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900 Chances To Get a Scholarship

by Mawi on December 7, 2010

Some colleges now cost over $210,000 for four years and many state schools are approaching $100,000 for in-state tuition. The super rich can afford to pay this princely sum and the poor can at least get Pell Grants if not need-based assistance, as I did at Harvard.

But what if you’re in the middle or upper-middle class? $80,000 a year sounds like a lot of money until you take out $35,000 for federal, states, property, and sales tax. Take out another $20,000 a year for your mortgage and your family of four has 25,000 to pay for everything else including food, health care, cloths, retirement planning, and transportation, not to mention college.

Of course, if you apply for financial aid, you won’t get much at many schools because your family makes 80,000. Similar unforgiving math exists for any student whose family makes 50,000-100,000.  So for many students, the main ways to get money for college are to take out loans or earn a scholarship.

Last week, I was speaking to middle school students in Alameda, CA and I asked them if they wanted to earn scholarships someday. Every hand shot up – these students already knew the tuition math. I focused on the 8th graders and gave my best strategy. I call it 900 Chances.

8th graders have 5 years before they graduate and on average attend school 180 days a year. Five years x 180 days / year = 900 days. You know what 900 isn’t? Five million. 900 is finite, a very limited number, and much less than what we think of when we think of five years of school. So I told the students, the 8th graders have 900 chances to get a scholarship. If they miss 15% of those days, they’re down to 765 days. If they don’t care or  try half the time, they’ve missed out on 450 out of their 900 chances to get a scholarship.

You get a scholarship your senior year but you earn it in the finite days of school and childhood that you have. One day at a time, and if you double your non-school days as learning opportunities, you can bump it up to 1800 days. But that’s it.  900 or 1800 chances to learn, grow, and develop yourself.  900 chances to get your scholarship.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sallomé Hralima December 8, 2010 at 3:50 am

This was a brilliant way of approaching this topic. Using this thought process, any goal you have with a date by when you hope to accomplish it, can be broken down in this way. For example, an 8th grader says: “I would like to go pro right out of high school.” You can say that that student has 1,800 chances to learn, grow, and develop themselves as athletes (if they are using every opportunity they have, playing with a team in school and at home or in the neighborhood on other days). That is an amazing visual for a young person – or any person for that matter – to create and check off or bubble or star, etc. Imagine an entire young person’s wall that shows red “Xs” for every day they took on that goal. As Jerry Seinfeld said: “After a few days you’ll have a chain…You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.” It’d be similar to Missy Elliot’s story. When she received the Black Girls Rock! Award in November, she shared that she used to write rhymes on the wall. What you have here gives new meaning to “the writing’s on the wall.”

2 Mawi December 14, 2010 at 9:39 am

Thanks, Sallome. Yes, I completely agree – a student could use this approach to excel in any area! Thanks for the kind words!

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