A Valedictorian’s Advice On How to Raise a Scholarship Kid

What is the dream of every parent? I would imagine that it would be something to the effect of making sure your children become honest, productive members of society. Aside from that, wouldn’t it be wonderful if your kid went to college with a scholarship? Not every child will or should attend college, but if you want yours to have the best possible opportunity to go to college on a scholarship, you have to start early. I am not one to brag about myself, but after reading Do You Flaunt It? on My Money Design, I thought, why not? I am not very musical, terribly creative, or athletically gifted, but I always did well in school. When I was a freshman in high school, I decided I would be valedictorian and get a scholarship for college, and that’s what I did.

My parents started grooming my sister and me for college since before we can remember. College was like 13th grade, and we never considered not going. Both Sis and I now hold doctorate degrees, and I thank my Mom and Dad for being tough on us. As a mother, I hope to do the same with my daughter. Here are some steps you might consider if you want your child to get to college and have a good shot at a scholarship.

  1. Talk About Education. Stress the value of education as soon as they can talk. Kids are like sponges. When they are little, they like what we like and do what we do. A few weeks ago, we were on our way to school one Monday morning, and I asked my five year old if she was excited to get back to school. Her totally unprompted reply, “Well, I’m a little tired, but I’m glad to go to school. If I don’t go to school, I won’t get to go to college.” I guess we talk about it more then I realized! She may hate me when she is a teen, but the seed will have already been planted.
  2. Set High Standards. I do not think that you should require your child to make straight A’s, but you should hold them accountable. As a parent you know what your child is capable of. My parents knew I could get top grades, and that is what they expected. If I hadn’t done the work they knew I was capable of doing, I would have lost privileges.
  3. Every Grade Counts. Passing grades don’t cut it if you want a scholarship. In my graduation class,  there were four people with a 4.0 GPA. They averaged all the actual number grades from each class throughout high school. I came out on top by one point. Every grade counts.
  4. Be Present and Involed. In elementary school, my mom always made sure I did my homework and quizzed me before tests. She also attended every parent teacher conference and knew who I was with and where I was.It drove me crazy when I was a teenager, but it kept me out of trouble.
  5. Be Well Rounded. Unless you have a perfect SAT, grades alone might not win you a scholarship. Universities like to see well rounded people who are leaders. Sports, clubs, charities, music, and church groups can provide a variety of experiences. Students who serve on student council or who lead in other ways will be better candidates for scholarships.
  6. Pay Attention to Appearance and Manners. If your child gets the opportunity to interview for scholarships, make sure they can properly converse with adults. While schools like individuality, they will expect that you show up looking appropriate, not like a gangster.
  7. Write well. I’m hoping technology won’t totally eliminate correct punctuation and grammar. If you write a college essay like OMG I really want 2 go 2 UR skul!, I don’t think that would win many points. Don’t be afraid to play devil’s advocate on a topic either. You don’t have to go in the most obvious direction as long as it is well written.
  8. Apply for Everything.I guarantee you won’t win any scholarship you don’t apply for. There are tons of small local awards. You might think $500 isn’t much, but if you could win two or three of those, that adds up.
  9. Apply to Lots of Schools. If your child wants to go to Harvard, have them apply. You never know. To get accepted to an Ivy League school, let alone get a scholarship,  you have to be tops, and even that doesn’t guarantee anything. I applied to several schools. My top choices were Vanderbilt or David Libscomb ( a private school). I had some small scholarships, but those two would have cost tons of money.  Good old Western Kentucky University hooked me up with an awesome package that included tuition, fees, room, and books. They also gave me a separate science scholarship that was enough to cover food. Free ride! I could not turn that down and became a Hilltopper. I am so happy I made that decision, as it allowed me to finish undergraduate university with no debt. I’ve never had anyone feel I wasn’t a good optometrist because I didn’t go to Vanderbilt. Unless you are going to be President or work for a fortune 500 company, I don’t think it matters where your degree comes from.

Would my parents have disowned me if I had gotten a B in high school or not gotten a scholarship? Absolutely not, but by setting high standards for me, I rose to the challenge. If my daughter becomes a career waitress, will I love her any less? No. (but I hope she doesn’t go to college first and decide on that career after) If you set the bar low, it’s easy to trip over, and there isn’t lots of room for growth. If you want your child to go to college on a scholarship, start early and reinforce often.

Do you think high expectations are good for children or am I deluding myself?

Would you choose a state school for free over a prestigious school for a price?

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Written By
Sydney White is a Texas-born stay at home mom who enjoys spending time with her family, bargain hunting and, of course, writing. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Snipon.com.

30 Comments

  1. I would just add that there is nothing wrong with a little tough love every once in a while. Personally, I wish my parents would have been stricter with my homework and grades – I know that I could have done much better than I did.

  2. Wow! that’s fabulous, Kim! My younger daughter is valedictorian. She is one of the 50 students to earn Presidential scholarship at NYU. She wants to be a lawyer. Your parents should be proud of your accomplishments. Well done!

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