You hear about students who earn one scholarship after another – they make it look so easy! We found someone like that and asked about her secret to scholarship success. Meet Lauren Jurek, a freshman at Bellevue University. Lauren has two older sisters who graduated from college and were good examples for her. Like them, Lauren worked hard in high school to earn good grades, was active in her school, and played several sports.
Full disclosure: Lauren is the daughter of an EducationQuest staff person. Okay, her mom is the director of the Omaha College Planning office – but don’t think that’s an automatic ticket to big scholarships. Lauren just followed her mom’s advice and put in the work — and you can, too! Hear what Lauren has to say about finding the big bucks for college.
Q: Tell us a little about yourself.
A: My name is Lauren Jurek, and I am a freshman at Bellevue University (BU) and play on their softball team. I attended Bellevue West High School.
Q: What did you do in high school to position yourself to earn scholarships?
A: In high school, I was very involved with different clubs and activities at my school. I was involved in National Honor Society, Math National Honor Society, Student Council, Congressional Award, Student Senate, Unified Special Olympics Bowling, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, softball, tennis, and basketball. While keeping busy with extra-curriculars, I made sure to put hours into volunteering, and while being involved in school and community activities, I made sure to keep my grades up to par and make time for my studies and homework. When I sent in applications, it was easy to come up with examples when the application would ask for activities you’re involved in or places you’ve volunteered at. It also made it easy to write the responses to essay questions, because I had personal experiences to write about.
Q: When did you start looking for scholarships, and where did you look?
A: It was probably junior year when I first started looking, but even during that time, it was a little too early and there weren’t very many scholarships to apply for because the main time to apply is during your senior year. However, it’s smart to look for scholarships during your junior year so you have an idea of what scholarships to look out for during the upcoming year. I looked at the newsletters that would come out for the clubs, organizations, and teams I participated in, and used ScholarshipQuest at EducationQuest.org. My high school counselors also had a lot of information about scholarships with upcoming due dates.
Q: How many scholarship applications did you complete?
I completed 15-20 scholarships. My high school offered a comprehensive scholarship that included many scholarships in the Bellevue Community, so I only had to fill out one application for about 10 different scholarships, which helped a lot.
Q: How many scholarships did you earn, and what were their values?
A: I earned a $4,500 academic scholarship from BU, and four other scholarships which totaled $4,000, so $8,500 in total, in addition to my athletic scholarship.
- Be a Bruin Scholarship- $1,000
- Bellevue Public Schools Foundation Scholarship- $1,500
- Softball Tournament Scholarship- $500
- Union Post Office Scholarship- $1,000
Q: Did you need to include essays for some scholarships? If so, tell us about your process.
A: Yes, I had to write at least one essay for each scholarship I applied for. This is when being involved in a lot of activities and clubs comes in handy because I was able to write about personal experiences. The biggest thing that I think is important to remember when filling out the essays is if the question allows, try to talk about a time you had to overcome a challenge. Talk about what you learned from it, and then how it made you a better person. People love to see their scholarships going to good individuals, and if you can make yourself look good on paper, I think that’s the main key.
Q: What tips do you have for high school students to help them earn scholarships?
A: Another tip I would suggest is at the end of your application or essay, always say what makes you stand out compared to other applicants. There are going to be tons of people applying for the same scholarships, so your very general odds are the readers aren’t going to remember you. Include something to make yours stick out compared to the others.
Another thing I would suggest is making your application look as clean and neat as possible. Take your time when filling out the questions to make sure all the information is right, and if you have access to a computer, type out the questions and answers. This will show you put time into going through their process and really want to be considered for the opportunity to receive their scholarship.
With Lauren’s advice in mind, start seeking out those scholarships!