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Scholarship and grant applications are my specialty. I love the creativity of creating scholarship essays. I love researching awards and anticipating what will impress a scholarship committee.

Above all else, as a student, I loved receiving a letter explaining how much money would be sent to my bank account.

In my career, I’ve won over $1 million dollars in scholarships and grants, but now as I examine this accomplishment, it feels dreamlike.

That’s because there was a time in my life when winning a scholarship seemed out of reach for me. No one around me spoke about scholarships and I genuinely thought only other students could win.

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The Scholarship Intimidation Factor Hindered Me

I didn’t apply for scholarships and grants as early as I should have. In fact, I only turned to this source of funding because of a moment of financial desperation.

The truth is, I held myself back. It had nothing to do with a difficulty in finding scholarships. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to put in the work to complete an application.

One of the biggest obstacles I faced was me. I was intimidated. And because of my personal experience of being hindered by intimidation, this is the message I want to share with students and parents: You can do this. Take it from someone who used to be scared and uncertain about everything related to scholarships.

Here is how I overcame this intimidation.

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Even If You Don’t Believe, Just Try – Building Momentum

I started looking for scholarships out of necessity. I received a student loan that began to run out earlier than anticipated. I started using a credit card more than I was comfortable with. I also knew that continuing what I was doing was financially unsustainable.

In that moment, I saw a sign on my campus that said, “Scholarships”. I couldn’t tell you what else it said, but that one word was exactly what I needed to see in that moment.

Because I was desperate, I started to look for scholarships. I committed to finding three scholarship opportunities.

Here’s what I learned. While I didn’t believe I could win, setting up tiny goals built momentum. As I built a small list, I discovered the diverse eligibility requirements and the staggering amount of scholarships in existence. My confidence grew.

Believing is a Superpower

As my confidence grew, so did my belief that I could win.

That was a serious game changer.

Here’s what I know now. My expectancy was a big problem. Initially, I didn’t believe that I could win, so I didn’t try.

Now, if you feel this way, listen carefully to that life lesson. Even if it’s a tiny sliver, a one-in-a-million chance, you have to believe it’s possible.

Rejection: The Other Major Piece of Intimidation

As a student, I earned good grades. That was part of my identity.

Unfortunately, for a moment in time, taking a risk that might end in rejection was too unsettling of a journey for me to take.

In short, I was over-attached to the fear of rejection. And this is something I know many students face. Being an undergrad, or even just a young person, comes with an inherent uncertainty. “Where’s my career headed? Will I make enough money? What might people think if I don’t win?”

All of these are questions you might be asking yourself, and I know this, because I definitely had them playing on auto-repeat.

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Conquer Intimidation by Setting Goals

So, here’s the silver lining in all of this. If you’ve made it this far in this message, I know you have some belief in yourself (or maybe you’re a parent and you believe in your child’s potential). That’s a great starting point!

But, if you are feeling intimidated. Where can you start?

Well, let’s begin that conversation here. Start with small goals.

Remember what I said earlier. At the beginning of my journey, I set a goal of finding three scholarship opportunities to apply for. That’s it. Just three.

Looking back on it, I can see that this was a specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goal. And, again, it helped me gain momentum.

So here’s a question to ask yourself: is it possible to find one, two, or five scholarships you’re eligible for this month? Is it possible to commit to submitting a scholarship application in the next 30 days?

Of course it is.

So if you’re really serious about this, do what I did. Create a small achievable goal. Next, commit to it. Put it in your schedule, and do it.

Final Word: Asking “Why are Scholarships Necessary?”

To wrap up, I’d like to leave you with parting words that will help you continue your scholarship journey, even when feelings of intimidation seem unconquerable.

The world of scholarships isn’t always easy, and it entails rejection, time, and effort, but successful students always have something that push them through.

So how do you find the thing that will push you through?

Well, ask yourself, why are scholarships necessary? For me, initially, it was money. But, soon after that, my why was driven by ambition.

I knew that scholarships would help build my career. When people looked at my resume and said, “Wow! You won all this money?” I could see how well these accomplishments translated into competitive employment opportunities or just about anything I decided to take on in the future.

So, ask yourself, who do you want to be in the future? Is a little intimidation enough to stop you from achieving that dream? Friend, I seriously hope not.

I wish you good luck.

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