Each year, roughly $46 billion in scholarship money is awarded to students across the U.S. And even if your GPA is low, that certainly doesn’t mean you’re out of the running. Felecia Hatcher, author of “The C-Student’s Guide to Scholarships: A creative guide for finding scholarships when your grades suck and your parents are broke,” recently sat down with Yahoo Finance to explain that there is money out there for the taking, regardless of your grades. You just have to know where to look.
Play the scholarship “lotto”
Hatcher recounts the story of her high school guidance counselor advising her not to even consider college because of her low GPA. But Hatcher did not let that stop her from applying for financial aid. Out of 300 scholarship applications submitted, she won $130,000 in scholarships and grants by focusing on local scholarships in her community. She urges students to apply for as many scholarships as possible. “It’s almost kind of like the lotto. The more you play, the better your chances of winning.”
Go for “no” or “low” GPA scholarships
Hatcher says that 60-65% of scholarships and grants either require less than a 3.5 GPA, or don’t ask for a GPA requirement at all. “Students would actually be surprised at the sheer number of scholarship opportunities that don’t ask for a GPA requirement. A lot of them are mostly geared toward extra-curricular activity.”
Tap your parents’ network
Hatcher also mentions that the process begins with asking your parents to tap their network of family, friends and colleagues. They might be involved in scholarship committees and they also might be good candidates for writing you recommendation letters. She notes that she received a scholarship based on her mother’s profession. “My mom is an educator and so one of the scholarships that I got was a Classroom Teachers’ Association that I only got because she was an educator,” she says.
Pre-package your application materials
The process can be daunting, but Hatcher suggests packaging up application materials so that students can send out a high volume of applications with less of a time commitment. She says “you may need to rework a few sentences, but you don’t have to sit down for hours and rewrite a whole new essay. So you can quickly send things off, instead of thinking that you need to start from scratch every time you have a new application.”
Use social media
High school students are on social media a lot so they should make it work for them where scholarships are concerned. “You can search for scholarships via hashtags. You can search for scholarships in the keyword section on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram,” she says.
And a good life lesson for any young person: use failure to propel yourself forward. “You’re going to get a rejection letter, and that’s absolutely okay,” says Hatcher. “But you can’t let that stop you from moving forward.”