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How she applied for 100 scholarships

How she applied for 100 scholarships

If you ever feel overwhelmed by all the scholarships you can or will apply for, check out this story from a young lady who applied for 100 of them.

Neither of Yelena Bosovik’s Ukranian immigrant parents went to college and most of her childhood they lived below the poverty level. She wanted to go to her private school of choice, price be damned, but knew she’d have to find another way than her parents to fund her education. Here’s how she did it:

“Today, I am the oldest of 10 children and the first in my family to graduate from college. I attended a small, private liberal arts university in the Midwest with an annual tuition to the tune of $20,000 and graduated in May at the top of my class with a bachelor’s degree in finance and economics — with only $4,500 in student debt. Here’s how I did it.

Where I Found the Scholarships

A few facts: My dad was laid off from his delivery job shortly after I graduated from high school, but even before that we lived well below the poverty threshold for a family of our size.

Since my parents could barely make ends meet at home, I knew it was up to me to find the money to pay for college — tuition, books and other costs like transportation (I didn’t get my own car until a few months into my first semester of college) — while still pitching in for family expenses.

I always joke that scholarship hunting was my second part-time job in high school (I worked weekends at Krispy Kreme). In scheduling for my senior year, I balanced AP classes with easier classes that left me free time during the day to apply for scholarships.

To stay organized, I used a three-inch three-ring binder — color-coded to keep track of deadlines and different types of scholarships. I also kept a calendar to schedule mailings, due dates and other important milestones.

I proceeded to hound my teachers, mentors and school administrators for letters of recommendation and leads for possible scholarships. And I prayed like crazy, because I was determined to go to my private school of choice and a high price tag wasn’t going to daunt me.

The first round of leads came from my school’s guidance counselor. As I began mailing out completed applications, I noticed the address on many of them was the same — a place called the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which provided opportunities for students in my region.

After getting in touch with the scholarships coordinator at the foundation, I learned that the organization actually had an entire department where they set up and managed funds for corporate and private donors who wanted to donate money for scholarships.

That led me to my second round of applications, as I applied for a variety of scholarships — diversity, business, first-generation college student, religious and general scholarships. If I met the criteria, then I applied, no matter the amount of the scholarship. I even called a few and negotiated the criteria just so I could apply!

There were a few scholarships that were as low as $250, while the biggest was $10,000 and renewable for up to four years of study.

I thought of it this way — if I spent an hour filling out an application and got the funding, it would mean I’d made $250, $1,000 or even $10,000 an hour of free money. Not bad!

In my final round of applications, I went to Google and popular scholarship sites like Fastweb to discover a whole spectrum of opportunities — scholarships for left-handed people or students of a certain height (I applied for one that said you must be below 5’4″).

Most of the applications were very similar, requiring a form with basic background and education information, a few essay questions, letters of recommendation and a transcript.

So I wrote a few essay templates (most had similar prompts like, “Why do you deserve this scholarship?” “What are your career goals?” “What is one event or person who has influenced you?”) which I tweaked to fit the requirements of a scholarship. Then, I asked each of my recommenders for dozens of copies of their letters and had my guidance counselor send out my transcript in batches once a month. I was a scholarship application machine!”

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