Learn From Student Stories of Scholarship Success

Here are a few real life examples of students who've received college dollars.

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Every year, Scholarship America's programs and services help thousands of students across the country achieve their dream of earning a college degree. Often, these students receive scholarships from a variety of sources—including individuals, community foundations, and businesses—in addition to those that they receive from our organization. Without scholarship assistance, many students would either graduate with thousands of dollars in debt, or not attend college at all.

These students didn't receive their scholarships without a lot of hard work and determination. They applied themselves academically, got involved in volunteering and extracurricular activities, and dedicated a lot of time to researching and applying for scholarships.

[Learn about 5 unusual scholarships.]

Some of the best advice we've given readers in our weekly posts came straight from students we've talked to over the years. Here are a few scholarship recipients from whom you may be able to learn something:

Volunteer your time, and you may just be rewarded with a scholarship: Kyler, a math lover from Somerville, Mass., always believed in the notion of "paying it forward." When he began actively participating in the activities held by his local Dollars for Scholars chapter, Somerville Mathematics Fund, he saw an opportunity to give back. In ninth grade, Kyler began vigorously fundraising and volunteering for the chapter. For the next four years, he not only volunteered to help out at nearly every event, but he also raised more money than any student had in the chapter's history. In recognition of Kyler's dedication, he was awarded a $4,000 scholarship from Somerville Mathematics Fund, the largest scholarship the chapter gives out to students.

Start early and stand out: Lynn's parents encouraged her from a young age to study hard and earn good grades so she could go to college. For Lynn, getting into college wasn't the problem; it was finding a way to pay for it. Lynn wanted to avoid student loan debt, and realized early on she'd need to earn scholarships. She also knew that her best chance of standing out on scholarship applications was to do something unique. When Lynn got the opportunity to audition for a TV news show made by teens for teens, she jumped on it. Her experience with the program helped Lynn stand out from other kids when applying for scholarships. Lynn received a full four-year scholarship to Drake University, plus a renewable $3,000 Northwestern Mutual Scholarship, a program administered by Scholarship America. She credits her work with the teen television program as giving her an exclusive edge among other equally dedicated students.

[Read about 7 prestigious scholarships.]

Apply for as many opportunities as possible—at least one is likely to pay off: Lily had always been a good student, in addition to being involved in sports, holding down a part-time job, and helping her younger brothers and sisters with their homework. Lily didn't know how she was going to be able to afford college tuition, let alone her dream school—a private college not far from her home—with tuition roughly equal to her mom's yearly salary. Though Lily saved as much as she could from her part-time job, it wasn't enough. Little did she know that a school counselor had nominated Lily for a scholarship from her local Dollars for Scholars chapter; when she unexpectedly received the $1,500, she realized that there were probably other scholarships available. By the end of the school year, Lily had applied for and received a number of scholarships, allowing her to attend her dream school entirely on scholarships. Lily's success has encouraged her younger brothers and sisters to go to college, too.

[Learn more about paying for college.]

Get advice and get inspired from other students. Visit Scholarship America's Scholar Stories page to read about other students who have benefited from scholarships.

Michelle Showalter joined Scholarship America in 2007 and is an alumna of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.