One of the biggest stressors in the life of a PA school applicant is wondering how you will afford to pay for tuition, fees, books, diagnostic equipment, oh.. and your rent. While it is almost inevitable that you will be taking out loans, there are resources out there that can lower the financial burden, and even put some money in your pocket for a cute new pair of scrubs!
For me, scholarships have been my saving grace. Starting in high school I began the process of applying to 20-30 scholarships every year, in hopes of getting at least 4 or 5. (This may sound daunting but stick with me). I repeated this cycle every single year of my undergraduate career and through piecing together the various award monies, I graduated with my bachelor’s completely debt free. When I started graduate school, I felt like this would no longer be an option as there are far few scholarships available to a hardened old grad students than to a bright eyed, bushy tailed freshman! I have been pleasantly surprised to learn that this is NOT the case.
It is important to realize that these awards may be as little as $300 or as much as $30,000. It does not matter. Apply for them all. I am constantly in awe of the number of awards that I have received simply because no one else applied. These random awards throughout the year have really kept me financially afloat and I continue to rely on them as a huge source of income.
SO how do you go about doing this? The work that you put in during the first round of applications will behoove you for the rest of your academic career. I have found that many scholarship essays ask very similar questions and, with a little tweaking, can be used over and over and over again. I keep a google drive file of every scholarship essay I have written so that applying to the next one is as easy as possible.
Where does this magical free money come from? By and large, it is easiest to win awards from within your community and university. A quick google search of scholarships in your area will yield a multitude of options. For those of us who are medically minded, many hospitals offer small awards to students pursuing health professions. I have received awards from a rural hospital in my hometown as well as world-renowned institutions in the Birmingham area. There are also several organizations in communities that specifically provide support to students in the area such as junior leagues, rotary clubs, health departments, and religious institutions. Undoubtedly, the university that you attend has options for departmental scholarships as well as awards based on leadership and school pride. Your school’s alumni society is a great place to start as a large part of their job is to fund scholarships for current students. Although it sounds cliche, bulletin boards provide a smorgasbord of overlooked information and I have found a few scholarships by taking a second out to browse them. Don’t forget to ask your advisors and professors to keep an eye out for you too!
Companies such as Tylenol, Coca Cola, Johnson & Johnson, Taco Bell, Dr Pepper and many, many more offer huge scholarship opportunities for those willing to complete their application process.
If you’re feeling ambitious (and you should be!) there are MANY prestigious national scholarships that award big time funds to scholarship recipients. A quick google search for these babies will tell you all you need to know! This week, I found out that I am a finalist for the Point Foundation scholarship, the nation’s biggest provider of scholarships for LGBTQ students. I will be flying to LA at the end of April to interview for the award and, if I get it, it will be my biggest award to date. (I will be writing about that experience for sure!) This brings me to my next point, if at first you don’t succeed, try try again! I applied for this scholarship last year only to be cut after the semifinalist round of interviews. If at first you DO succeed, try try again! I am still being awarded a couple of the scholarships that I received my senior year of high school to this day simply for completing the application year after year.
Don’t let the magnitude of your loans stifle your willingness to apply for scholarships, regardless of where you are in your academic career. Every single one makes a difference in your financial life and many of them provide great practice for interviews! Speaking of interviews, check out my favorite tips and tricks.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have any questions that you’d like to ask me, recommendations or requests for articles, comments or concerns, I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to email me at email@example.com!