Scholarship Mindset (Blog)

College football season is in full swing and last night I had the opportunity to watch my Vols play the Oklahoma Sooners. As a Vol fan this was the type of game I had wanted to see for years.  For over three quarters the Volunteer defense frustrated and punished OU’s quarterback, Baker Mayfield. His play was so poor that even the announcers were wondering when the OU coaches might pull him. Then, in the fourth quarter, he came alive, leading two key scoring drives and tying the game with less than a minute remaining. In overtime, Mayfield’s Sooners prevailed, leaving Neyland stadium with a huge win and leaving many Vol fans wondering what might have been.

As I think about the ups and downs of Mayfield in last night’s game, it reaffirmed in my mind that successful athletes have a particular mindset that sets them apart from their competition. This mindset allows them to live in the current moment, forgetting past successes or failures or the potential for failing now, focusing only on what it takes in that one instance to succeed. While we are not all world-class athletes, there is a mindset for the student pursuing outside scholarships. If you expect to be successful in the scholarship game, you need to develop the scholarship mindset and master these three important concepts:

Treat the Pursuit of Scholarships as a Job

If you are going to succeed in your pursuit of scholarship dollars, you have to be willing to commit a large portion of your time to the process, especially in the beginning. Those who are truly successful realize that pursing scholarships has to be more than a hobby; instead, it must become a job. While a hobby is something you do in your spare time, a job is part of your daily routine. Jobs require a strong commitment; a commitment to spending one’s time, money, effort, and even forgoing other opportunities in order to fulfill your employment obligations. In the same ways, having a scholarship mindset requires you understand that there is a cost.

First, there is the investment of time, not only in the search process, but also in the application and review process. Second, there is a financial investment as transcripts, postage, and supplies (paper, envelopes, and toner) can become expensive, especially when you apply in bulk. Third, like any craft, the development of your skills takes time. Just as a golfer goes to the driving range, or a baseball player to the cages, you need to invest time refining your writing skills. As you spend time working on applications and refining your writing skills, your applications will continue to improve. Most of all, there is the forgoing of other opportunities. Sometimes preparing an application takes precedence over spending time with friends, watching TV, or even sleeping. With all that I just mentioned, I’m sure some of you are saying “why bother, this is too much of an investment for me?” While the scholarship process is no doubt a serious commitment of your time and resources, the payoff can be spectacular.

Let’s say that you apply for a scholarship that would award you $1,000. If you spent three hours on the application, your return per hour is $333.33. Taking this further, what if you applied for four additional scholarships, for a total time investment of fifteen hours. Assuming you were only awarded $1,000, you still earned $66.67 per hour. That wage would be hard to beat for many students. So why do so many students shy away? The fear of rejection.

Rejection is the price of admission

Often when students see the opportunity to fund their education through the use of scholarship funds they go away excited and quickly search out and apply for numerous scholarships. Then the letters begin to come; more often than not, excitement turns to dismay as they discover that they were not selected for the award. They begin to question themselves, and their resolve begins to falter. This can easily breed anger, frustration, and avoidance behavior. These feelings can easily snuff out any desire to continue applying for funding. I felt these feelings myself when I first started applying for funding.

Numerically, I fail far more than I succeed. Take last year’s applications. I applied for over seventy scholarships, receiving over fifty rejection letters. You know how I got over the desire to quit? I focused on the acceptance letters. Fifteen organizations saw something in me that caused them to assist me in funding my education; what a commendation. Moreover, these fifteen scholarships, allowed me to fund my education expenses for the upcoming year. Yet, despite my successes, I have learned that I cannot become complacent.

Better Your Best

If you are truly committed to the scholarship process, you will see results. And as great as these results may be, you must be on guard against becoming complacent. An easy way to beat back complacency is to adopt the slogan “better my best.” As well as you have done during your previous funding attempts, you can do better. You can find more scholarship opportunities, craft more compelling essays, and improve your overall application. One of my preaching professors exemplified this when a student once asked “what was the best sermon you ever preached?” He thought for a moment and replied, “my next one.” In the same way, our answer to “what was your best application” should be “my next one.”

Going after scholarship funding is not for the faint of heart. Many make it a hobby that they quickly give up; few ever turn it into a vocation. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing for the ones who can stick it out. Every student who drops out of the game is one less competitor for scholarship funds. To pursue funding, you need to change your mindset: see scholarshipping as a job with a cost, understand that rejection is part of the process, and avoid complacency. Do this and you will easily complete the scholarship game with a winning record.