Scholarship Tips for First-Generation Students

on August 5, 2016

One of the greatest accomplishments for a first-generation college student is the milestone that you have graduated high school and will be the first person in your family pursuing a higher education. One of the biggest fears that first-generation students have is the debt they'll ensure after graduating college. Unfortunately, there's a persistent myth that first-generation students cannot afford college due to the high price of tuition.

These are four phenomenal scholarship tips that I share with my first-gen Las Vegas students.

Tip #1: Senior Year is Too Late to Start Scholarship Search!
The name of the game is EARLY! There are millions of first-generation college students who don't apply to scholarships until their senior year. That is a big mistake! If you're a first-generation college student, you should start searching for scholarships starting as early as possible. You can start by asking your counselor, talking to local community leaders and checking your Cappex account for new scholarship matches.  

Tip #2: Good Grades and Bad Grades
First-generation students have to have survival skills - one of these skills in maintaining good grades. However, even if you earned bad grades in high school, you should still apply for scholarships. There are different scholarships that don't require good grades, an essay or community service hours. There are scholarships simply are offered based on race, gender, hobbies and other unique traits (like being left-handed). Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you should not achieve a high GPA, as it is important for college admissions, but it's not the only factor for many scholarships.

Tip #3: Passion and Vulnerability
The most important information a first-generation college student can share in his or her scholarship application is their passion of pursuing a college education. Scholarship committees want to hear more about your passion, personal obstacles and why you are a phenomenal candidate that deserves the scholarship. Don't be afraid to be vulnerable and share your unique path in achieving your college admissions through hard work, dedication and commitment.

Tip #4: Community Involvement
There are multiple scholarships that award money to students who are actively involved in their communities. You can get involved with a high school club, religious organization or local volunteer group - these are all communities you may belong to and can contribute to. You can be an exceptional candidate by earning a leadership role in the organization and being involved for several years. 

These tips will allow you to start your scholarships application process, but most importantly, have a clear idea of what scholarship committees are seeking in first-generation applicants. These tips are just some ideas that will guide you in creating phenomenal scholarship applications. Continue to apply for scholarships throughout your high school and college years, and remember to stay honest and true to who you are as a first-generation college student. It's a unique path, and you should be proud of your first-gen status! 

Susy Merary Ruiz joined Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas in August 2013 as a College Access Program Advisor. Since then, she has moved on to become a College Counselor. In her role, Susy works with students to help create a culture of achievement where college becomes a realistic, tangible goal. Susy graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and a minor in Music Industry. She is currently seeking a master's degree in Social Work at USC.

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