume so that it is specific to each job that you are applying to. The more specific, the better! For more tips on this, check out this blog post.

On the topic of scholarships…

4 things you’ll want to keep in mind throughout the process:

  1.  Creating a SMART goal for your scholarship search is super important. For those of you who are not familiar with the acronym, smart stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. An example of a SMART goal would be: to apply for 10 scholarships specific to my major every month, with the goal of paying for my college textbooks and school supplies. 
  2. It is super important to have a few reliable sources for searching and applying for scholarships. Besides the Access Scholarships platform, another good option is to reach out to professors in your major or heads of the department asking them about major-specific scholarships within your program. 
  3. Make a point to stay organized! This is definitely one key to success when it comes to applying for scholarships. When I was applying, I created an excel spreadsheet where I could keep track of the ones I wanted to apply to, the ones I was working on, and the ones I had already submitted. Additionally, I suggest making a folder with all of your basic information such as transcripts and resume so that it’s always handy. 
  4. Other things to keep in mind:
    1. Think outside the box - don’t just apply to scholarships that are specific to people in your major. Think about your hobbies and other interests - it’s likely that you can find scholarships for those too!
    2. Start the process as early as possible (hint: it’s never too early!)
    3. Be persistent - I know applying for scholarships can seem daunting and it is tough, but don’t give up! 

On the pandemic…

I know right now is such a crazy time for all of us with the pandemic and all, and if you’re living with your parents like me (or even if you’re not), you know how wild of a time it can be. So I want to give you all with some of my tried and tested tips on how to stay sane especially if you’re balancing school with the world right now! 

My tips:

  1. Regardless of where you are, establish your own space to do you (doesn’t matter how big or small, but it’s just important that you have a space to yourself to relax and unwind!) Check out this blog post for more tips on perfecting your Study From Home space.
  2. Importance of creating a routine and making time for the things you enjoy 
  3. Talking to at least one friend or family member each day (on facetime is ideal, bonus points if you meet up for a socially distant hangout!) can do wonders for your mental health 

Q & A from the Takeover

  • How to adult in college:
      • How to get internships? 
        • Stay organized, research the companies you are applying to, take the time to practice for your interviews, and be genuine!! 
      • Making friends in college?
        • Definitely more difficult now because of covid, but one thing I would suggest is to get involved in activities on campus that you enjoy because then you can meet people with similar interests. If you are doing class online this semester, don’t be afraid to join a club virtually and branch out to people that way! 
      • Time management with back to back due dates?
        • COLOR CODING my planner is one of my favorite activities. When I used to have a lot of deadlines close together, I would block out certain parts of my day with different colors to represent the time I’d spend studying for each subject, worked like a charm! 
      • How to excel at college apps + essays! (Tips, tricks, and general guidelines)
        • Stay organized with your college apps! I just posted a great printable resource on the Access website to help students with this. 
        • In terms of essays, your topic does not have to be the biggest thing since sliced bread, it’s just important that you write about it in a unique way that tells the admissions committee more about you. 
  • Scholarships:
      • How to find scholarships people don’t know about?
        • Don’t just apply to the big, popular ones. If you find scholarships that are as specific as possible in terms of major and qualifications, it is likely that fewer people will know about and be applying to them.
      • How to finance college without scholarships/grants? 
        • Definitely a lot of ways to pay for college, including getting a part-time job, joining a work-study program, and taking out loans, but with that one, I definitely wouldn’t recommend taking out more than you need! 
      • How is it decided who gets a scholarship?
        • While it depends on the scholarship, most organizations pick a winner by looking at a few different areas such as GPA and test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation if they were necessary. 
        • Talking about GPA specifically, since we get a lot of questions about this, I’ll say that the majority of scholarships out there require a 3.0 as a minimum, so the higher above 3.0 you can get, the better! 
  • College Qs:
    • How to pick a good college for you? 
      • A lot of factors to consider: When I was applying to college, I essentially made a list of my “non-negotiables” and evaluated each school I looked at based on that criteria. some of the major questions you might want to ask yourself are:  
        • Do they have a good program for my intended major?
        • Do I want a big school, a small school, or something in between? 
        • What is the cost of tuition? 
        • Where is it located? 
        • Does it have club and extracurricular opportunities that fit my interests and goals?
    • How many colleges should I apply to? 
      • Most students apply to somewhere between 7 and 10 schools (a few safety schools, a few targets, a few reaches), but every person is different! 
    • What are the benefits of early decision?
      • 1. Generally a higher chance of getting accepted! 
      • 2. #1 generally leads to less stress in your senior year (yay)!

There you have it! If you enjoyed the takeover/liked this content, follow us on Instagram for more ????