5 Tips for College Scholarships

by Jennifer AnandAugust 20, 2019View more posts from Jennifer Anand

Cancer is expensive. You don’t have to be a genius to figure that out!

Going to college during/after cancer is no easy feat, so to have to pay for it to is quite a challenge! During high school, I always counted on working before and through college to help pay for college. Getting diagnosed in January of my senior year thwarted any plans of working that spring and summer prior to college. When I entered college, I didn’t have the energy to do academics as well as hold down a job.

So I turned to a low-energy-requiring way to make some money for school: scholarships.

I remember sitting in the hospital when I was first diagnosed, and Googling scholarships for cancer peeps. There are a good number out there that turned up! I was raring to go and read several of the winning essays from prior years. And my story seemed to pale in comparison to so many I read. I hadn’t lost a limb to cancer. I hadn’t even lost my hair yet! I let so many of the powerful stories I read discourage me from applying to any of those scholarships.

Over time, I realized my story was just as powerful and relevant as any of the others I had read, and that I shouldn’t discredit myself. Through the help of many, and a lot of swallowed pride on my part, I was able to obtain the money I needed for college! Here’s a five things I’d like to tell you….

Apply for scholarships
Don’t be discouraged like I was. The worst that will happen is you won’t get it! I perfected my base story, and then modified it to the different prompts. That cuts down on the amount of time you  spend writing a new essay each time, so you can apply for more!

Tell your story
No one knows your story better than you. Just tell it. It can be hard to pour your heart out into a Word document, but it will make for a better application if you’re authentically telling your story.

Keep your eyes open
I feel like a lot of people only look for the “big” scholarships, like from Coca-Cola, or The Gates Foundation, or something super well known. Keep your eyes open around town for the smaller scholarships. Check your city’s Chamber of Commerce page for a local scholarship listing.

Also, I know some people who don’t even bother applying to scholarships under $1000. The majority of my scholarships trickled in a few hundred dollars at a time, from all sorts of places. The Office of Accessibility at my school gave a scholarship for $500. Different departments or organizations in my community had scholarships in denominations for $100 or $250. Frankly, every penny helps! Don’t discredit small denominations or organizations!

Ask for help
I began college with a significant amount of tuition paid for with a merit scholarship. The scholarship was for eight semesters, contingent on a fairly high GPA.  Cue chemo brain, and transplant, and surgeries, and stuff. That GPA nosedived. A few weeks before the fall of one year, I received an email that I owed several thousand dollars, as all that scholarship had been rescinded due to my GPA.  I had $300 odd some dollars in the bank, that was to last me the entire semester. I panicked and was terrified that I’d have to drop out of college when I was trying so hard to catch up to my class.

I emailed a lady in the financial aid office, and explained my situation to her, and low-key begged her to renew the money for that semester. She did, with a contingent that I raise my GPA a few decimal points. It was super hard to ask her for that money, but in the end,  I did receive it! Even though bringing up my GPA that semester was crazy hard, it was a huge lesson for me to just put myself out there and ask for things.

Be grateful
No, that’s not going to net you the big bucks, but it will do two things. First, it will show others around you that you’re not an a—hole. It takes a village…be sure to thank yours. Secondly, it changes your perspective. Life’s not easy, especially with cancer. But there are always things that we can be grateful for every day, and taking a moment to give thanks will help life’s trials will seem more manageable.

:-)