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July’s College Cash scholarship recipient Caitlyn McCaulley

Congrats, Caitlyn

Posted: 07.27.15

Congratulations, Caitlyn McCaulley, on winning July’s College Cash® scholarship. As a UMBC student studying biology, Caitlyn wrote about the helpful advice she received at a College Cash® seminar. She attended the“Finding Money for College” session in the winter and learned about streamlining applications to maximize her chances of winning instead of “applying for everything”. Caitlyn realized that being specific in scholarship essays gives students a leg up. “I won’t blatantly state, ‘I like volunteering,’” she writes, “Instead I will elaborate on how I completed my Girl Scout Gold award, and the experience and joy that it brought me.” Caitlyn’s full essay is featured below.

Going to college has been one of the best decisions of my life. I mean, going to college was never a question for me because I have consistently through the years yearned to learn more and aspired to refine my talents. Even at less than a year in, I feel so much more versatile and independent. However, I was so excited about getting into college last year that I didn’t spend nearly enough time researching and applying for scholarships, thinking that it would all work out. After attending the College Cash® seminar, I decided that I will be changing the way I search and apply for scholarships and aid so I can have the best chance at getting the aid I need.

Before the College Cash® event, I never had any solid advice for applying for scholarships besides “apply for everything.” While rooted in some truth, this alone was terrible advice and left me with more questions than answers. “Where do I start?” “Which scholarships give me the best chance?” I ended up applying to some national scholarships like Questbridge and Nordstrom. Due to the overwhelming number of applicants to these programs, I am not surprised now that I was not able to get any of the scholarships I applied for. This time, I am applying local. Many local scholarships are not taken advantage of simply because no one applied. By shrinking the metaphorical “pool” of applicants, I have a significantly better chance at beating the other fish. Also, I learned that senators and delegates often have their own scholarship funds. I will be applying to all of my delegates and senators.

As it is necessary to choose the scholarship programs wisely, it is equally important to impress the scholarship committee with your essay. Planning is essential. Before you set eyes upon this crisp rendering of my essay, it was just a word document full of incomplete sentences and ideas. I would have never dared to turn that rough document in to any scholarship application, but it gave me a starting point on which to build my full sentences and cohesive ideas. Also, as I wrote my essay, I thought about how I could show who I am through words. For example, in my essay, I won’t blatantly state, “I like volunteering”. Instead I will elaborate on how I completed my Girl Scout Gold award, and the experience and joy that it brought me. By releasing information about yourself, the reader can more easily relate to you as an individual, and a human being.

Each scholarship committee has a different goal, but generally they want to find a unique, talented, and reliable person to award. I will need to stand out, but how can I stand out if I don’t apply myself? Sure I could always say that I was student of the month twice in high school or that my GPA is great, but that wouldn’t get me far. In order for me to stand out, I need to be constantly looking for opportunities to learn and grow. For instance, this summer I will be volunteering regularly at my local hospital. While I cannot tell a story about how much I’ve learned about medicine of health care professions now, I will be able to in the future. I am setting myself up so I can “stand out,” even as time progresses.

Just because I was not able to receive the aid I needed in the past, does not mean that I am doomed to take out high-interest loans for all of college. After attending the College Cash® seminar, I feel way more prepared to choose appropriate and reasonable scholarships, write a well-structured essay, and to distinguish myself through words.