Your teen can write scholarship essays, with a bit of planning.

by Mark Ackerman
(Moultrie, GA )

The number one complaint of college parents everywhere about scholarships, other than the student don’t have enough of them, has to be that their student refuses to do essays. This is a problem that seems to have no easy answer short of the parent sitting down and writing the essay themselves and letting the kid sign their name. That brings in what is probably the biggest complaint among scholarship essay judges. They are there to judge the essay skills of the student applying for the scholarship not the essay skills of the parent. It is also called something else in legal terms, Fraud. Once in college a student caught turning in somebody else’s work would be expelled so why should they get away with it in order to fund their college education?

The first question to ask yourself is why won’t your student do the essays? The list of excuses is long and tired (that’s one of the top excuses by the way) but if you tackle each one you can make progress. Start by thinking out of the box a bit. What is one of the worst things about writing an essay? It’s that blank page when you open up the word processor that looks impossible to fill with the little bit of knowledge in your students head. Your student will stare for a long time thinking “where do I Start?” This is an area where technology can come to the rescue.

As I’m sure you noticed students today have no problem zipping out text messages at the speed of light and can spend hours talking on the phone to deliver a message that would require you 5 seconds of talk time. This is where a teen’s aptitude for things like speakers and earphone will come in handy. Buy or download one of those programs that convert speech to text and install it on their computer. You may need to work with your teen a bit to get them organized but there is something about watching that text appear on the screen that brings out the writer a teen. Teach your teen though that they still need to go back and edit or your teen will submit something that looks like an inflated text message.

That is where you as a parent have a great deal of influence. Insist that when they are writing the essay that you get to read it before they submit it. Never fear that only lasts until they are in college and you will then only see their work on school breaks, when you will find yourself trying to answer college Algebra questions and pulling out what is left of your hair, so enjoy the time with them now.

There are many other excuses and many of them can be dealt with by using just a little creativity. Your kids grew up in stages for a reason. The lessons you learned about how to convince a two year old to potty train, a three year old to behave in the supermarket, and a 5 year old to share his toys were just preparation for this most important puzzle. How do I get this kid out of my house and make sure they earn enough that they won’t have to move back. If you apply those things you learned during those early stages you can rest easy knowing they will only be back for holidays and family events and you will be able to keep the home office you built when you tore out all the posters and painted over the Pony scenes.

Handling the excuses seems like a lot of work but it is really time management applied at a psychological level. Start with the first one you will encounter “I don’t have enough time”. You are the parent and there is no reason you can’t make a schedule with your student to work on Scholarships at 4pm to 5pm every Sunday. Sorry if that cuts into the game console time Son but that’s how it is. Be aware though that your student will not sit there actually working on it at first so you need to check on them regularly during that time until it becomes habit to make progress and then wean them off your constant checking. This makes it more impactful later when you make random checks to see what they accomplished.

Documentation is everything. Make a log that your student must use to document every submission so you both know what has been accomplished. It should include a checklist of items that need to be included in a submission. It will also help you to remember which Scholarships have been submitted already and what the due dates for each contest are. Which brings me to that all important thing that your student has little grasp of. Anyone who can’t figure out they just spent 9 hours playing a game will probably not be organized enough to make sure they meet the due date of a scholarship without a reminder. That is why you must log the due date for each scholarship on their log and the method of transmission for the final submission. A spreadsheet is perfect for this so your student and you can sort out and prioritize which scholarships to work on and when.

Don’t forget that method of transmission I noted above. If the due date is Midnight Nov 30 and the submission is online then you have until midnight to submit. But if the due date is Midnight Nov 30 and you must mail it in your real due date is probably 3 to 5 days earlier. Mail it by Midnight Nov 30 and you probably missed your submission. Finally one more note about record keeping. Your teen is not accustomed to keeping track of your tax returns or her transcripts but scholarships are notorious for needing that information and if you don’t have it handy it throws a wrench in the entire process. Have everything you could possibly need to submit handy.

One last item is vital to your student’s success. Make sure you personally review each and every submission they make. Run down the list with them, read over the essays and double check the paperwork that accompanies the submission. When you press that button or drop that envelope in the mail reward your student for their work. Go out for some Ice Cream and make sure to shovel on the praise.

Read more College Planning Tips from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Mark for some great tips for getting your teen to write scholarship essays. I like how you think outside the box and propose getting teens to use technology more to write scholarship essays. Good luck to you and your son in winning those scholarships for college.


(by Kaycee, Wisconsin)

Paying for college is such a stressful time, But don't fret! You have options! They are called Scholarships.

There is so much money out there for students, whether you think you're unique or not. Never stop applying! Think of making it like a Part-Time job. Make a point everyday at a certain time to make it your "scholarship time".

From September to May, look for scholarships at least ONCE a week, if not every day. Don't just apply for the big money ones! Chances are, less people have applied for a 500-1000$ scholarship, making your chances of winning even greater!

Whenever you are writing an essay, make sure you use proper grammar and spelling. Try to add as much information on it as you can, and remember ALL the accomplishments you've ever done. Anything from being on honors in high school all four years to something simple as helping out a local food pantry or homeless dinner, Or being in Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts. Everyone loves someone who goes the extra mile to help out the community.

Last year I hardly applied for any scholarships. I won one worth 5,000$. My tuition is over 30,000$ a year. It helped me a lot even though it was only ONE scholarship. If I could change anything it would be that I put greater effort into scholarships. Anything you win helps out.

If you win a private scholarship, make a point to send a Thank You letter, or even an email saying Thank You. Showing you are appreciative of the gesture means a lot. There are so many opportunities to receive money for school!

REMEMBER: You DO NOT have to pay back a scholarship. Its FREE money! So my main point to this article is to never stop applying! No matter how boring you think your life is, there is always scholarships for you! :)

Read more College Financial Aid Tips from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice
Thank you Kaycee for reminding everyone that scholarships are Free Money for college, and if you want to win, you must apply. Good luck to you.

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