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Scholarships: The Final Frontier

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As I struggle to the find the time to write this blog, I realize that my high school years have flashed before me in the blink of an eye. I recall my first day of high school, when I entered as a fledging eaglet without any worry and telling myself that I will just take everything in stride. Four years later, I've grown into a fully developed eagle and I am ready to set flight and soar towards my next journey! I entered being very reserved and unsure of my potential, but after countless opportunities were presented to me, I was able to become more outgoing and take many leadership positions within my community. I have become a symbol of support for many of my peers and act as more than an acquaintance, but rather, someone in whom they can confide.

Now that college applications are over, I'm onto the next critical task: finding money in order to be able to pay for college tuition. I have finally completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and now I'm just waiting for my application to be processed. Hopefully there is a quick turnaround, so that way my family can be aware of what they are expected to contribute... ideally it will be a minimal amount of money.

Regardless, I am staying proactive and constantly on the lookout for any scholarship, of any amount that I may qualify for and finding time to tackle them. I recently submitted an application for the Gates Millennium Scholarship due earlier this month, and let me assure you, it was no easy task.

This award is funded by a Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and with eight essays, sections asking for honors and awards, and also community service hours, the Gates Millennium Scholarship has been the most rigorous and time-consuming scholarship yet.

Granted, this is a small hurdle given that each year the program selects 1,000 talented minority students with significant financial need "to receive a good-through-graduation scholarship to use at any college or university of their choice." I am really nervous about the scholarship results in March because I know that many people apply. Even so, I still believe that I have a fighting chance to be one of the 1,000 selected for this award. There was even an entire group held by former scholars and current ambassadors of the program who assisted throughout the process by reviewing essays and offering tips on how to write the essays. I used this resource to my advantage so that my essays can be very polished. There has only been one student previously to have ever won the award in my school. I hope that I can become the second to do so.

I'm currently filling out the Jackie Robinson Foundation scholarship and will soon be applying to the South Central Scholars scholarships as well as other smaller scholarships. The Jackie Robinson Foundation awards "four-year scholarships of up to $7,500 per year to attend the four-year accredited college or university of their choice." The South Central Scholars have a Bridge Scholarship Program that awards grants "between $500 to $3,000 per scholar, and are renewable for up to six years." These scholarships entail me talking about my extracurricular activities, any honors I've won, along with essays of different topics. Yay! More essays to write! Woo-hoo! A part of my application also includes getting recommendations from my counselor and teachers.

I have realized how much they have seen me grown these past few years, especially my English teacher (a subject I enjoy) and math teacher (a subject that I have struggled with in the past). Websites such as FastWeb and Zinch have been a tremendous help in this process. I mean, I get email notifications and updated scholarships based on my personal information, which makes the scholarship hunting an easier process. Every week, Zinch has a three-sentence essay contest on different topics and the best essay wins $1,000. I always go back and do this contest, but as of now, I have not won.

The second semester of senior year has finally arrived. The long journey is now nearing its end and it has taken a lot of work to get here. Now there are other enjoyable things to look forward too: Prom, Grad Nite and most importantly, graduation. Graduation -- the one day where I receive my diploma signifying that I have successfully completed high school. I truly can't be thankful enough for all of the support that I have received over the years. Come June 12, 2014, I will no longer be a senior in high school, but a matriculating freshman at the college of my choice.