Over the last 20 years, I have guided students to develop their portfolios in strategic ways so they could win scholarship money. For many families, winning a scholarship is a necessity for their student to go to college. With skyrocketing college tuition costs, scholarships are now even needed by upper middle class families.
There are over 1,7 million private scholarships, but only 1% of students get a full ride scholarship. In other words, one out of every 100 students. These are not impossible odds by any means. But, whatever type of scholarship your family is seeking, whether it is a full ride or partial scholarship, population growth has changed the success formula. The most tactical time to put a plan in action to win free, often life changing money, is now 8th grade.
Why? In response to increasing pools of applicants creating a hyper competitive atmosphere, scholarship committees have adjusted by changing their formulas for who gets the money. In the past it was enough for a student to have the following: 4.0/4.0 (or very high) GPA, high SAT or ACT scores, several extracurricular activities clubs, sports, etc), and record of community service. This is no longer the case.
What is the new success formula? The scholarship winners of today have proven real life grit and show evidence of a vision extending beyond a professional aspiration. By “real life grit” I mean grit outside of the academic bubble. Yes, GPA still matters, but it does not translate into money. By “vision beyond a professional aspiration” I mean a purpose seriously impacting the world. As one scholarship professional at the University of Arizona told me recently, scholarship essays only talking about an interest in a certain field of study (“I want to be a doctor”) are now snoozers.
Your student has a better chance of winning a scholarship if they mimic the Shark Tank approach: proving there is an idea worth investing in. A track record showing not just an idea, but the creativity, drive and resilience to make an impact with that idea is the new distinguisher. In saying this, a good way to get your 8th grader in the necessary mindset is to watch Shark Tank with them. Read my blog 8 Reason why you should watch Shark Tank with your children.
Practically speaking, you should get your student to begin thinking big picture at the beginning of 8th grade. What is a longer term project they could engage in? For example, how could they use their academic requirements (e.g., science project, English essays, club activities, etc.) to develop an idea/movement/cause over time. The smartest students now use their academic requirements to develop a vision transcending their schooling. Schooling does not earn scholarships, vision does. Showing grit that is evidenced by an independent drive to develop a longer term project provides the most compelling story scholarship essays revolve around.
Can an 8th grader begin developing a visionary project? Yes!!! How? By finding a mentor who can help them begin figuring out who they really are, so their vision is not some helicopter parent driven project not genuinely representing the student. But instead, based on a sustainable vision developed from probing exploration of what I call the Real Me. The discoverable, authentic person we find after we peel away more superficial layers. The person I make contact with after each client’s trauma, mental health issues, toxic qualities, defense mechanisms and unrealistic perceptions are neutralized. The authentic Real Me.
I find those students with issues such as those with Autism, ADHD, anxiety and depression deeply benefit from the 8th grade “get to know myself” launch. Ths is because often these adolescents feel they have been put into a diagnostic box, and that they have become known by their label, not their innermost unique personality. When these adolescents find a mentor who takes time to find who they really are, they feel tremendously uplifted. They find a meaning propelling them to accomplish far more than they ever thought possible. They begin to see their problems as much more manageable, because when one finds a large purpose they see everything else as a small issue.
After spending over 40,000 hours in the trenches with families as a developmental psychologist, I know 8th graders know a lot more about themselves than adults around them may give them credit for. In fact, it is now common for me to begin working with 8th graders to go through the preliminary stages of my 10-step career guidance process called Precisely Engineered Career Guidance™ (PECG). PECG, unlike typically shallow career guidance approaches, goes as deep as each person is.
By beginning career guidance in 8th grade, you not only maximize scholarship earning potential. Your family can also leverage this process to choose the best high school, among a dizzying array of educational options.
The best career guidance is guided by a mentor who acts as a Wise Elder, guiding the journey of self discovery over many years. You cannot compress credible career guidance into a few meetings. Why not give your 8th grader the chance to begin figuring out who they really are, and in the process, develop their best chance of earning a scholarship?
If you wait till scholarships essays are due to try and earn money, you will end up with empty pockets. And if you allow your student to wait until junior year of highschool to suddenly figure themselves out, then their post high school planning will be as superficial because you are now rushing the self discovery process.
I will be revealing the PECG process in my upcoming book: Freedom to Be: Career Guidance finding the Real Me”. Sign up to be notified of when my book is published. To learn more about PECG now, or contact us to setup an inital career guidance consult, click here.