Lydia Jimenez, a recent graduate of John Muir High School, will be attending UC San Diego as a communications major in the fall. Throughout her senior year, Jimenez amassed more than $17,500 dollars in local scholarship money with the help of her school’s guidance counselor, Dr. Nancy Heusser Gonzalez. Despite her best attempts to financially secure her higher educational endeavors, however, she hit a “brick wall,” a point at which she has been unable to find any additional scholarships. 


“I couldn’t help but realize how you have your first year at San Jose State University financially covered and without any student loans,” Jiminez said to me one day while we were interning at the Pasadena Weekly. “I would like to know how you raised the money to attend school free of charge. What are some steps you took for applying and finding scholarships? What advice, overall, do you have for me and anyone else in regards to scholarships?”  


Well before graduating from John Muir last spring, I was accepted at San Jose State. During that time, I learned that this would require quite a bit of money for both living expenses and tuition. I found that the first crucial step in financially securing your college education is to ask questions. Scholarships are an important financial asset that many students don’t take advantage of. In most cases, a student’s lack of scholarship prowess is largely derived from either their feelings of inadequacy, inexperience with financial aid or limited knowledge of possible scholarship outlets. 


“Approximately 20,000 students each year, or roughly 0.3 percent, will receive a full-ride scholarship that will cover all their costs,” according to a recent article found at However, through the process of understanding the purpose of a scholarship, finding sources that supply scholarship money and utilizing self-confidence during the application and interviewing process, even someone with zero financial funding can begin raking in scholarship money in no time.


“My advice for students who are afraid to turn in scholarship applications is to turn it in anyway,” said Gonzalez. “You never know the outcome of a situation and it never hurts to try. You might only have a 3.2 grade-point average and think that all the scholarships are going to all the 4.0 students, but it always benefits you to try. If you don’t get the scholarship then it’s the same as never turning it in in the first place. If you do get the scholarship, congratulations. You just earned some money.”


A scholarship is any amount of money invested in a student in support of their academic achievements or educational future. As a scholarship applicant, an individual must be in the mindset of marketing themselves to others. A crucial and often overlooked fact about scholarships is that a scholarship is an investment, one that illustrates someone’s support and belief in an individual’s goals and aspirations. Therefore, it is imperative that students carry themselves in a professional manner; wearing proper attire, speaking in a clear and articulate voice and conveying conviction in their own abilities. Confidence and character are key components that can easily separate an individual from the generic pool of applicants — a principle with which many scholarship interviewers would agree. A scholarship is a business and you, the student, are the product, and the best way to sell this product (i.e., have someone invest in you) is to give yourself credibility with your purpose and intent. In both a written and oral application tell them about your accomplishments, dreams and goals and how, with the skills you’ve acquired, you plan to pursue them. With confidence, you will be able to tackle any scholarship application with ease.


Moreover, this raises the issue of finding credible sources of scholarship money. A school guidance counselor is a great way to find information and advice on local scholarships. 


“Over my time being a counselor I have established a lot of contacts throughout the community,” Gonzalez said. “Organizations and clubs will usually email me or contact me directly regarding any scholarships they have open for students, and vice versa; if I hear or find information about an organization that is offering scholarships, I will contact them.”


Another way of finding local scholarships is through your parents or employer. Many companies offer scholarship funds to their employees and their children. Ask your parents and/or your employer about possible scholarships available through their companies. 


Lastly, another way to find scholarships is through online scholarship websites. Online there are many scholarships for students with special abilities, ranging from writing essays to being left-handed! Some of the more credible, commonly used scholarship websites include,, and The possibilities are endless! 


These are just a few tips that anyone can use when financially securing their own higher education. There are scholarships out there for everyone and sometimes the best way to find them is to go outside of your comfort zone.  


Who knew getting free education could be so easy?