Thursday, August 4, 2016

Scholarships and the “Careful” Screening Process . . .

The happy ending

Scholarships are hard to get. You have to have excellent grades and also score well on the SAT’s and/or ACT standardized tests. In our experience those were the two main factors considered. They will say extracurricular activities play a role, the college essay is a factor, community involvement is considered. I think the things come into play when grades or test scores may not be as high as the college is looking for.  Some private high schools also give scholarships. They are based on grades and test scores to their own standardized exam.  Here is my daughter’s experience with scholarships.

When my older daughter graduated from intermediate school she applied to various high schools. She took the exam for Catholic high schools because the public schools she applied to were highly competitive. My daughter graduated intermediate school as valedictorian and needless to say her grades were nearly perfect. When she took the entrance exam for Catholic school she knew she had done well. She even completed more of it than one of her friends, who was the valedictorian at another neighborhood school. The day scholarships were announced to the Catholic school they both applied for, my daughter did not receive a call, but her friend did. We were bewildered as to how can that be? Both girls were valedictorians and my daughter was certain she had performed better on the entrance exam. Of course this was a Friday afternoon so we could not inquire about it for her. On Monday morning my husband, who is much more patient and tactful than I am, called the school and asked them why our daughter did not get a scholarship when her grades were outstanding and she felt she did very well on the exam. He just wanted to know where she fell short. He was told they would get back to him, but they do have a "very careful screening process."  In no less than thirty minutes I received a call from the school telling me my daughter had been granted a full scholarship. No explanation as to how she fell through the cracks of their careful screening process. When my daughter got home from school I let her know the “good” news. She was less than impressed and really very irritated. She felt slighted, overlooked and they had ruined her chance to enjoy her accomplishment because it had come after the fact, when other students had already made it known they had been granted scholarships. It would look like she was a “second thought” because if she truly deserved it why wasn't she selected during the screening process. Fortunately for her, her first choice of public high schools had accepted her and she was able to decline the scholarship.

Fast forward four years. Once again it was time to apply to schools. My daughter filled out quite a few applications, took a prep class to do well on the SAT’s and ACT exams, and she had a very good average from a highly regarded academic high school in New York City. Acceptance letters started pouring in. Many of them offering scholarships. Of course she was waiting until they all came in to make her decision. One school never replied. It was my alma mater, St. John’s University. She asked if I would call them and ask for her application fee back since they did not bother to even notify her if she had been accepted or not. Once again she was disgusted. I called them and explained that my daughter had applied and received no answer from them so we would like a refund of our application fee. The woman on the other end seemed perplexed. She disappeared for a few minutes. She returned to the phone and asked me if my daughter would fill out another application. I told her I was sure she would not. Then she said she would look into it and call me back.  Less than an hour later my phone rings. It’s St. John’s University offering her a full scholarship! I thanked them. I thought this was good news. My daughter came home and I told her what happened. She rolled her eyes and launched into a little rant. This was exactly what happened to her when she applied to the Catholic high school. She wanted no part of St. John’s. She had already gotten a half scholarship to Hofstra and she wanted to go there. Her father and I agreed.

After she accepted Hofstra’s offer to attend she gets a phone call from them. I listen in on the other line. The admission’s officer introduces himself and tells her that Hofstra would like to offer her a full scholarship instead of a half scholarship and that they would be sending her a new letter confirming this offer shortly. He just wanted to let her know it was coming. My daughter thank him. She got off the phone to tell me (not knowing I had listened in). More than a few days had passed and no letter arrived. My daughter started to believe that maybe she didn’t hear him correctly. Of course I knew she had because I heard it too. I told her to call and check on the letter. They confirmed it was coming and that she had been offered a full scholarship. The letter did arrive. She picked the right school and went there for four years graduating Summa Cum Laude, with highest honors, double majoring in Television/Communications and English. 

Moral of the story: If you think you deserve a scholarship and don’t get one, call and find out why.  You may have just fallen through the cracks.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Pep Talk . . .

There are times in life when we could use a pep talk. Here's one.

Often, in life, we get in a rut. We do the same things every day, week in and week out. We are almost robotic. It's so easy to just roll with the flow. Changing things requires some effort, maybe a lot of effort. Life can be tiring, it can wear us out. But, while we are stuck in our routines and are waiting for something to happen, we are losing precious time. Time to make memories, time to try new things, time to take chances and look for opportunities to make our hopes and dreams a reality.

When a new year begins, when there is the birth of a new baby or wedding in the family, when we graduate college, when we get that first promotion at work, we can see all the infinite possibilities ahead of us. We believe we can do anything we put our minds to. We are motivated to reach our goals. We may take steps towards those goals and gain momentum. But life is unpredictable. We may hit a little bump in the road that derails us for a time and makes us feel like giving up. Sometimes we are disappointed and frustrated and lose the desire to stay on track. Sometimes a devastating loss can send us into a depression that is hard to get past. It's those times when we have to pick ourselves up and use our internal dialogue to help ourselves remember what we want and what we need to do. Every day that we are "stuck" is one less day we are living life and moving towards our goals. 

I know in everyone's life there are highs and lows. It's easy to be positive and energetic when you feel everything is going your way. But when things don't always go they way you want or expect them to, that's when the hard work begins. The only person you have control over is you. You have one life to live. You shouldn't waste one minute of it. Don't let anything stop you from living your dreams. Break through the depression, the frustration, the disappointment and push yourself to move on. It will get easier with each passing day as you move further way from the bad experiences and start creating new good experiences. 

And if, along the way, you see others going through their own struggles in life, throw them a kind word, a helping hand, a hug or a prayer to help them get past the bumps in their lives.  Helping others is a great way to heal ourselves and push through our own pain.