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  • Jean O'Toole

Designing a Path to Scholarship Success during Coronavirus

It’s been a really tough time for everyone as we all self-quarantine and practice social distancing to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy. Students from all over the world have had to adjust to virtual learning and the frustration of not seeing their friends every day at school. It can be really easy to put your scholarship searching on the back burner as you adjust to your new everyday routine. Albert Einstein famously said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” In this midst of this difficult time there is tremendous opportunity for those of you searching for scholarships to reduce your future college costs. Design a routine that can serve you both now and after Coronavirus.

As a scholarship expert, I am often asked “Do I have to treat my scholarship search as a part time job?’. The answer is “no”. If you are smart about how you use your time, you can expedite scholarship applications quickly. As we are all redesigning our daily routines to adjust to our current circumstances, there is opportunity for you to design into your week some small amounts of time to dedicate to scholarship searching and applying.

All students have a limited amount of time to search for scholarships and expedite applications. You are actively balancing academic assignments, time for your interests outside of the classroom with your job and family responsibilities. Starting and continuing a scholarship money mission doesn’t need to be a burden on your calendar. It can easily be woven into a weekly schedule in small increments of time.

Step 1. Use your “Ready-To-Go Material”

Dig out your past papers, projects, essays and poems that you completed for past homework assignments. I call this “ready-to-go material”. So many students believe the myth that all scholarships they apply to must relate to their future career. That’s false. You can win money from a scholarship related to poetry and use it towards your engineering degree. Your “ready-to-go material” could be a goldmine for you. Your time has already been spent. New material does not need to be created.

Step 2. Design Your Weekly Scholarship Plan

What is an amount of time that you can commit to dedicating to scholarships each week? Look at your weekly schedule and start with a dedicated ½ hour 3 times a week to search and apply for scholarships. If it’s an amount of time that easily fits into your schedule, you are more likely to include it again the following week. New routines always start with small actions that we can easily repeat. I recommend that you focus on applying to 1 scholarship each week using “ready-to-go” materials such as a poem from an old homework assignment and applying to 1 additional scholarship. By committing to expediting 2 scholarships weekly, you will apply to over 100 scholarships each year.

Step 3. Help from Your Home Team

There are many ways your parents can help you with your scholarship search. Parents can assist with contacting relatives to find out if there are scholarships from family member’s companies, unions, clubs or organizations. They can also help you research what local scholarships are given out in your town or county and find out who the decision makers are for the monies. Although many parents want to help by completing the applications and draft essays, it is essential that those tasks are left to you to complete. This is your money mission and it’s important you take ownership for it.

Step 4. Look Ahead

Finally, gather criteria information about scholarships that pertain to students a year or two older than yourself. There are scholarships only for current college students. Knowing criteria in advance, you can make informed choices on how you use your time outside of the classroom to qualify for the most opportunities in the near future.

There is always opportunity. During this difficult time of Coronavirus, take advantage of designing your path to scholarship success.


Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book, Scholarship Strategies Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying her scholarship strategies. In 2008 she co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. For more information about Jean, visit


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