What Defines Success Essay Scholarships

Shay Spivey’s story is one which many students looking to pay for school can relate to and gain inspiration from. Like students of all ages, she found herself in the all-too-common conundrum of having college aspirations without the finances to make her dreams a reality. Most students aren’t independently wealthy, after all.

However, Spivey’s scholarship story is unique due to the fact that her search began later than that of a typical college student. As a young single mother, Spivey began to reevaluate her life when she turned 30. One of her goals in life had always been to get a college degree. But, with limited means and supporting her children, Spivey was working full-time and only had the means for community college courses.

Like many thirty-somethings, she was on a tight budget and still had student loans from when she had originally attended college. Spivey shared that, while it was helpful to attend classes, she was taking one or two at a time and began to become concerned at how long the process was taking. Plus, it was difficult to fit in a full-time job and taking care of her kids on top of classes.

As a result, she shifted her goals, feeling that it was better for her to work toward her degree full-time, so she wouldn’t have to take night courses which would impact her kids. That’s exactly what Spivey set out to do.

It takes hard work to become a $100k scholarship winning success story.

While working her full-time job, she began to utilize her lunch hours and all of her spare time at the library, researching her options to obtaining help to pay for school.

“The first year, I spent my lunch hours and evening applying for scholarships. I had a goal to apply for one scholarship a day, sometimes one a week.”

She embarked on the process about a year before she actually intended on going back to school in order to give her plenty of time to gain the funding she needed to make her goals a reality. During her time researching scholarships and financial aid, Spivey discovered Fastweb.

According to Spivey, “I found that Fastweb was the number one site I’d use – the majority of my scholarship search was done with Fastweb. I don’t think I could have done it without it. Fastweb is the easy way – it does the work for you.”

With the help of Fastweb, Spivey began applying for any and all scholarships she qualified for and put 100 percent of her efforts toward doing so. But, as with most worthwhile things, Spivey’s scholarship search wasn’t easy. Spivey applied for her first scholarship and details, “I put everything I had into it – my essay was tailored and I worked hard on the application. It turns out I didn’t get it and I was heartbroken. But, it started me on the path of how to apply to scholarships. I did that one, so I figured I could do others.”

That first year, Spivey applied for a total of 67 scholarships and received decline letters for the majority of them. Those letters, thankfully, didn’t discourage her from pursuing her dream, instead it helps her gain a different perspective on the whole situation.

“For every 1 scholarship I won, I received at least 10 rejections. I switched my perspective: I counted the “no” letters and when I got to 10, I knew a yes was coming soon! There was a time that I was getting a decline letter in the mail every day.”

That first year, her dedication and efforts paid off. Spivey was awarded $18,500 in scholarships to attend school and, because many of the scholarships she applied for were for single parents, working mothers and adult students, she was able to supplement her income with the additional award amounts she won for things like childcare, housing, etc. after paying for her tuition.

Spivey was ultimately awarded 22 scholarships, totaling over $100,000 throughout the five years she returned to college, in addition to the Federal Pell Grants and the Indiana State Frank O’Bannon Grant Higher Education Award.

What’s her secret?
Well, in addition to putting forth all of her time and effort, Spivey recommends a binder method. Basically, she would keep all of her applications, recommendation letters, transcripts and anything else necessary to applying for scholarships organized within a three-ring binder, which she took everywhere that first year.

“Most scholarships asked the same question(s), so I kept my personal essay and reused it, tailoring it to each of the scholarships I applied for. The number one organizational tip I’d say is to keep a three-ring binder with copies of transcripts, letters of recommendation – everything I needed to apply for scholarships I kept in that binder. I checked Fastweb every day and, whenever there was a new scholarship opportunity, I was able to quickly put all of the pieces together.

She’d request that her letters of recommendation be addressed generally because “the majority of scholarships will take a general letter that speaks to your character and I was able to take one letter, make 20 copies and use it for multiple scholarships.”

What advice would this scholarship winner give for your scholarship search?
Two of her biggest pieces of advice for students looking for scholarships are the following:

“Don’t be afraid of the essay. The personal essay is the easiest essay you will ever write – it is YOUR story. Who knows your story better than you?”

The second piece of advice helped her maintain financial support after winning scholarships – an aspect many scholarship winners may forget about or neglect.

“Once you win a scholarship, good communication is the key to keeping that scholarship for multiple years of support.”

Through these methods, Spivey was able to pay for five years of education and supplement housing and childcare costs (when applicable funding was given), winning a total of more than $100k in scholarships. After finishing school, she now has both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work, which she uses to help people with mental health and addictions counseling.

She urges students to recognize that “there is free money out there; you just need to find it. The thing I hear most often is “I would not know what to do.” My purpose is really to teach people how to access the money that’s out there and available for them. A lot of these people qualify for financial aid, scholarships, grants and more.”

If you think her story is miraculous, Spivey also wants students of all ages to know that her story came out of hard work and effort. It wasn’t an easy process and her success didn’t come overnight. In fact, Spivey notes, “I didn’t qualify for a lot of opportunities because I was an adult student so imagine how many more scholarships students of high school age qualify for. There is so much money out there.”

After people began to hear about Spivey’s scholarship success story, they began to seek her out for help.

“I started doing financial aid counseling in my living room and at the library. After a while, I had to start turning people away because there were so many people who wanted to know how you win scholarships. I even hand out Fastweb flyers to people in my classes but I found a lot of people needed one on one help with guidance and direction. I couldn’t help everyone – that’s when I started turning people away. Everyone was asking the same questions so I figured let me write it down to help people get the basics of what it’s about to apply for scholarships.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Spivey wrote a series of short books for people that cannot afford college planning or financial aid counselors. She also gives workshops to help people with the scholarship and financial aid processes, where a large part of her tutorials are simply sharing what she learned throughout her own process. She’s tailored her books to be formatted like workbooks, with worksheets, bulleted lists and quick tips, and they can be read cover-to-cover in as little as 30 minutes.

“The people that come to my workshops – they’re the parents that cannot afford to send their child to school and are desperate for help. I give up my weekends and evening so I can show those families that there are free ways you can go to school, you just need to know how to access them,” says Spivey.

In an effort to pay it forward, Spivey now teaches scholarship workshops in partnership with schools and organizations that help disadvantaged students access higher education.

You can learn more about Shay Spivey on her website and find her books which include, How to Submit a Winning Scholarship Application and How to Find Scholarships and Free Financial Aid for Private High Schools, on Amazon.

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Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants, and internships, for which they actually qualify. You'll find high value scholarships like VIP Voice's $5,000 Scholarship, and easy to enter scholarships like Niche $2,000 No Essay Scholarship, and internships with companies like Apple, Google, Dreamworks, and even NASA!

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If you’re a skilled writer, a few hundred (or even a thousand) words is no biggie.

Students that can easily express themselves through writing flock toward scholarships with interesting essays and the scholarships on this list are just that.

All of the below scholarships require an essay entry – some as short as only 250 words – with interesting essay topics that range from safe driving and technology to America heroes and animal activism.

To help better organize your scholarship and internship search, please note that the following scholarships for writers are listed according to deadline, with the earliest deadline appearing at the top of the page. Deadlines that vary will appear at the bottom of each list.

If you enjoy expressing your opinions through writing, the scholarships on this list await your entries.

Scholars Helping Collars

Deadline: 2/15/18
Available to: High School Seniors
Award Amount: $1,000

The Scholars Helping Collars Scholarship is open to current high school seniors. You must submit an essay of between 500 and 1000 words with two to three photos of your volunteer efforts to help animals in need and how that involvement has changed your lives or shaped your perceptions on the importance of animal welfare in order to be considered for this award.

Learn more about the Scholars Helping Collars.

Live Deliberately Essay Contest

Deadline: 3/15/18
Available to: Ages 13-21 Years
Award Amount: 3 Awards of $250

The Live Deliberately Essay Contest is open to all students aged 14 – 21. You must submit an essay of no more than 750 words based on the prompts listed on the sponsor’s website. This year’s prompts will ask you to consider a time in your life when you pursued a path that was “narrow and crooked,” but felt like it was the right path for you. In what ways are/were you able to, as Thoreau advises, walk that path with “love and reverence?” How has navigating that path shaped you into the person you are becoming?

Learn more about the Live Deliberately Essay Contest .

AFSA High School Essay Contest

Deadline: 3/15/2018
Available to: High School Freshmen through High School Seniors
Award Amount: $2,500

The AFSA High School Essay Contest is open to high school students. To be considered, in a 1,000 – to 1250 – word essay, you must identify two cases – one you deem successful and one you deem unsuccessful – where the U.S. pursued an integrated approach to build peace in a conflict – affected country.

Learn more about the AFSA High School Essay Contest .

Brighter Future Scholarship

Deadline: 3/31/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $500

The Brighter Future Scholarship is available to undergraduate, graduate or law students enrolled at an accredited college or university. You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and submit 500 word letter of intent that identifies a problem and explains how you intend to use your education as a way to begin solving that problem, thus creating a brighter future.

Learn more about the Brighter Future Scholarship.

NPG 2018 Scholarship Contest

Deadline: 4/20/2018
Available to: High School Seniors through College Juniors
Award Amount: Awards from $750-$2,000

The NPG 2018 Essay Scholarship Contest is open to high school seniors and college freshmen, sophomores and juniors. You must submit an essay of between 500 and 750 words on one environmental issue from the sponsor’s chosen list and explain how it is made worse by population growth and describe what measures you would recommend our nation’s leaders take to ensure we protect our fragile environment for generations to come. You must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the NPG 2018 Scholarship Contest.

E-Waste Scholarship

Deadline: 4/30/2018
Available to: High School Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,000

The E-waste Scholarship is available to high school, undergraduate or graduate students. You must submit a short statement that completes the sentence “The most important reason to care about e-waste is…” and be U.S. citizen or legal resident to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the E-Waste Scholarship.

Feldco Scholarship

Deadline: 6/15/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: $1,000

The Feldco Scholarship is available to current and prospective college students. To be considered, you must submit a 700 – to 1000 – word essay on the following topic: “How has your family contributed to who you are today?”

Learn more about the Feldco Scholarship.

Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest

Deadline: 7/01/2018
Available to: High School Seniors through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,500

The Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest is open to U.S. citizens attending or planning to attend an accredited college or university. You must submit an essay of between 800 and 1000 words on one of the five topics related to immigration listed on the sponsor’s website in order to qualify for this award.

Learn more about the Immigration Scholarship Essay Contest.

Love Your Career Scholarship

Deadline: 9/10/2018
Available to: College Freshmen through Graduate Students, Year 5
Award Amount: $1,000

The Love Your Career Scholarship is available to students attending an accredited college or university. You must submit an essay of at least 1,000 words describing at least three steps that you plan to take in the next year to start a path towards having a career that you love in order to qualify for this award. Topics may include: What are your passions that could be turned into a career? What are some ideas you have for a business based on things that you love and are skilled at? You must also interview a professional in your chosen field that has at least three years of experience.

Learn more about the Love Your Career Scholarship.

MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest

Deadline: Varies
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: $3,000

Sponsored by the Marine Corps Gazette, the MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest is open to all Marines on active duty and to members of the Selected Marine Corps Reserve.

The contest honors the essay that proposes and argues for a new and better way of “doing business” in the Marine Corps.

Learn more information about the MajGen Harold W. Chase Prize Essay Contest.

Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship

Deadline: Varies
Available to: College Freshmen through College Seniors
Award Amount: Varies

The Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship is open to undergraduate students at Tufts University.

You must possess the same creative qualities in the writing of prose and poetry to qualify for this award.

Preference is given to students whose writing reflects an interest in ancestry and genealogy.

Get more information on the Mary Grant Charles Prize Scholarship.

Need Money to Pay for College?

Every semester, Fastweb helps thousands of students pay for school by matching them to scholarships, grants, and internships, for which they actually qualify. You'll find high value scholarships like VIP Voice's $5,000 Scholarship, and easy to enter scholarships like Niche $2,000 No Essay Scholarship, and internships with companies like Apple, Google, Dreamworks, and even NASA!

Join today to get matched to scholarships or internships for you!


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