PLANNING FOR COLLEGE CHECKLISTS
Get your FREE copy of the Planning for College Checklists - Junior Year, Summer Before Senior Year, Senior Year, FAFSA, CSS-Profile, Scholarships, Dorm Shopping, Packing for the Move, and the Parent Survival Kit for College Drop Off and the Glossary of College Admissions Terms.
The Scholarship System Review and Interview
Paying for college with scholarships is the dream of many college bound students, but actually winning them requires a plan. I interviewed Jocelyn, who won over $126,000 to completely pay for her college education. She answered questions and gave us some college scholarship tips including telling me about her Scholarship System. She uses The Scholarship System to coach high school students through the process of researching, applying for, and winning scholarships and has saved families over $720,000 in college costs.
I was also given brief access to the Scholarship System so I could do a full review.
The Scholarship System Review and Interview
This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may (at no additional cost to you) receive a small commission. For more information, see the full disclosure in the foot bar. Your support pays for the maintenance and free materials available on Almost Empty Nest. Thank you!!
Tell me a little about yourself and about The Scholarship System
I am the oldest of 5 and my parents told us, “We love you guys, however, unfortunately there is no way we can afford five kids going to college.”
We were like most families, kind of stuck in the middle. We wouldn’t just get a free ride to college because of being low income. Yet, my parents did not have enough to cut a check and pay for school. That was my junior year in high school and I was like, oh my gosh, what am I going to do? I don’t want to take out debt and I was pretty certain and bullheaded about not taking out debt. So I went on the hunt for scholarships and that is really where it all began.
But the first year was awful. It was so painful. I got sucked into scams. The email that I used back then now has over 20,000 messages and it is all marketing from scam scholarships. And a whole year of what I thought was applying, but in reality I was basically just wasting an entire year because I did not know what I was doing. And then towards the end of my junior year I finally got a $500 scholarship from a small local one. And that’s when I realized, “Hey, wait a minute. Maybe these are the kinds of scholarships I should be going after.”
So I started tweaking what kinds of scholarships I was going after, tweaking my essays so that I could get them really fine-tuned, and then slowly, but surely, I got to a free ride. My university only offered me $2000 a year, but yet, I was able to get six figures in scholarships because of going for all of those low hanging fruit, smaller dollar, external scholarships that could still add up to a free ride. In the end I got over $126,000 in scholarships.
What does the ideal scholarship candidate look like?
There are a lot of myths around scholarships where people think that they have to have the perfect GPA, be a National Merit Finalist, (…) or they have to be low income, have to be the next Tim Tebow, and what I found is that wasn’t the case. There are scholarships out there for so many different things. It’s a matter of finding them.
So, believe it or not, I think a lot of people when they think, “What’s the perfect scholarship candidate?” They are going to hear 4.0, perfect SATs, and they are involved in a million things, have a million community service hours, or are captain of the football team, but that is actually not the case because scholarship committees are people just like us, right? And they are looking for someone that is going to succeed, and so really the idea candidate is someone who is going to succeed in college and beyond.
So now, we can say that stats normally indicate that or community service really indicate that, but if we can share the right story to show that whatever we have done actually does prove that we can succeed, then there aren’t any really high bars as far as stats and figures, but it’s more so character based.
So with students, it’s not that they have to fit a certain box. It’s that we have to find what it is in your experience that proves that you can take that experience and succeed in college and beyond. We had one student that got scholarships for loving horses. We found 6 scholarships that she could apply to. It’s just a matter of finding specific criteria that they are passionate about and going for scholarships that relate to them rather than trying to fit a cookie cutter because there is no cookie cutter student that will win a scholarship. That’s the beauty of it. Students like me – my SATs these days would be below average. This is good news for that average student.
What is the number one thing you would tell a student or their parent about applying for scholarships?
The first is to start early and the reason I say that is because a lot of times we can find scholarships, especially local scholarships, that your student will be eligible for way in advance. A lot of times the deadlines are the same year after year. So say, you start researching in your sophomore or junior year… You can compile a list of all the scholarships that our student can apply to and start prepping for it.
Seniors are so caught up in admissions that they miss out on a lot of money. But if we can start doing that research a head of time, then they just have to focus on the applications, not the research and finding them and potentially missing deadlines. So I highly recommend starting early and documenting and even if the deadline has passed, so they can apply the following year. Start creating a list.
Are scholarships more competitive than they used to be because there are more and more kids applying for scholarships as people have become more aware of them?
You would think that was the case with debt increasing, with headlines all over the place about the scary student debt situation, you would think students would start applying. Unfortunately, a lot of students think they are going to apply and they don’t. They start the process and they get overwhelmed and they quit. That is why, in my opinion, The Scholarship System has been so successful so far. It gives them clear steps to follow.
When you say to your kid, “You need to get scholarships because we can’t afford this,” they are going to google “scholarships” and come back with 90,000 pages of scholarships that don’t pertain to them, scams, and they are just going to get overwhelmed. With a clear system to follow, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks, it increases the chances that they are going to actually apply in the first place. So even though students know they need to be applying for scholarships, I don’t think that a lot of them really are doing it because they get so overwhelmed with all of the junk out there. To go off that – someone recently contacted us. It was a $1000 scholarship with a little essay and it had zero applicants. He said, “I have a million blog readers a month and I have zero applicants.”
What is your advice for the kid who is so busy being awesome – good grades, officer in clubs, athletics, community service, that they have no time to apply for scholarships?
We talk about in our facebook group a concept called “Scholarship Saturdays” or “Scholarship Sundays.” I highly recommend families setting aside a time where “this is scholarship time.” There is no arguing about it. You only need an hour or two. We will sit down and start researching scholarships for you and you start doing the applications. The families that have done that, I see the most success with.
The challenge when we say, “Did you apply?” “Did you apply?” “Did you apply?” it just sounds like nagging. Instead when we have that Scholarship Saturday or Sunday, we don’t have to nag them Monday through Friday because we know our dedicate time.
The other thing to keep in mind is that you have to do admission essays and a lot of that can be reused. Once you get some solid application materials ready, you can reuse them over and over and over like I did. That is when you really start cutting down the time it takes. It does take some time to get started which is why I recommend choosing a consistent time for the family to get together. Bake cookies, whatever… But once you get going, it get’s easier because you can reuse stuff.
What can a parent ethically do to help their child with their applications?
I love this question! One thing we talk about a LOT is DO NOT DO THEM FOR YOUR STUDENT! In the course, we have an interview with a scholarship committee member who has given out a half a million dollars every year for a long time. He says when a parent does the application, they can tell. They see it all the time and those students are automatically disqualified.
Even though you cannot do it for them, there are areas where a parent can be involved. First, researching them, so finding scholarships they can apply to. I have parents who do the research and print them out – just stack them in a folder and their student goes through them.
Also some parents who have the experience can proofread essays. I only recommend that for parents who are confident in their writing skills and we have to be honest with ourselves about whether we are the right person. Most of the time an English teacher or English professor would be better, but parents can help with that.
Sitting down and brainstorm with your student about what they can talk about. A lot of times parents find it easier to toot their kids horn than they do. Parents can remind the student of an achievement they have that actually is impressive.
I understand that you now have an App. Is that just available to The Scholarship System members or is it available to everyone?
Yes! Earlier I said you can start building your list now. You can do that right in the app and the app will actually send an alert two weeks before the deadline that you put in there. We tell our students that if you find a scholarship, but you have missed the deadline and will still be eligible next year, you can save it in the app and set the deadline a month out. It automatically populates the link, the dollar amount, the due date.
Start building your own personal data base. People log in and say, “It’s empty.” That is the point. We purposely left it empty so that you can create your own personal data base of scholarships. The only scholarships that will be in there will be the ones that you personally added.
The App is completely free to anyone.
Anything that you would like to add?
With the course we have had a lot of success. A mother recently emailed me and her daughter got over $90,000 and she said that The Scholarship System was the best investment they have ever made for her education. It’s so rewarding to see these families that now can completely avoid debt or having to borrow way less. This student was able to go to a school that was not even on the table unless she got scholarships. So that is what we offer the opportunity for: to completely eliminate or debt or at the very least reducing it if they just got $5000 a year, which is $20,000 over 4 years.
I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Jocelyn. She is upbeat and fun. I was also allowed to review The Scholarship System. It is chock full of information, tips, worksheets, and timetables. It is a complete guide to winning scholarships. The Scholarship System also includes access to a private facebook group where you can interact with Jocelyn, her employees, and other families for even more help winning scholarships. She offers a FREE Webinar where she shares some of her most important college scholarship tips.
For more information about paying for college check out The Complete Guide to Paying for College.