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A few years ago, a student asked me a question during a scholarship presentation at a local library. The question was in response to a tip I offer students and parents.

“A great resource for high school students can be your school’s guidance counselor,” I noted.

An audience hand shot up. “What if my guidance counselor isn’t helpful?”

I paused because I had never received this question before. Frankly, it surprised me.

I asked the student for more information to get a more fulsome picture. It turns out that this student, and their parent, felt like their guidance counselor cared little about scholarships.

Since that moment, I have received the same question many times.

Why This Question Resonated So Deeply with Me    

No one should be surprised that there are varying qualities of high school guidance counselors. And, to be honest, it’s not something I know to be a widespread issue.

So why am I spending time writing about this?

The issue is that I see a common response from students who don’t have a positive experience with their school resources. Unfortunately, one bad experience tends to cause students to retreat; to stop using their academic advising office altogether.

It’s understandable. If a person doesn’t get value from a resource, why would they spend time and energy interacting with it?

But, this response robs you or your child from a valuable resource that can be a difference-maker in finding scholarships.

College and University scholarships for high school students, undergraduate students, and graduate students.

My Response to the Question in the Moment

My response to the student posing the above question came out with no preparation. I just never anticipated a student or parent asking this. But I want to share what I said because I think it can help others.

“If you feel that your guidance counselor isn’t helpful, ask them again. Explain that you’re looking for resources because you’re serious about the process of finding and applying for scholarships. If they’re still unhelpful, ask another counselor, teacher, or a principal.”

“Always remember,” I noted, “this is your life and your academic journey. It’s up to you to find the resources that will help you achieve your goals. So, if someone isn’t helpful, find someone who is.”

The Bigger Picture: You Author Your Scholarship Journey

The point I want to communicate here is simple: you get to author your scholarship journey.

When you graduate from college or university, you’ll own a degree or diploma.

But, you also own the bills that allowed you to get there. You or your child may also own student debt.

So why not own a scholarship (or multiple scholarships), too?

If a resource is unhelpful, find others. There are many scholarship finding tools online. There are tons of free resources to help with applications. And, there’s a scholarship for every type of student.  

Start with a belief that it’s possible to win a scholarship and then follow this belief with clear planning and intent.

Don’t Let One Bad Experience Define Your Opinion of Something

When I speak to students and parents about scholarships, I universally recommend speaking with high school counselors as a first step.

I offer this tip because of the overwhelmingly positive benefits the interaction can offer. Local scholarship committees often promote scholarships to local high schools. Guidance counselors often have lots of experience in pointing students to helpful scholarship resources based on a student’s unique eligibility criteria.

My strong belief is that most high school counselors are an amazingly helpful resource. Their intentions are honest and centered on something noble: youth development.

On the other hand, there may be a small number of individuals who have a hard time building rapport with students. To high school students and parents, this can translate as lack of care or indifference to student need.

So, what’s the takeaway? Personally, I don’t believe that a bad experience should define an opinion about an entire field of work. Again, if one school resource isn’t helpful, find another – every school has teachers or principals who go above and beyond the call of duty to help.

Remember, you or your child have to own this process. You have to find answers.

This is the mindset that successful students form. I’ve seen it in action. It works!

Scholarship directory to help students win money for college or university

One Last Thing…

I’ve had the privilege of following up with students and parents on this advice. In every case, something positive has come from it; often, a connection with another teacher, counselor, or principal.

Ultimately, when you choose to author your own journey, you’re much more likely to accomplish your goals. Even in moments of frustration, an answer exists. Don’t let anything stop you or your student from winning a scholarship.  

Christopher Grafos, Ph.D., is the founder and chief scholarship mentor at BridgesEDU Scholarships.

He’s a first-generation university graduate whose life was transformed by education and winning scholarships. 

Scholarships help students financially, but they also help advance a student’s career. It’s his life’s work to champion this message and share the secrets to finding and winning scholarships. 

Read more about Christopher’s journey here