02/19/2012 10:30 pm ET

College Costs: 'Don't Count Scholarships Out!'

About the author: Julianne is a senior at Elk Grove and a reporter for The Mash, a weekly teen publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

The sticker-price for a new life in college is worth thousands and thousands of dollars. While there are thousands of scholarship opportunities for students to shrink down their college tuition, the number of applicants in competition now serves as an obstacle for many students.

A good amount of students these days believe that there’s no way for them to earn scholarship money for college because they’re competing with a large number of other applicants. However, this may just turn out to be another scholarship misconception. According to, the belief that the competition is too intense -- and it’s not worth bothering to try -- is a myth.

One way to look at it is what if a student spent a total of 50 hours searching and applying for scholarships and after all that time and effort only wins two or three scholarships, totaling about $2,000. That’s $40 per hour, which is at least four to five times more than a student can expect to get paid for doing pretty much any other activity or job.

“Apply for as many scholarships as you can,” Elk Grove college and career counselor Steven Quaglia said. “You are bound to win something.”

For Curie senior Jaylin McClinton, the competition doesn’t faze him at all. He has applied for national scholarships such as the coveted Gates Millennium Scholars.

“I’m not really the type of person to be defeated, so I apply everywhere,” McClinton said. “They might see something in me that they don’t see in another student.”

In contrast, Pritzker senior Angel Martinez has taken a more passive strategy to win scholarships, mostly applying for ones that only require a name and address.

Both seniors encourage students not to feel discouraged by the competition because they believe there’s something out there for everybody.

“The worst thing you can do is to think that there are no scholarships out there for you,” Martinez said. “People would give money to you just because you’re left handed!”

According to McClinton, the best way to maximize your chances of winning is to start early since there are deadlines that begin as early as summer.

“Most people think it’s better to do college stuff first,” McClinton said. “But, it’s best to do everything simultaneously because you could miss a lot of scholarships at the beginning of the school year.”